Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Awesome Summer Soup: Tomato Basil

This morning I was thinking about tomatoes and lunch. We have a huge Roma tomato plant that has given us more fruit than we can eat in salads and sandwiches. We have tomatoes on the vine, on the kitchen counter, and ripening on the deck.

I opened Bernard Clayton Jr.'s The Complete Book of Soups and Stews (a present from my sister Sara) and turned to "tomato" in the index. When I saw Iced Tomato and Basil soup I knew I had a starting point. Of course my current diet eschews the oil and mozzarella crostinos recommended in the recipes, but I adapted quite nicely. The result was delicious. When Andy came home for lunch and we ladled up the soup, we felt like we were dining in a multi-starred NY restaurant.

Ingredients: 5 pounds of tomatoes, which equals about 20 Roma tomatoes
5 garlic cloves
1 cup shredded fresh basil (or one Tbs dried)
One box vegetable broth (or chicken if you are so inclined).
Salt, pepper, to taste; dash of sugar
Optional toppings: 1/2 cup soy milk; cream; pesto 

Clayton's recipe called for 5 pounds of fresh garden tomatoes. I rounded up about 20 small Romas.

He suggested dipping them in boiling water and, after a minute and a half, dunking them in cold water. This allows the skins to slip off easily. He also advised slicing them down the middle and removing the seed cores, which I did. I also trimmed off any tough stem ends.

I then followed his directions to dice the tomatoes into small pieces and cook them in a pan for 5 minutes. He uses oil; I used a nonstick pan with a little water.

Meanwhile, I sauteed his suggested 5 cloves of minced fresh garlic in a non-stick skillet. Since I didn't add oil, I deglazed with a few tablespoons of vegetable broth.

After the tomatoes had cooked down for 5 minutes, I added the garlic and 1 cup of shredded basil and simmered for 5 more minutes.

Then I added a box of vegetable low-sodium vegetable broth (Clayton uses chicken) and let these all meld together for several more minutes.

I sprinkled in salt, black pepper, and a dash of sugar.

I departed from Clayton's recipe by dumping this all in my food processor and churning it to remove any tomato pulp and chunks of garlic and basil.

When I returned it to the pan, I added about 1/2 cup of soy milk. If you are into cream, that would do nicely too.

I had plucked extra basil from the garden and, before churning the soup, had made a pesto using fresh basil, one garlic clove, nutritional yeast, and about one cup of walnuts.

A spoonful of this pesto added to the soup was just … hmm … je ne sais quoi

Oh, yes, Clayton recommends eating this chilled ("iced") but admits it is delicious hot also. That's how we enjoyed it, due to timing issues. By the end of lunch hour the pan was empty so we'll have to try the chilled version another time.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My friend asked for my ratatouille recipe. Here goes

On Jul 23, 2014, at 5:03 PM, Cheryl Richards wrote:

I got a couple of eggplants from my Amish connection today. You and your Mom had a good recipe for them, ratatouille? can you email this to me?

My friend, Cheri, doesn't love fresh garlic, but I assure her and any others with the same feelings that sauteed garlic adds depth. Once it is cooked it loses its intensity. 

1 large onion
3 cloves fresh garlic (when it's cooked you won't really taste it so much), but use powder if you prefer.
1 eggplant (or 2 if small) sliced thin
several zucchini and yellow squash - sliced thin - and cut in half if they are larger
Optional: thinly sliced or shredded carrots
Depending on the quantity of vegetables, 1-2 cans diced tomatoes with juice
Lotsa Italian seasoning - fresh basil if you have it
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese (if you dare) for serving - sprinkle on top. I use nutritional yeast.

Use a large pot.

Saute onion and garlic in a little oil -- or not if the pot is nonstick. Let it brown a little.
Add sliced veggies. Let them brown a little also.
Add diced tomatoes -- if it doesn't seem moist enough add some tomato sauce or veggie broth - as the veggies simmer they will release more water so keep that in mind
Let the tomatoes and veggies simmer for at least 45 minutes til everything is tender
Add seasoning - let simmer a few more minutes.

Serve over couscous (preferred) or rice or pasta.

Just made some the other day (sans eggplant) and this is basically what I did.

ratatouille is one of those dishes that is better the next day

Good luck.

Tips for Preparing Eggplant

When cutting an eggplant, use a stainless steel knife as carbon steel will react with its phytonutrients and cause it to turn black. Wash the eggplant first and then cut off the ends.

Most eggplants can be eaten either with or without their skin. However, the larger ones and those that are white in color generally have tough skins that may not be palatable. To remove skin, you can peel it before cutting or if you are baking it, you can scoop out the flesh once it is cooked.

To tenderize the flesh's texture and reduce some of its naturally occurring bitter taste, you can sweat the eggplant by salting it. After cutting the eggplant into the desired size and shape, sprinkle it with salt and allow it to rest for about 30 minutes. This process will pull out some of its water content and make it less permeable to absorbing any oil used in cooking.

Rinsing the eggplant after "sweating" will remove most of the salt.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Small milestones

My dad was a good carpenter, extraordinary Mr. Fixit, roofer, mechanic etc.

I am now wondering how I grew up with him and never insisted that he teach me these skills. Maybe some of them can't be taught. He could figure out how to fix Mrs. Smith's sewing machine and how to get Mr. Jones's lawnmower started. He had the touch.

We did wallpaper our living room together when I was in high school and I remember that time very fondly. Since then I have done papering with some success (and some failure!). But I have always been passionate about color so painting has been important to me. (Dad was, of course, also a good painter.)

In my last house I practiced painting with a good brush that allows you to move along edges without the annoyance of blue or green tape. You just need to get a good stubby beveled brush, such as ones made by Wooster or Purdy. These brushes fit nicely into your hand and you can then feather the paint, in a floating motion, up against the ceiling, trim, and door edges.

I have worked on this skill. In our new house in Topeka, I have just completed painting the walls of Bedroom # 1. I can't believe I was able to finish all of the wall surface with no tape and successfully cover all of the old paint. Next, I need to tackle the trim. By the way, I am using Valspar's historical house colors, Lyndhurst beige for the walls and Lyndhurst mahogany for the windows and trim.

Kudos to Lowes for marketing historical colors in their wonderful Valspar paint, which combines paint and primer.

Still need to work on spackling techniques and how to cover previous bad repairs.

Researching… skim coating. Dad would have had a good solution, I am sure. I will figure it out, somehow.