Tag Archives: sides

San Marzano Tomato Soup with Parmesan Tuiles & Crispy Basil

I’m so fascinated by other people’s genius and recipe-making creativity that I have lately found myself NOT making up recipes like I used to. There are just so many amazing chefs to look to for brilliance that there’s almost no need to make something up off the cuff. And yet somehow, while reading recipes and thinking about spring and the upcoming summer, I found myself planting tomato seeds and herb seeds. Inevitably this led to thinking about ways to use these anticipation-inducing foodstuffs and I thought of tomato soup. Yes. Another soup.

My big problem with bought tomato soup is that it so often tastes like thickened V-8 juice which I just can’t stand. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll slurp up some tomato soup with a grilled cheese in hand any day, but it’s just always lackluster and sort of a waste of calories. I love, adore, crave, and yearn for awesome tomatoes. My grandparents used to grow them at their place in Virginia…YUM. I just saw the first sprouts of my tomatoes (cherry and roma) and while I’m anxious to try making soup with them, for now I’m more than content with canned san marzano tomatoes. This soup is intensely tomato-flavored. There is no water or cream in this soup to mellow out the tomato so anyone who is ho-hum about tomatoes will probably find this too rich. Chad and Meredith fall into this category. I groaned and ate spoonful after spoonful while they ate a bit and pushed the bowls away, claiming it was “too tomato-y.”

I should have known.

You knowing food enthusiasts might notice that I’m not using DOP San Marzanos. I’m using the New Jersey grown tomatoes that are grown from the same seeds. I’ve had both and I’m happy to sacrifice authenticity for the 40% in savings. I use these tomatoes a lot and I’m not about to spend that much money on canned food. Sorry America.

1 14 oz. can of yummy tomatoes (Whole, crushed, or diced work equally well. Here I used crushed.)
1 shallot or onion, whole
1-3 cloves garlic, whole
1 C red wine (whaaaaat? I know)
3 Tbsp butter
pinch of salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
handful of grated parmesan
8 basil leaves
3 Tbsp olive oil

Dump the tomatoes in a medium saucepan and add the butter, onion, garlic, and wine. Bring this to a simmer and stir in salt and pepper. Let this simmer for at least 1 hour…while you prep everything else!

Go outside to your herb garden (because you just started one outside too, right?) and pluck 8-12 basil leaves. Wash em off and add them to a sauté pan with the olive oil. Let the basil leaves fry in the hot oil. Your kitchen should smell incredible by this point. You’re welcome.

Preheat the oven to 375. Grate a handful or so of parmesan cheese. I finished off the rest of my parmesan reggiano and made the rest of the tuiles with some Argentinean parmesan that I was really curious about in the grocery store. They were both good but the Argentinean parmesan was sort of Gruyère-y. Put little spoonfuls of cheese onto a silpat or similar mat (mine are Kitchenaid brand and Meagan got them for me for Christmas!). Place in the oven at 375 until you see that they are crispy and thoroughly melted. The time varies here.

When the basil leaves and parmesan crisps are done, transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate but don’t get rid of that basil-infused oil. Wait anxiously for the soup to keep simmering. Tap your foot. Wring your hands. Stick your head over the pot a zillion times to smell the yumminess. When the soup is done simmering, fish out the onion and garlic (or don’t if you can’t find them…like I couldn’t find the garlic-ha!) and use an immersion blender to purée the tomatoes. Use a regular blender or food processor if you don’t have an immersion blender.

Pour the soup in a bowl and top with a tuile and a basil leaf. Sprinkle on a few drops of the basil oil and chow down. You can also break the parmesan and basil over the tops–you can get away with eating more this way. The parmesan tuiles will just barely melt in the soup and the basil will be mellow and less intense than fresh basil. This is why I use the basil oil too. You get the light basil flavor from the fried basil and more light flavor from the oil.

It is the most flavorful tomato soup you can imagine and the wine and basil and onion flavors are subtle but really add something. Oh and the garlic is divine. Tomatoes and garlic are bffs after all. This soup would be perfect as a side to a pesto pasta or a thick steak. I must confess that it is very intense for a main course but for lunch with a pasta and some bread it would be awesome.

I, of course, ate a huge bowl and an extra tuile after…just because.


Roasted Garlic & Cheddar Mashed Potatoes

Before we started dating, Chad and I once had a huge debate over who made the best mashed potatoes. He loves his garlic mashed potatoes and I love my white cheddar, sour cream mashed potatoes. We planned a taste test for our co-workers and both sides had supporters (Jeremy was totally on my team). It got ugly. I told him people weren’t going to pick him because he’s mean and he said I’m only nice to people because I’m the anti-Christ and I’m just trying to gain support.

My boyfriend called me the anti-Christ. Romantic.

Long story short: we decided not to have a competition. No one apartment should have that quantity of mashed potatoes. This isn’t my signature white cheddar mashed potatoes, but my roasted garlic cheddar mashed potatoes. Still very yummy!

4 large or 6 small russet potatoes
1 C grated cheddar cheese
1/2 C grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh-ground pepper
3 cloves roasted garlic, smashed

You can find the instructions for roasting garlic on the garlic-roasted asparagus page, but here they are again: Preheat your oven to 350 and chop the top off the head of garlic. Put the garlic in a small dish (I use a super small souflée dish) and drizzle olive oil over top. I usually throw a tiny bit of salt on top to enhance the garlic flavor. Roast for 20-30 minutes or until the garlic is fragrant and soft.

While the garlic is in the oven, chop and boil the potatoes in salted water. Then shred the cheeses and set aside. When the garlic is cool enough to handle, take out 3 cloves and smash on a cutting board to form a paste. Dump the butter, cheese, garlic, and salt and pepper in a large bowl.

Spoon the boiled potatoes into the bowl and mash with your favorite potato masher. Do you have a favorite?

Chad’s absolute favorite is his mother’s. She inherited it from her grandmother. It’s sturdy metal and could probably mash rocks. Chad has already made it clear that when, God forbid, his mom passes away, he is taking the potato masher. Probably fearing that he’d try to off her, she bought him this one for Christmas. It’s not metal like hers, but it’s a similar shape. This seems to be the best mashing design since it has a large surface area which doesn’t allow for big hunks of potato to squeeze through the gaps between prongs. I have a masher like that and while I don’t use it for potatoes, I do use it when I mash whole tomatoes for sauce.

Did I really just write a paragraph about potato masher designs?

Top with a grind or two of fresh pepper and nosh away. Feel comforted and at home. Make these for your boyfriend or girlfriend so you can prove that you’re not the anti-Christ, you’re just awesome. And you might be gathering a following so you like, maybe bring down the world. Or something.

Garlic-Roasted Asparagus

When I first moved to Indiana after living in California for 2 years, I talked to my dad a lot. He wanted to make sure I was settling in and getting things moved into my apartment safely and he wanted to hear about my job search and my new friends. And then there was a random 3-week period where we were both busy, me with school and him with filming his documentary. Neither of us called the other until one day I was walking home from class and I got a call from my dad. He wanted to know how I made my asparagus.

You see, we had created a little tradition with my brothers where we would have family dinner night once a week. One week we would eat at my brothers’ house and the next week I would cook for everyone at my dad’s house. It was a great way to all hang out together and make fun of dad (which inevitably happens at every family dinner) while I tried out new recipes on the fam. This is where chicken à la Kristen made its debut, chocolate-covered fruit skewers were impressively unveiled, and many a scoop of white cheddar mashed potatoes were doled out. And I made roasted asparagus.

It will make you swoon. Oftentimes, asparagus is boiled or shocked (boiled and then dunked into ice water to stop the cooking process). Both of these options take flavor from the vegetable to the water. Well, that doesn’t seem ideal. So roasting is a great option. Roasting keeps all the flavors in the vegetables which is where you want the flavor.* And if you think you don’t like asparagus, you might end up liking it this way. Spring is the best time to try it out. I got this bundle for $1 at the grocery store where they seemed to have asparagus coming out of the walls. Seriously. You can’t get better than this.

1 bundle asparagus (white or green–but look at that gorgeous green!)
drizzle of olive oil
1 tsp salt
fresh ground pepper
1 clove roasted garlic

Roasted garlic is a refrigerator must-have in my kitchen. I smash it and put it in tomato sauces, mashed potatoes, and garlic bread. And you roast it with oil so it keeps in the fridge for a quite a while. Preheat your oven to 350 and chop the top off the head of garlic. Put the garlic in a small dish (I use a super small souflée dish) and drizzle olive oil over top. I usually throw a tiny bit of salt on top to enhance the garlic flavor. Roast for 20-30 minutes or until the garlic is fragrant and soft. While you’re doing that…

Wash off the asparagus and chop off the ends. It’s actually best to snap them off because snapping ensures that you get rid of the entire woody part of the stalk. But um…I was making four things at once and taking pictures so I chopped. Sorry, world.

*See those asparagus ends? They aren’t trash! The one time you do want to boil your asparagus is when making chicken or vegetable stock. I keep those ends in a little baggy in the freezer with other scrap vegetables and leftover herbs so that next time I have some chicken bones I can throw in the contents of the bag to add more flavor. And it uses what would be trash! Win-win-win.

Get out a baking sheet (or a 9×13 pan or roasting pan) and lay out the asparagus. You can also chop the stalks into bite size pieces before roasting but I usually do that after. Drizzle the olive oil over the top and sprinkle with the salt and the fresh pepper. Now smash a clove of roasted garlic and use your hands to incorporate it and make sure the olive oil coats the asparagus evenly–including the tips which could burn if left dry. You might need to add more oil. Roast for 20-25 minutes at 350 or until the asparagus is tender.

Oh yum. They’re perfectly tender and full of flavor. It might look more impressive to serve the asparagus in full spears, but I don’t like to. I feel like an idiot trying to eat them that way and I saw once on TV that the queen of England has her chef cut them in small pieces so she and other heads of state won’t look silly with asparagus hanging out of their mouths. Logical and considerate of others. So even though I’m the opposite of fancy, I do this because I hate having asparagus hang outta my mouth as much as Tony Blair does.