Creamy Grilled Tomato Soup

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Summer’s Final Days – Caponata

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I hope everyone has enjoyed this summer. We have been particularly busy this year but have still had time to enjoy all the wonderful produce that is at the markets this time of year. It will be gone before we know it.

Caponata Veg 1

We’ve been doing quite a bit of traveling, culminating in a 2-week trip to Washington and Montana. This is the one time of the year that I put work and the frantic pace of daily life in Virginia behind me. NO TRAFFIC – Ahhh! There is a reason they call Montana “Big Sky.”

Montana

My first experience with caponata was years ago, when a colleague who was living in Rome at the time asked if I would send some coffee to him from Bogota, Colombia, where I was living. I agreed if he would send me a box of Italian pantry items in return. He did not disappoint; what a haul! Years later, I’ve never forgotten it. One of the items in the box was a can of caponata. Even the Italian canned version was delicious and I resolved to make a fresh version at home.

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I’ve tried many versions of caponata over the years, but this one surpassed all the others. Maybe it’s the capers. My husband is always giving me a hard time about my extreme love of capers. Honestly, I could eat them on almost anything – well, maybe not ice cream…hmmm.

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Caponata is a sweet and sour cooked vegetable dish that originated in Sicily as a side for fish dishes. It was originally made with eggplant and celery, but today there are numerous versions that can contain everything from pine nuts to octopus.

Caponata Veg 2

Caponata is a wonderful way to use up some of that extra summer produce from the garden or the farmers market. It can be used in a variety of ways – as a side with virtually any meat, or as part of an antipasto platter. I’ve even seen it whirred in a blender with olive oil and vinegar and made into salad dressing. However, my favorite way to enjoy it is for lunch as a topping on crusty bread with a nice schmear of fresh ricotta or goat cheese.

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Eggplant Caponata

6 Cups

Caponata can be prepared up to 3 days in advance. Serve warm or at room temperature. Feel free to substitute zucchini for the summer squash or even use one of each. Serve as a side dish, as a dip for pita crisps or crackers or on bread with ricotta or goat cheese.

1 eggplant, about 14 ounces, trimmed and sliced crosswise, 1/2 inch thick

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 teaspoons salt, divided

2 yellow summer squash

5 white mushrooms, chopped

1/2 red onion, chopped

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons red wine

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 large tomato, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

3 ounces tomato sauce

1 roasted red pepper, chopped, or 1 4-ounce can chopped pimento

1 tablespoon drained capers

6 pitted Kalamata olives, chopped

2 tablespoons minced fresh basil

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the eggplant slices on an oiled sheet pan and brush with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Season with 1 teaspoon of the salt. Bake until tender, about 25 minutes. Cool slightly then chop and set aside.

Slice the summer squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Chop into 1/2-inch dice and set aside.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large wide saucepan or dutch oven over medium high heat until the surface is shimmering and you can smell the oil, 1-2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, onions and chopped squash to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to brown, 4-5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook 1 minute.

Stir in the red wine and vinegar. Add the tomato, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, until the tomato softens, 3-4 minutes.

Stir in the tomato sauce, roasted red pepper, capers, olives, basil, parsley, and the chopped eggplant. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until thickened, about 3 minutes.

Adapted from Pacific Northwest the Beautiful by Kathy Casey

Roasted “Bunny” Carrots with Honeyed Mustard

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I hope everyone is enjoying a beautiful Spring day with friends and family. When I wrote this the sky was blue, the sun was shining, and the birds were chirping as I sat next to an open window taking it all in. I was smiling indeed.

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I’ve wanted to do a roasted vegetable recipe on the blog for some time. It is actually my absolute favorite way to cook and eat vegetables – drizzle with olive oil, roast at 400 until fork tender, sprinkle with sea salt, and eat. Then while the husband is out walking the dog, sneak a few more pieces of the leftovers, mmm. Food eaten on the sly just tastes better, don’t you think?

My husband probably would not mind me eating these leftovers in their entirety. His dislike of cooked carrots is notorious. His mother used to say that carrots were only good for horses, and I believe it rubbed off on him. But, these carrots are so good, I think he’ll even eat them.

Carrots are part of the “umbrella” family of vegetables and are related to parsnips, fennel, parsley, anise, caraway, cumin, and dill. They are said to lower chances of cardiovascular disease, probably because of the gajillion vitamins and antioxidants they contain.

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These beauties would probably be even nicer if you used the multi-colored bunches of carrots that are turning up in the stores these days. They make a nice side for an Easter meal, or any other time of the year for that matter.

Carrots Recipe Header Roasted Carrots with Honeyed Mustard

6 Servings

When I roast vegetables I usually just put them in the bare pan and let the olive oil keep them from sticking. Because of the honey in this recipe be sure to use foil in the pan, and spray it well.

2 pounds “bunny carrots” with green tops, tops trimmed and cut in half lengthwise

3 tablespoons whole grain mustard

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon honey

salt and pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 400. Cover a baking sheet with foil and spray well with cooking spray or oil.

Stir the mustard, olive oil, and honey together in a large bowl. Toss in the carrots and mix well (hands really work best for this) until thoroughly coated. Place in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

Roast the carrots in the oven until they are fork tender, approximately 25 minutes.

Sprinkle the carrots with the parsley and serve.

Adapted from Cuisine at Home magazine

Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon and Walnuts

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Cauliflower the week before Thanksgiving? Really, Jeannine?

I had a great time on Feedly with my morning coffee today, catching up on my blog reading, checking out all the wonderful Thanksgiving recipes on the internet…the turkeys, the stuffing, the potato recipes, the pies. I absolutely love Thanksgiving and this year is no different. But thinking ahead, I still have to get dinner on the table, and in light of the huge cooking and eating event on the calendar, I’d like those dinners before and after to be relatively healthy, oh…and really easy to prepare.

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Today’s recipe goes with anything; fish, chicken, you name it. It’s super easy, requires only a few ingredients, and it’s delicious.

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Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon and Walnuts

4 Servings

You can replace the walnut pieces with pecans, hazelnuts, or even pistachios.

1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnut pieces

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets

3 tablespoons walnut oil or olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

juice of 1 lemon (approximately 1 tablespoon)

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/3 cup heavy cream or half and half

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Toast the walnut pieces by placing them in a small frying pan over medium heat until you begin to smell them and they start turning brown. Remove the walnuts from the hot pan to a clean plate and set aside.

Place the cauliflower in a clean sheet pan, toss with 2 tablespoons of the oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Roast the cauliflower for 15-20 minutes, stirring once or twice, until it begins to char in places.

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Whisk the remaining oil with the lemon juice, mustard, and half and half in a large bowl. Add the cauliflower to the boil, scraping any brown bits and remaining oil from the sheet pan into the bowl as well. Toss the cauliflower with the dressing, add the walnuts and toss again. Check the seasoning and serve warm.

Adapted from Lose Weight the Smart Low Carb Way by David Joachim and Bettina Newman

 

Sautéed Cabbage with Bacon

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Today’s recipe is from a guest cook, my husband Scott. I wanted to get it posted as soon as possible because I consider it to be more of a chilly weather recipe than something that represents Spring, which, knock on wood, finally might be here to stay for awhile. This time last week I was sitting right here at my computer and looked outside and saw – snow. I couldn’t believe my eyes. But it was short lived. Now, the daffodils are up and trees are budding, and I’m sitting in front of an open window.

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Although this cabbage is a recipe that we normally have for Saint Patrick’s Day, it is really versatile and will go with almost anything. I especially can see it alongside pork chops or chicken. The bacon is what makes this recipe special, so I don’t recommend leaving it out.

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Sautéed Cabbage with Bacon

6 Servings

1/2 pound bacon, diced

4 tablespoons butter

1 large sweet onion, about 14 ounces, diced

1 head cabbage, thinly sliced

In a large sauté pan, cook the bacon over low heat to render as much fat as possible before the bacon browns, approximately 10 minutes. Add butter, and when it melts, add the onion. Increase the heat to medium and sauté until the onion softens, approximately 7 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Increase the heat to medium-high and start adding cabbage by the handful, cooking it down until you are able to add all of it to the pan, approximately 10 minutes. Add more salt and pepper to tasted. Continue cooking cabbage, stirring frequently, until done, approximately 10 minutes.