Tomato Soup

I am hard pressed to think of a tomato soup I won’t at least try^. It is my favorite kind of soup to make, granted I prefer a bisque and in my mind, most bisques do fine with out the cream. Somehow when you get to the point of adding cream, I taste the soup, and it does not seem necessary. Also, this makes reheating a little less precarious.D&D_2185

2 Tbs olive oil
3 small yellow onions, sliced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried basil
32 ozs water with about a heaping tsp of Better than Bouillon* (veg)- heated
2 – 28 oz cans of whole tomatoes with the juice
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and chopped
1 1/2 Tbs balsamic vinegar

garnish – chives? parsley? scallions? chevre? croutons? grilled cheese croutons?

In a large pot heat olive oil. Add onions and cook until soft, add garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute until soft, but not browned. Add dried herbs and stir for 30 seconds. Add broth and tomatoes with juice and crush the tomatoes with a potato masher. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Reduce to low, add sun-dried tomatoes and simmer 30 minutes. Let cool briefly, add balsamic vinegar, and then purée with an immersion blender. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper as needed. A little swirl of good olive oil can be very nice.

Garnish with chives and cheese toasts. Or what ever floats your boat.

Serves 6 (I really think more than that)

^Exception – any tomato based soup with meat in it. I am a real vegetarian when it comes to soup – just don’t like the texture of meat in a soup. Blech.

*This stuff keeps forever the fridge. Thanks America’s Test Kitchen for the recommendation.

Well, this soup seemed to be made just in time. The Boy had a head cold with a sore throat and this was just the thing for him. It also made plenty enough that I could take two meals worth to the office. It became my favorite lunch hack of October I think. I made a blue cheese/cheddar toast to put into the soup at work and it was really very good.

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Tomato Soup Lunch Hack

Next time, I’ll see if someone would like to split it with me, because it is quite a lot for just me and The Boy. But sharing is always a good thing, I think.

I think my only problem were the tomato seeds – maybe I should press it through a fine mesh strainer next time. We’ll see. There are so many other tomato soup recipes to try, it might be a while till I get back to this one. But it will definitely stay in the rotation, especially since it can be made any time of year – yeah – canned tomatoes!

Tomato Soup with spinach and mozzarella 

It is finally getting soup weather around here, after a very warm Christmas. This is a new recipe to me, but I love tomato bisque. And to me this qualifies – because you blend everything up with an immersion blender. One of my favorite tools that I got for like $15 at an Ace Hardware in Chapel Hill — how strange is that? Yep kind of strange for sure, but I do get a good bit of use out of it.D&D_1140

1 – 28 ozs can whole San Marzano tomatoes
3 cups vegetable stock
2 Tbs olive oil
8 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
2 ribs of celery, peeled and diced
1 large shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large bay leaf, from Turkey if possible, just saying
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Balsamic vinegar

In a stock pot (or just a big pot), heat olive oil, add the chopped shallots and celery, sauté until translucent. Add sun-dried tomatoes and bay leaf and sauté for 3 – 4 minutes. With the pan moderately hot add just a bit of water, a Tbs or so, and steam the vegetables with the lid on the pot for a minute or two. Then add garlic and sauté until soft – do not let garlic get too far past barely golden. Add the salt, pepper, thyme, and oregano, and sauté a minute more. Maybe a smidgen of tomato paste here would not go amiss. Just let it get some caramelization. Always a good thing.

Add the tomatoes, and crush with spoon or spatula. Cook down for a few minutes on medium.  Add vegetable stock and cook for a few minutes more. Reduce to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes or more if you have more time – which you will have if you are simultaneous baking cookies. Remove bay leaf – key point. Purée with an immersion blender. Add 2 – 3 tsp balsamic vinegar, stir in and adjust salt and pepper, if necessary. At this point you can refrigerate the soup for later. For me, tomato soup is like spaghetti sauce, it is always better after a couple of days. Make it on a Sunday, eat it on a Tuesday – yeah – not having to cook after work – woo hoo!

Toppings, etc

3 cups fresh spinach, washed, and dried
1 small shallot, minced
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar*
Fresh mozzarella cut into small pieces

Sauté shallots and garlic in a Tbs of olive oil. Add spinach and toss to wilt. Season with salt and pepper. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar.  Add the spinach mix and mozzarella to the soup.

There will be a next time for my modified version of this recipe because for the soup, this is all pantry food – one of my favorite things – make dinner out of something I have just sitting around. My previous favorite tomato soup was good, but I had to get tomato juice – which I NEVER have on hand. This seems to fix that issue.

* I think next time I will make a balsamic vinegar syrup. I have had this on soups in one of my favorite restaurants (yes, that’s you Jaco’s) and I’ve seen that is dead simple to make. But in this case I think it will lend a depth to the soup.

I won’t rant about Jaco’s too much, but if your restaurant can make excellent soup – which Jaco’s does – and that means you’ve gotten certain things right. I do need to tell you all more about this place. It is excellent.
Original source: yes-more please.com/2014/03/caprese-tomato-spinach-soup/ – Although I did make  a few modifications – that seems to be a recurring theme.

Spinach & Mushroom Quiche

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Spinach and Mushroom Quiche

This recipe is so old and so altered, but it is from a tiny little tea room I worked at when I was young and dumb. I like because it does not have, in my opinion, too many eggs. I like a denser quiche. But the flavors of this are truly worth the work, not that there is much work involved really.

You can substitute frozen spinach that is thawed or frozen broccoli that is thawed – both have to be well drained.

This is great with a side salad and some homemade buttermilk ranch dressing. I happen to like a little ranch on the quiche as a counter point. I will be posting my version of buttermilk ranch soon. Making it at home is just beyond belief, but I’m not expecting really great photos — I mean, buttermilk, mayo and herbs. Sigh, more blah colors. Can’t wait for spring to truly kick in and get some colorful veggies on the plate.

Makes 2 quiches (is that the plural?)

2 5 ozs. bags of fresh spinach
16 ozs mushrooms, white or cremini, sliced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 Tbs. Balsamic vinegar
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 14 oz can evaporated milk
16 ozs mozzarella cheese, grated
crust for 2 nine inch pie pans*

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sauté onion in a couple Tbs. of olive oil until soft. Add sliced mushrooms and cook until most of the liquid evaporates. Add Balsamic and let it reduce too. Top with washed and mostly dried spinach. Turn into pan to wilt down. And again let most liquid evaporate. It’s important to get this as dry as possible. Let cool in pan to room temperature.

In a large-ish bowl, mix together beaten eggs, evaporated milk and mozzarella. Add cooled spinach and mushroom mixture and combine well.

Blind bake pie crusts* I prefer glass pie plates with pie weights – for 12 or so minutes and return to oven without weights for about 3 more minutes. When the crusts are slightly cooler, divide the spinach mixture between them.

Bake quiche for 30 – 35 minutes or until lightly brown on top.

* rant forthcoming

Mushroom Pate

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Mushroom Watercress Pate, toast and lime

For many years, I was a vegetarian. I enjoyed it and I still enjoy making recipes that don’t include meat.

Now, that does not mean I’m forsaking bacon or steak at this point, but I dig some veggie pasta (as long as there is cheese and cream included – I’m not crazy) or a veggie (guess I need to learn how to spell vegetable at some point – woo hoo! I did it correctly – for once, maybe) appetizer. One of my favorite appetizers, vegetarian or not, is mushroom watercress pate. It’s kind of stupidly simple, but here it is. I found the original recipe out of a vegetarian cookbook that my older sister gave me for Christmas because, I’m sure, she couldn’t think of anything else for me at that point. You know that age.

Here ’tis

  • olive oil
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced – button or crimini
  • small yellow onion or bunch of scallions, chopped
  • salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • large bunch or bag of watercress, rinsed and end of stems removed
  • balsamic vinegar
  • 8 oz cream cheese, soft(ish)
  • limes
  • toast or hearty crackers

Heat 2 Tbs olive oil in pan, and when shimmering, add mushrooms. Cook until they have released their juices and add onions/scallions. When all is soft, turn up heat a bit and add balsamic vinegar and deglaze the pan. Add watercress and mix to wilt.

In the food processor, add cream cheese in large pieces and then include the mixture from the pan. Add salt and pepper. Mix in food processor until smooth. Place in ceramic ramekin and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate.

To serve, toast bread (or use sturdy cracker) and top with pate and a squeeze of lime juice (this is totally necessary and not to be skipped).

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Mushroom Watercress Pate

The Boy grew up eating this and makes sandwiches out of it. It’s a great idea and works so well. The bitterness in the watercress is what makes it – well, that and the balsamic vinegar (which was NOT in the original recipe – yay me).

It’s not pretty. I totally get that, but just try it once – really just once and you’ll be hooked. That, I know, for sure.