Archive for October, 2012

October 15, 2012

Rosemary Tomato Basil Soup

Tomato basil soup paired with a stringy mozzarella grilled cheese sandwich is a classic.  It’s been copied and modified a million times over and I still think the traditional rosemary scented soup and crunchy buttered sandwich makes any Tuesday night a little more special.

Soup should really be considered it’s own food group.  I pride myself in being the sole person to order a warm tortilla soup in the middle of Houston summer, or chilled cucumber-melon bisque when it’s 20 below.  (I happened to have both melon bisque and puréed corn chowder with chili oil at my wedding.)  There’s something about soup I find utterly addicting.  The combination of flavors, the variety of textures, and most importantly the crunchy garlic croutons, crispy bacon, or fresh herbs that get delicately placed on top and slowly sink into the silky, savory bisque.

The roasted, sweet tomatoes combined with the tangy bite of rosemary sourdough bread soothes the soul and takes the edge off a brisk day.  The bread gives this soup a thick texture with a mouthy richness I often find missing in perfectly velvety broths.  Aromatic sweet basil with hints of mint and pepper brighten the flavor and offer you a taste of summer just when you think fall has taken over.

Ingredients

  • 3-4 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 3 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
  • 2 cans stewed tomatoes, 28oz
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. salted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp. Italian seasoning
  • 4 large slices of sourdough rosemary bread
  • 3/4 cup light whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • Freshly sliced mozzarella cheese for topping
  • Basil for garnish

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss together the tomatoes, 2 tbsp. olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the tomatoes in 1 layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.
  2. In a heavy bottomed stockpot over medium heat, sauté the onions and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  3. Add butter and red pepper flakes and sauté for 10 minutes on medium heat.  Onions should become transparent but should not brown.
  4. Add stewed tomatoes, canned tomatoes (including juice), salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning in a large saucepan on medium heat.
  5. Bring to a simmer.
  6. Roughly tear the bread into smaller pieces and add to the pot.  I break up the bread so it’s easier to spoon out and purée.
  7. Next you’ll puree the soup in small batches, so I usually remove it from the heat and let it cool a little before I begin this process.  The soup should still have texture and not be completely smooth.  The soup will not be nearly as enjoyable if it’s perfectly silky in texture.
  8. Carefully puree, along with the basil leaves in small batches. You can use a blender, food processor, or better yet, one of those handy hand-held food blenders, right in the pot.  If you use a blender BE CAREFUL!  The heat will force the top off the blender and you’ll be cleaning soup off your ceiling for weeks, or you’ll burn your hands so just fill it up half way and pulse it gently.
  9. Return to saucepan and add cream and milk, while stirring, over low heat.
  10. Garnish with basil leaves, mozzarella cheese and serve with a warm slice of sourdough bread.

For a healthier version, leave out the butter and replace the cream with non-fat milk.  Enjoy!

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October 10, 2012

Black Pepper Cranberry-Walnut Oatmeal Cookies

I have an influx of oatmeal in my pantry…  every time I go to the store I seem to think I’m out so I buy more.  And of course when I get home I realize I have pounds of it!  (I’ve had the same experience with foil and butter…. )  So I needed to find some ways to get through it apart from my morning breakfast.

Black pepper oatmeal cookies with cranberries and walnuts

Thankfully, oatmeal can be used for a variety of healthy and tasty treats… granola and cookies being two of my favorites.  The change of seasons also makes me warm up to those heartier breakfasts and the cold harsh winter in Houston.  OK, harsh is probably overdoing it but we did get snow my first winter in Houston!  After a few not-so-subtle hints from my husband I finally had a free evening to bake up some goodies.

Home-baked cookies seem to be the perfect vehicle for little warm nuggets of heavenly pecan, walnut and macadamia.  It’s the perfect amount of crunch to balance the chewy exterior, and helps level out the sugary sweetness of plain cookies.  These are buttery, chewy and indulgent, and the hints of black pepper and nutmeg give this traditional recipe an interesting twist.  The tart cranberries contrast well with the black pepper and allow both flavors to spark while not overpowering one another.  You’ll friends will know they’re different, but they won’t know why…

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter, melted (1½ sticks)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 cups traditional Quaker Oats (not quick cook)
  • 1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts (or your favorite nut)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Method

  1. Remove butter from fridge and let warm to room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  3. Place chopped pecans on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 8-10 mins.  When you kitchen smells like heaven they’re ready.
  4. Remove from oven and let cool on the side.
  5. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Your cookies turn out so much better with parchment paper. I don’t know why but it works and then there is less to clean up!
  6. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and black pepper; set aside.
  7. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until it becomes a light cream color and fluffy in texture.  The color should significantly change from when you start, so just turn up that mixer and let it go!
  8. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk for 2-3 minutes until light and creamy.
  9. Mix in the flour mixture until just blended.
  10. Add the oats, walnuts and cranberries and mix with a wooden spoon. Mix until just blended.
  11. Use a tablespoon and scoop out small balls of dough onto parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 13-15 minutes. Do not over bake. The edges should turn very light brown, which is sometimes hard to see in the oven light, so I think I over baked these the first few times I made them.  The centers should still be slightly soft.
  12. Let the cookies rest on the cookie sheet for a couple of minutes before transferring to a cooling rack (I usually try to eat one right off the tray and always burn myself… but it’s so worth it!
  13. Repeat and enjoy!
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