Creamy Grilled Tomato Soup

soup-1

It’s that time of the year again – the last few weeks of summer.  Today it’s not so bad; however, yesterday it was in the 90s outside with humidity to match. My husband was watching Michigan playing football on television.  Wait a minute, isn’t football watching weather supposed to be somewhat cool?  Something like it was a few weeks ago when we were in the Scottish highlands? 

highlands 

Well, even though the weather is not cooperating with my current frame of mind, summer’s end is absolutely the best time for tomatoes.  However, since I got sick with a nasty bug while in Scotland, soup seemed more appropriate for my situation than another salad.

soup-2

One of the things I love to do when I travel is go to a local bookstore and see what sort of cookbooks written by local chefs are available.  Note:  Scotland was no different.  Recipes for baked goods with lots of oats will be seen on Jeannine’s Cuisine in the future.

soup-3 

When my husband and I went to Traverse City, Michigan, at the beginning of the summer I went on my usual cookbook scavenger hunt and found a winner.  It’s a beautiful little book called “Fork in the Road,” written by Okemos, Michigan chef, Eric Villegas.  The recipes make great use of the local produce, none are too time consuming and “restauranty,” but they all have a little twist to make them interesting.

tomatoes

This tomato soup is great made with seasonal summer tomatoes.  And don’t limit yourself to just the standard supermarket variety.  I imagine you could make this with any variety of heirloom tomato as well.  Just be careful when mixing colors so as not to end up with something weird.  It will still taste great, but the final color could be a little distasteful looking.  Sadly, I do not recommend this soup with anything but the ripest, freshest tomatoes, so you are pretty much limited to making it in the summertime.  Think of it this way – those tomatoes are what makes all this heat we’ve been withstanding worthwhile.

soup-4 

Creamy Grilled Tomato Soup

4-6 Servings

Unlike traditional tomato soup, the color of this one turns out as a pastel version of whatever tomato you are using. Don’t begin to think that lack of a vibrant color means lack of tomato taste.  It’s smoky and delicious.

5 pounds of ripe Summer tomatoes, type your choice

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Tabasco or other hot sauce, to taste

2 cups heavy cream

Preheat your grill.

Place the tomatoes on the grill core side up and grill until they turn black, turning once.  Use tongs to remove the tomatoes from the grill, placing them and any charred bits you can peel off the grill in a large saucepan.

Use a spoon to break up the tomatoes as much as possible.  Season with a little salt, pepper, and hot sauce.  Continue to taste and season while preparing the soup.

Bring the tomatoes to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are reduced to a thick puree, about 20 minutes, but adjust cooking time as needed. 

Puree the soup in batches in a blender.  Note: a Vitamix is great for this, but any blender will do.  Be very careful when blending hot liquids so as not to splatter the kitchen and yourself with molten tomatoes.  Fill the blender container no more than two thirds full at a time and take out the removable center of the lid and cover with a towel with your hand firmly on top.  The towel will keep the liquid in the blender, but allow the steam to escape. You can also use an immersion blender to puree the soup, but the texture won’t be as smooth.

Return the soup to the pan, add the cream and cook until warm, about 5 minutes.  Check seasoning one more time and serve.

Adapted from Fork in the Road, by Eric Villegas

Chicken Cacciatore

chicken first

You know that saying, “You don’t appreciate what you have until you almost lose it?” This time last week I thought I had completely lost my blog. Life was spinning out of control with busyness, and I neglected to renew the domain on WordPress. Then one day, about two weeks after it had expired, I tried to access my site and couldn’t. To say I had a meltdown is an understatement. But then reality inserted itself into my teeth gnashing and moaning and groaning (okay, I tend to exaggerate a little). Stop, hold the presses, I didn’t lose a family member. All the pets are okay. Jeannine, you’re getting this upset over a website?

chicken mug

I calmed down, contacted the support people at WordPress, who were extremely helpful, and as you can see, Jeannine’s Cuisine is up and running again, this time with automatic renewals scheduled. And, as a result, I did some serious thinking about what this blog means to me and why.

chicken beer

It’s been a while since I’ve done a post. It was an extremely busy summer and moving into fall it wasn’t much better. I actually considered putting the blog on hold until I retired. But I think everyone needs a creative outlet of some sort and this little blog, that I only manage to post to once in a while, is mine. It’s not a business, and may never become one, although it was, and perhaps still is, my goal. I’ll cross that bridge when the time comes. However, it is a way to express myself and share what I love with friends and family. Yes, I did get upset, because each time I do a post I’m creating something that is essentially me- my thoughts, my cooking, my photography. And I get to share it with others. How cool is that?

Enough philosophizing. Let’s move on to the food, shall we? Aren’t you glad autumn is finally here? I know some people love summer and dread the coming of winter. But I’m one of those that needs summer so I can enjoy the transition to fall. Today’s recipe is perfect for today’s damp cloudy weather.

Vegetables

Cacciatore means “hunter” in Italian. This dish is a stewy chicken dish with onion, mushrooms, herbs, tomatoes, and bell pepper. Serve it with a side of pasta or some bread to soak up the sauce if that’s your thing, or if you are watching your carbs, it’s just as good by itself.

top down recipe

Slow Cooker (or not) Chicken Cacciatore

Serves 4-6

No slow cooker? No problem. Just make the recipe in a Dutch oven, bring to a boil and simmer for about an hour. This dish is great for using up end of summer tomatoes, but if you don’t have any or can’t get decent ones, just substitute a 28-ounce can of whole tomatoes, chopped. To peel and seed the tomatoes, drop them in boiling water for 1 minutes. The peel will come right off. Cut in half horizonally and squeeze the seeds out.

3 tablespoons butter or other fat of choice, divided

2 pounds chicken thighs

1 onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1/2 pound mushrooms, stems discarded, sliced

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

8 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 tablespoon each of finely chopped basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme and marjoram (or use 1/2 teaspoon dried)

Season the chicken very well with salt and pepper.  Do not fear the salt.

Raw Chicken

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large sauté pan. Brown the chicken in the pan, in batches as necessary, about 5 minutes. The chicken should be golden brown. Transfer chicken pieces to slow cooker as you go.

Chicken

If you are cooking this dish on the stove, remove the chicken until you cook the vegetables, then add it back to the pot with the tomatoes.

Melt the remaining butter in the pan and sauté the onion, pepper, celery and mushrooms until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 3 minutes more. Pour the vegetable mixture over the chicken in the slow cooker.

Add the tomatoes, paprika, herbs, and a little more salt and pepper to the slow cooker. Cook on low for 6 hours. Taste for seasoning and serve.

Adapted from The Paleo Slow Cooker by Arsy Vartanian and Chris Kresser

Tomato Salad with Grilled Blue Cheese Onions and Barbecue Vinaigrette

Tomato Salad 1

This post is a continuation of foods inspired by my trip to Asheville, NC, for the Food Blog Forum conference. The second day of the conference was hosted by Explore Asheville Foodtopia. The day began with a visit to a local brewery, the Highland Brewing Company.

Highland

I had no idea that Asheville is home to more artisan breweries than any other place in the U.S. We were given the opportunity to tour the actual brewery and watch the beer making and bottling activities in action.  The tour was nice, but what really floored me was the reception that was waiting for us when we arrived. Many of the local restaurants and food purveyors had stations set up with samples of their specialties matched with various Highland Brews. Ribs and beer for breakfast? It was tough, but somehow I managed.

Ribs

There were representatives from the local honey purveyors, ice cream makers, and even a professional forager, who had brought a sample of the most beautiful mushrooms I’ve ever seen.

Mushrooms

The Foodtopia group also gave us a very nice bag full of some of the local goodies, to include a bottle of Smokin J’s barbecue sauce.

BBQ Sauce

Early this past summer, I decided I needed to improve my grilling skills. Actually, I decided to become a “grill goddess,” and purchased a couple of grilling cookbooks to assist me, including a copy of Gastro Grilling by Ted Reader. I really like this book because it goes well beyond the throw-a-steak-on-the-grill version of outdoor cooking. I spotted this salad recipe early on, and decided it would make a great side with grilled meats. The barbecue vinaigrette reminds me of french dressing, only better. It’s great on a simple green salad as well. If you live in a climate warm enough to still be enjoying some early fall tomatoes, and you’re crazy like us and grill outside year ‘round, this salad is for you. Even if you live somewhere that you have already experienced your first snowfall, there is always next year.

Salad 2

Tomato Salad with Grilled Blue Cheese Onions and Barbecue Vinaigrette

Serves 6-8

I used Penzey’s Barbecue spice for the salad dressing. If you don’t have access to Penzey’s feel free to substitute your favorite barbecue rub combined with a pinch of sugar. This salad is great with a mixture of different heirloom tomatoes of different colors, but use whatever you can find. If you prefer to use only one type of onion, all red, for example, that’s okay too. To chiffonade basil, tightly roll the leaves lengthwise and slice thinly.  

1 16-ounce can plum tomatoes, drained

1 anchovy filet

1/2 cup your favorite barbecue sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons prepared horseradish

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

1/2 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 teaspoon Penzey’s Barbecue spice or other

1/4 cup olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

8 medium size tomatoes

1 medium red onion

1 medium white onion

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles

1/2 cup basil leaves, chiffonade

Dressing

Prepare the vinaigrette: place the first eight ingredients (through the barbecue spice) in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Turn on the food processor and slowly add the olive oil through the feed tube, stopping the machine when the vinaigrette is smooth and completely emulsified. Transfer to a bowl, season to taste with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Preheat the grill on high. Thickly slice the tomatoes and arrange on a serving platter.

Slice the onions into 1/2-inch thick slices. Brush both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the onions on one side for 6 minutes, then turn them over and grill for another 5 minutes. They should be fairly tender and slightly charred. Sprinkle some of the blue cheese on each onion slice and close the lid for about a minute to melt the cheese.

Onions

Carefully remove the onions from the grill and allow to cool for a couple of minutes. Cut the onions into quarters and arrange on top of the tomatoes. Drizzle the salad with some of the dressing and serve the remainder on the side. Top the salad with the basil and serve.

Adapted from Gastro Grilling by Ted Reader

Roasted Tomato and Fennel Soup

Tomato Soup 4

Some people may question the sanity of posting a soup recipe in the “dog days” of summer, especially those in places where the temperature normally exceeds 90 degrees. We’ve been fairly lucky this year in terms of having a hot summer. The Washington, DC, area can usually be compared to a steam bath around this time, but this year has been different, and, I must say, there will be no complaints from me. I love fall and it’s usually this time of year that I start thinking about that first morning I walk outside to discover a telling crispness in the air.

Tomato Soup 2

Meanwhile, we still have a couple of summer months left and lots of summer produce to use up – tomatoes anyone? Tomato soup is one of my favorite foods, and if you pair the soup with a grilled cheese sandwich, it’s a total win, win. How do you like your grilled cheese sandwiches? I prefer a fairly dense country style bread because it can hold more cheese that way. I spread the bread with a combination of mayonnaise and strong mustard and then add the cheese, usually whatever I have on hand. Lately it’s been cheddar slices, but any kind will do. I also add some ham, if I have some and maybe some thinly sliced pickles. Butter up the outside of the bread and fry it until crispy. Yum, yum!

Tomato Soup 3

In this soup recipe, you roast all the vegetables before making the soup, which adds a wonderful smoky flavor. Don’t be afraid to get some char on the vegetables; it adds to the depth of flavor.

Tomato Soup 1

 Roasted Tomato and Fennel Soup

I kept this soup on the rustic side, by just giving it a spin in my Vitamix. But if you prefer a smoother creamier soup, you can put it through a fine strainer before adding the cream.

2 pounds ripe red tomatoes

1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs, approximately 1 pound

1 yellow onion, cut into 8 wedges

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste

4 cups vegetable broth

2 bay leaves

1/2 cup heavy cream, optional

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Halve the tomatoes, squeeze out the seeds and place cut-side up on half of a sheet pan or baking sheet. Trim the stalks and fronds from the fennel, reserving some of the fronds for garnish. Cut the fennel in half lengthwise then in half again and remove the core. Add the fennel and the onion pieces to the other half of the sheet pan. Drizzle the vegetables with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss with your hands to coat. Roast the vegetables for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender and carmelized. Remove pan from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Place the vegetables and the broth in a blender and puree until smooth. You may need to do this with half the vegetables and half the broth at a time.

Transfer the vegetable mixture to a large saucepan. Add the bay leaves and more salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat then lower heat to a simmer and cook 15 minutes. Hint: Now is the time to prepare your grilled cheese sandwich if you are making one. Remove the bay leaves and stir in the cream, if using it.

To serve, ladle the soup into individual bowls and garnish with fennel fronds.

Adapted from Vibrant Food by Kimberley Hasselbrink

Tomato and Mozzarella Salad with Pistou

Tom Mozz

It could have been worse. I could have broken my right arm in three places (I’m right handed), rather than the left. I could have knocked my teeth out or broken my jaw when I landed face down in the street, yet somehow I managed to keep my badly scraped up face intact. I was very lucky that my shoulder stayed in place and will not require surgery and that I should regain full use of my arm, even though it will take at least 6 months. There have been some important lessons learned during this ordeal.

Tom Mozz 2

I am one of those people who are busy, busy, busy, no matter what. When I am not trying to juggle doing several things at once, I’m preoccupied with what’s next. I never seem to be able to “stop and smell the roses” and quite honestly, I think I’m beginning to understand that is no way to live my life. A month ago when I fell while walking the dog, I was totally preoccupied with worrying about something I shouldn’t have been concerned about and wondering how I was going to be able to squeeze one more “to do” into an already packed schedule.

My accident has forced me to finally slow down. It’s a little difficult to rush through life with only one functioning arm, and it’s given me the opportunity to really think about what I want out of life. I still don’t have all the answers, but I’ve been able to narrow it down a bit. It’s time to ease back on the throttle and focus on the things I really enjoy, like this blog, and accept that other things might have to fall by the wayside.

Tom Mozz 3

Speaking of this blog, I was just dying to pick up my camera again and get back to it; hence this post. But, I had to question my sanity as I was crawling around on the dining room floor trying to get the perfect shot while using my tripod as a second arm. Maybe I should continue slowing down, i.e., resting and healing a little longer?

Slowing down while healing also meant turning over the kitchen duties to my husband, who has done a wonderful job of keeping food on the table. I’m back in the kitchen now, albeit one-handed, and the food I’m able to cook is limited, which might not be a bad thing. Simple dishes that let the ingredients speak for themselves sound really good to me right now.

Tom Mozz 4

During the summer I am always more inclined to simplify my cooking anyway. There is so much great produce out there. This year we joined a CSA for the first time. The season just started, and the jury is still out – garlic scapes and kohlrabi anyone? But this week we did receive a huge bundle of basil in our weekly selection. I was originally just going to make a Caprese salad but decided to go one step further by making a Pistou to drizzle over sliced tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. Provençal Pistou is very similar to its Italian cousin, Pesto, with the difference that Pistou does not contain pine nuts. I was looking for a more pure basil flavor for this sauce. Pistou is one of those sauces that have so much versatility. Try it stirred into vegetable or legume soups or over any kind of grilled meat or fish.

 Tom Mozz 5

Tomato and Mozzarella Salad with Pistou

4 Servings

The number of servings for this salad can vary depending on how many tomatoes and how much mozzarella you have on hand. The recipe makes enough Pistou to double the amount of servings. I used two really large heirloom tomatoes for four servings, which would also equate to two nice lunch servings.

 Pistou

1 clove garlic

2 cups packed basil leaves

1/3 cup grated Parmesan

7 tablespoons olive oil

Salt

Pepper

Salad

4 medium or 2 very large tomatoes

1/2 pound fresh mozzarella

Make the Pistou. Peel and halve the garlic clove length wise and remove the germ in the center of the clove. Note: This isn’t so important when you are cooking garlic, but the germ can be somewhat bitter when garlic is not cooked. Place the garlic, basil, and Parmesan in the mini-bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the ingredients are finely chopped. With the machine running, add the olive oil in a steady stream. Add salt and pepper to taste and pulse to blend.

Assemble the salad. Slice the tomatoes and the mozzarella. I like slices that are a little under half an inch, but not as thin as a quarter of an inch. Arrange the tomato slices on individual plates or a serving platter. Top each tomato slice with a slice of mozzarella. Drizzle with the Pistou and serve.