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.

Annual Pumpkin Party

While I hate all things pumpkins when they start in August. Yes, I’m looking at you William-Sonoma. I do have the pumpkin love for one thing. The past two years I’ve been able to go to Scott Novota’s Pumpkin Party since they have been right near my favorite restaurant in town – Jaco’s. I have four really cool pumpkins in my collection – all different and all interesting. I keep them out year around because they are so beautiful. Prior to the sale at Jaco’s, I always knew Scott was selling blown glass pumpkins, but always seemed to know about it after the fact, which was a bit annoying.

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Blood Orange Pumpkin – 2015

Well this past year his studio was destroyed and he and his wife started a kickstarter fund which I gladly joined in. Each year, I save my dead presidents to get a new pumpkin or two each year. So this was a real treat for me. My modest pledge got me a medium blood orange pumpkin – a color that will not be repeated again – and I was so excited to see what was available. I found, in my opinion, a really great pumpkin that looks nothing like the rest of my small collection.

And the best part! – The annual pumpkin party will take place at Scott’s new place!

Let me fill in some back story: Not long after we moved to Pensacola, the MotH* got me glass blowing classes for my birthday. I’ve been a potter since high school and love it, but was always fascinated with blowing glass. But I have to say – damnation, that is really hard work. I enjoyed it immensly, but lord love a duck, you need to have arms for this thing – and I do not. That said, I had a new appreciation for blown glass that I think loads of people do not have. I do understand how the temperature part of it works. Pottery follows similar guide lines. I did make some glass things that I am proud of, but wow – it was not easy.

So if you are in the area, it is the 2015 Annual Pumpkin Party at Strong Street Studio – October 3rd – 4th, 2015. 109 North A Street, Pensacola, FL.

*Thank you – my love – on your birthday.