Tag Archives: vegetables

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.

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Split Pea & Cabbage Soup

I don’t know about you, but where I live, it’s still cold out. I had ONE DAY this week to wear a short-sleeved dress and thin tights and now I’m back to jackets and sweaters and grey skies. I was also in a crabby mood today because, like many Hoosiers, I’m wholeheartedly against daylight savings time (it’s just stupid and it’s another reason I want to move to Hawaii with Chad). Naturally when I got home I wanted soup, hot, yummy, comforting soup. So that’s just what I made.

I’ve been wanting to make my Aunt Karen’s split pea soup for a while now. She made it once when I was up in Naperville for my cousin Sara’s birthday (we actually usually visited for her birthday since it fell on a school holiday) and I really liked it. Sara hated it though which kind of sucked since it was her birthday dinner. Aaaaaaaaanyway I asked my cousin Dan for the recipe and he quickly sent it over. I met a small problem though when I realized I 1. didn’t have an onion, barley, or lima beans and 2. needed to make this taste a little less like peas so that Chad would eat it with me. Then I realized that 1. I don’t like onions or barley that much and 2. I always picked the lima beans out of Karen’s soup. I had all these other vegetables that would taste great in place of those missing ingredients. In fact, I got a head of green cabbage at the grocery store for (get ready) twenty-seven cents. Hooray for the Irish! For real. I’m making cabbage and carrot salad soon too. Yum.

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 carrots, chopped
1/4 head of green cabbage, sliced
2 small or 1 large russet potatoes, chopped
1 C split peas
4-6 C vegetable or chicken stock*
1/2 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp parsley
1 tsp basil (dried today since there is NO good fresh basil at the grocery stores)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper**
parmesan rind (opt)
shredded jack or parmesan cheese for topping (opt)
chopped bacon for topping (opt)

*I used homemade chicken stock made with the bones and leftovers from a roast chicken. Then I wanted more broth and added a cup of white wine. Use whatever you have around or whatever you want to get rid of. You can also use water if you’re trying to limit sodium and fat.
**I used a bit less pepper than I would have because I knew I was going to add bacon to the soup after it was done and we had peppery bacon. You can always add more to taste.

Feel free to use a regular stock pot for this. I just prefer the dutch oven since it heats evenly and retains heat after the burners are off. First add the olive oil and garlic. Let this sauté until fragrant before adding the carrots and potatoes. Cook these over medium heat until you can see that they are beginning to be cooked through.

Dump in the chicken stock, peas, cabbage, and spices and stir. The liquid probably won’t cover the cabbage, but the cabbage will cook down. Cover the pot and cook at medium low for about an hour. Go play scrabble with your significant other or watch Man vs Wild or clean up all the red lentils you spilled on the floor when you were organizing your pantry.

After the hour of cooking, stir well and use this opportunity to throw in a parmesan cheese rind. Doing this with your rinds instead of throwing them away once you grated all you can keeps you from wasting precious flavor. The rind breaks down and with frequent stirring it will give up bits of cheese throughout the broth. I think I saw this first on thekitchn.com but I know Giada talks about it a lot too (when she’s not showing, in great detail, how to enunciate Italian words). Now I can’t go through parmesan fast enough in pursuit of the leftover rinds. Yum.

This soup is flavorful enough on its own, but with some shredded parmesan or jack cheese (people forget about jack cheese) it’s even better. I also cooked up some bacon (oven at 375 for 10 minutes) and tore it up over the soup in an effort to get Chad more on board with the whole “so there are peas in the soup?” routine.

Not Authentic Chicken & Broccoli with Mushrooms

I’ve mentioned my never-ending problem called “what do I make for dinner? I only have…chicken” before. It’s a constant issue in our house–especially when Chad and I are both at work all day and don’t want to go to the grocery store. Sometimes I even consider ordering Chinese or Thai. Then I remember my bank account and try harder to think of something to make with that chicken. In the spirit of being a real American and bastardizing the cultures of other countries, I frequently make this Chinese and Thai-inspired chicken and broccoli dish with mushrooms and white rice. It’s yummy, easy, full of vegetables, and it’s a great stand-in when you just can’t let yourself order take out. But don’t let yourself even begin to think that it’s authentic. The last ingredient will ruin any semblance of authenticity.

(Serves 2)

2 large chicken breasts or 4-6 breast tenderloins
1/2 C jasmine or other white rice
3/4 C water
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp fresh ginger
1/4 C white wine (dry is best but whatever works)
1 Tbsp fish sauce
2 Tbsp hoison sauce
1 Tbsp Open Pit BBQ sauce

Until you decide that I’m not at all worth listening to and decide to remove this from your google reader (no don’t!), please understand that I’m simply just plagued with an affinity for barbecue sauce. I have…four? in my fridge as we speak. I kick myself when I order fries in a restaurant and forget to ask for it. I just love the flavor and I can find lots of good ways to use it. I think of barbecue as a front-and-center flavor as well as a background flavor for other things–including Asian-inspired sauces.

And yes. I am going to tell you to brine your chicken again. This time, I want you to do it even if it’s not frozen. If frozen, heat a cup of water and put it in a bag with the chicken. Regardless of whether your chicken is frozen or thawed, it needs to marinate in the soy sauce for at least 20 minutes. This will give you time to cook up some white rice and change out of your work clothes or do dishes or look online for baby clothes for your boyfriend’s new niece or nephew. Or you can read about your favorite foodnetwork people. This time with the soy sauce is all about infusing Asian flavors into the chicken and the vegetables. It may seem expensive to go out and buy all of this stuff at one time (sesame oil, fish sauce, hoison sauce, etc.) but you don’t need a lot of each, it keeps for a long time, and you will use it all the time once you start making your own “take out” favorites at home. Think of them as pantry items.

Saute the minced garlic in a pan with the oil(s) over medium high heat. Pat dry the chicken and add it to the pan. Let it sizzle and brown and get delicious (Anne Burrell would be pleased with you). Flip when browned and cook the other side. Next, grate a tiny bit of fresh ginger over the chicken. The ginger adds a kick and an inherently exotic flavor, but if you aren’t much for ginger, leave it out. Now deglaze the pan with the white wine. Let this cook for two minutes before whisking in the fish sauce, hoison sauce, and barbecue sauce. Can you smell it? Doesn’t it smell incredible? Now lay all the sliced mushrooms over top of the chicken followed by the broccoli. Sprinkle on a pinch of salt and pepper and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Keep the temperature at medium-high heat and let the sauce steam the vegetables for about ten minutes.

When you remove the lid the broccoli should be steamed to perfection. Stir everything together to get a thin coating of sauce. Serve over rice (we use jasmine or basmati rice but brown would be yummy too). Pour a little extra sauce over everything so the rice gets nice and flavorful too. Top with finely chopped peanuts if you want a little extra crunch!

Would ya look at that? So flavorful but still inexpensive and perfect for rural folks who don’t have access to all types of cuisine. Fun fact: those chopsticks were given to me by the father of a friend of mine, Ned, who owns a Chinese/Thai fusion restaurant in Huntington Beach. His father saw me teaching Ned how to properly use chopsticks (he never stopped using them like a little kid!) and was so tickled that he gave me some nice chopsticks just because. When I asked him what the engraving meant, he said “Hundred year good marriage.” So I’ve got that going for me.

In other news, we found out today that Chad’s older sister is having a baby BOY. We couldn’t be more excited. Chad summed it up today when he asked his brother-in-law “Can you imagine the kind of nerf guns they will have in six years?!” Awesome.

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.