Wednesday, November 23, 2011

roasted tomato soup and asiago lace

How's this for recommending a winter soup:

It has nary a drop of meat in it and I drink red wine with it.


We have the genius Mark Bittman to thank. Oh, and a can of good tomatoes.

No, people, I'm not talking about those mythological home-canned tomatoes (that I wished lived in my pantry but never do). I'm talking about a can of high-end tomatoes from the grocery store. (By high-end, I mean $2.99.)

The afore-mentioned genius has us drain those tomatoes, chop them in half, sprinkle olive oil and thyme over top . . . and roast them.

Yes, roast them. Why did I never think of this before?

 The wet canned tomatoes get a bit dried out and produce these very tasty browned bits that you scrape off and pop into your soup – thus, providing its deep, dark base.

With a supporting cast of garlic, carrot and red onion, this soup is much, much more than the sum of its parts. It's so very rich and tomatoey – without a drop of butter or cream (which is a tad sacrilegious for this site, but I am wiling to put up with it to make more of this soup).

Now, what to eat with your lovely, rich tomato soup?

How about asiago lace? Crisp bits of cheese that crunch next to your silky soup, spiked with thyme and rosemary. Yes, that will do. (And did I mention they're dead easy?) Thank you to the lovely Laura Calder for the idea.

There you are. Now you are ready to make dinner.

last november: butter tarts

roasted tomato soup
very slightly adapted from Mark Bittman
feeds 4

28 oz or 35 oz canned whole peeled tomatoes (good quality if possible)
2 tbsp. + 2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp. garlic, minced
1 medium carrot, minced
1 small red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. kosher salt (1/4 tsp. regular salt)
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
4 c. chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 c. parsley, chopped

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Drain the tomatoes, keeping the liquid. Cut the tomatoes in half and place them on the roasting pan. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and thyme. Roast the tomatoes, turning once or twice if you feel like it. Once they are lightly browned or you can see some good brown bits on the side of the pan, they're ready. This will take anywhere from 40 - 50 minutes.

Take the tomatoes out of the oven.

While your tomatoes are roasting, prepare the supporting cast. Heat a thick-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the other 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the garlic. Stir often for 1 minute. Add the carrot and onion. Stir in the salt and pepper for about 5 minutes. Add the stock, the roasted tomatoes and the reserved tomato juice. Use a bit of hot liquid to scrape up any dark bits from the pan. (This is carmelized yum: use it!).

Bring the soup to a boil, then back down to a simmer. Cover and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in half the parsley. Taste and add any more salt or pepper, if necessary. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with reserved parsley and serve (preferably with asiago lace and red wine).

asiago lace
adapted from Laura Calder
makes 12

2 c. Asiago cheese, finely grated
rosemary, minced
thyme, minced 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare two cookie sheets with silpat or parchment paper.

Stir the cheese and herbs together. Drop about 6 mounds onto each prepared pan. Get out a rolling pin, so you're ready for later.

Bake until the cheese melts, bubbles, and turns light brown, about 7 - 8 minutes. Be vigilant!

Take the pan out of the oven. Quickly, use a flipper to lift each lace disc onto the rolling pin. Pat it, so it curves a bit. Drop it off and move on to the next one. Wait until cooled and crisp to eat. Otherwise, store in an airtight container until ready to eat.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

applesauce spice cake

When I asked my dad what desserts he ate growing up, he said – without a moment's hesitation – applesauce cake. And he always made the icing while his mother made the rest of dinner.

This was quite something, as my dad has a notoriously bad memory for what happened when he was growing up or, really, any time in the first thirty or forty years of his life.

Apples, he said, grew in their yard and they were free and they kept, so they ate them a lot. Applesauce cake, apple pie, apple roly-poly, plain old applesauce . . . they ate a lot of apples.

(In fact, dad also tells the story of how eventually his mother decided she didn't like applesauce. But she had to eat it throughout her life. Even when she was dying, people kept making her applesauce because they thought it would be an easy thing to eat, little realizing it was the last thing she wanted.)

So, it was only fitting that when dad came to visit us last weekend, what should he bring but apples? Two kinds: wind falls and Bramley's Seedling, which dad says are the best cooking apples out there. Add those to the box of Cox's Orange Pippin apples friends brought us the weekend before and I decided there was nothing for it but to make applesauce cake.

This is a humble little cake. It is not excessively sweet or moist or modern. But somehow, it's just right. I found myself eating one bite and thinking, "Hmmn, that's pretty good." And before I was done chewing I had the next bite ready to pop in. Suddenly, I was done a whole piece of cake and I had hardly noticed.

You may look at the recipe and be alarmed about the nuts and raisins. (Do you, like me, sometimes find raisins to be an interloper in cake?) Stay calm. The raisins are chopped and somehow they just meld right into the dough and make it good. Seriously, won't you try it just once with the raisins, for me?

By the way, this recipe comes via my great aunt Marjorie (my grandmother's sister) from what looks like a church cookbook. The original author is Mrs. L. Faulkner on Lulu Island, B.C. Thank you, Mrs. L. Faulkner.

Last November: west african peanut soup via Winnipeg 

applesauce spice cake

1/2 c. butter
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 c. chopped raisins
1/2 c. chopped walnuts or pecans
2 c. sifted cake flour
     or gluten-free:
     56 g. (1/2 c. + 1 tbsp. + 2 tsp.) pure oat flour
     56 g. (1/2 c.) sweet white sorghum flour
     56 g. (1/3 c.) sweet rice flour
     56 g. (1/3 c. + 1 tbsp.) tapioca starch
     56 g. (1/3 c. + 1 tbsp.) potato starch
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 c. unsweetened applesauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease 8" x 8" cake pan.

Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add eggs and mix. Stir in the nuts and raisins. Set aside.

Stir the flour(s), salt, baking soda, nutmeg and cinnamon together. Alternate between adding this mixture and the applesauce to the butter mixture. Pour into pan.

Bake about 30 minutes, until your cake poker comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a rack.

3 tbsp. butter
1 1/2 c. icing or powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
(about) 2 tbsp. milk

Cream the butter and icing sugar together. Beat in the vanilla. Add the milk a bit at a time until you get the consistency you'd like. Spread over cooled cake.