Archive for September, 2012

Too Much of a Good Thing?

September 26, 2012

There is no such thing as too much as a good thing.  Would you agree?  Disagree?  In general, I would disagree except when it comes to food that is perishable.  Then it is possible to have too much of a good, even wonderful, thing.  Like roasted tomatoes.

I made this dish, one of my favorites of last year, and decided that this time, unlike last time, that I would slow roast enough tomatoes to have plenty left over for other things.  So I cored a little over six pounds of tomatoes, I put them in the oven for close to four hours, turned them periodically, burned my fingers while pinching off their skin – you know.  All worth it.  At the end of it, we enjoyed our chickpeas (the tomatoes really do make the dish), I carefully scooped the remaining tomatoes into a container and covered it with olive oil.  I put the garlic cloves in a separate container and was proud of myself for having two such delicious things in my refrigerator just waiting for inspiration.

Except.  Six pounds makes a lot of leftover tomatoes.  And of our family of four, only two of us, the grown people, will eat tomatoes.  So a couple of days after feeling proud, I started to feel a little silly.  Then I started to feel wasteful.  I can’t have spent all that time on these things only to have them get grody in my refrigerator.  So I made soup.

We’ve all had tomato soup, right?  It is one of cooking’s greatest triumphs.  If you have made this one, you know that Cambell’s is not your best choice.  I love that Tomato Leek Soup dearly (with grilled cheese made on homemade challah, it’s Randy’s favorite meal), but it is just a touch acidic for me.  I envision something rounder, mellower, softer when I think of tomato soup.  A bit more like, um, Campbell’s.  Except 100 million times better.  Slow roasting tomatoes makes them very sweet and mellow and the garlic is super mellow too, which is why you will see so  many cloves in the recipe.  I only added a bit of body to it with onion and celery, a bit of tomato paste and a touch of cream to round it out further.  I was thinking of adding basil but found I didn’t have any and truthfully, it doesn’t need it.  What it does need is homemade croutons.  Just take any crusty bread, cut it into cubes, drizzle them with olive oil, a pinch of good salt, and a few grinds of pepper.  Bake them in the oven at 350ºF for about ten minutes until they are lightly browned.

One Year Ago:  Chocolate Dipped Ice Cream Sandwiches, Corn with Tons of Herbs, Heirloom Tomato Tart, Maple Soy Snack Mix
Two Years Ago:  Tomato, Semolina, and Cilantro Soup, Double Chocolate Layer Cake, Moo Shu Tempeh
Three Years Ago:  Corn and Zucchini Timbale, Nutella Pound Cake, Holly B’s Almond Butterhorns
Four Years Ago:  Pissaladière

Roasted Tomato and Roasted Garlic Soup
Dana Treat Original
Serves 4

If you don’t feel like taking four hours (give or take) to slow roast tomatoes, you can get good results in two hours.  They won’t be as dry and they won’t be as sweet, but they will still be good.  Either way, once the tomatoes are done and cool, I transfer them to a container, where I lay down a layer, cover in olive oil, lay down another layer, etc.  Covered they will last about a week.  The oil will solidify so take them out a good half an hour before you want to use them in this soup or otherwise.  I allowed mine a brief rest on paper towels to soak up excess oil.  I store the garlic, still in its papery wrapper, separately from the tomatoes and I do not cover them in oil.

Olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
Kosher or sea salt
1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 tbsp. tomato paste
About 2 cups roasted tomatoes (you can use this recipe)
8 roasted garlic cloves (ditto)
½ dry white wine
4 cups water
¼ cup heavy cream
Croutons (for serving)

Place a soup pot over medium heat.  Drizzle in just enough olive oil to coat the bottom, then add the onion and the celery along with a large pinch of salt.  Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are very soft and starting to color, about 10 minutes.  Add the thyme leaves and stir for another minute.  Add the canned tomatoes and the tomato paste and give the mixture a good stir.

Add the roasted tomatoes and garlic and allow to cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.  Then pour in the wine, followed by the water.  Add another pinch of salt.  Bring the soup to a boil, then lower to a simmer and allow to cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.  If it is looking too thick, stir in a bit more water.

Using a handheld blender, blend the soup.  You want it fairly smooth but texture is important here.  If you do not have a handheld blender (also called an immersion blender) you can very carefully (HOT!) blend it in either a food processor or blender.  Remember to not make it too smooth.  With the heat on low, pour in the cream.  Give it a good stir and allow to cook on low for another five minutes.  Taste for salt.  Add more cream if you want it mellower.  Serve with croutons.

A Slice of My Life – The Lost Weeks

September 24, 2012

Allllllllll right.  I’m back.  Sorry about that gigantic lag.  I knew it would be long but I’m not sure I realized it would be that long.  The very short version of our moving story is that we left Seattle on August 22nd.  We took three days to drive south with overnight stops in Portland, Grant’s Pass (where we also went river rafting on our 10th anniversary), and Chico, CA.  We rolled into an extended stay hotel in Emeryville a day and a half before the boys started school.  The boys started school.  Our new house closed.  We moved in.  We unpacked.  We waited for wi-fi.  And here I am.  Before I show you some photos of what life has been like for the past month, I will tell you that I know many of you are waiting for food, for recipes.  It’s coming, I promise.  I’ve been cooking in my new kitchen and I love it.  And the light is great.  I think some great things are going to happen here.

Spending the first week and a half of your new life in your new city in a hotel is not ideal.  Good thing there was a pool.

First day of school.  This was a big one – second grade for Graham and kindergarten for Spencer.  My baby in kindergarten.  If we had still been in Seattle and all had been more or less familiar, I would have been very nostalgic and would have come up with a meaningful post about this milestone.  But so much chaos with the move pushed it to the back burner.  Maybe when things settle a bit.

I have a lemon tree in my front yard.  They are Meyer lemons.  It’s pretty awesome.  The tree also grows limes which I didn’t know was possible but I’m pretty excited about it.

I put this photo on Instagram and Facebook and got a lot of questions about it.  Randy and I have the boys do pushups from time to time.  It started on a family vacation when we were getting tired of saying the same thing over and over again and time outs were not feasible.  One day, while we were on the boardwalk in Rehoboth, DE, Randy told Graham to drop and give him five (his age at the time) push-ups.  Which he did on the filthy and gum-strewn sidewalk.  So it became our thing, whine too much and you have to do push-ups.  Hit your brother and you have to do push-ups.  It’s actually a great tool because it puts an immediate stop to the negative behavior and it is a clear sign that they have done something wrong.  Randy has to do push-ups himself when he says a bad word so he does them surprisingly often.  This session was a family attitude adjustment.

And this is my kitchen.  I never took photos of my old kitchen because the light in there was terrible.  It was very big and very nice.  This is smaller and very nice.  And the light is better.  Obviously, now that we are moved in, the kitchen actually looks nothing like this.  It’s a lot messier.

When the kitchen was finally unpacked enough for me to cook, I made dinner.  We ate on the deck.  I can’t believe this is our view.  And what I hate to even mention is what you can’t see in this photo.  Beyond those houses and those hills is the San Francisco skyline, the bay, and way off in the distance, the Golden Gate bridge.

Giants game.

BART ride home.

This lake, which has a lovely walking path, plenty of space for picnics, and a swimming beach, is a 15 minute walk from our house.

I took a vegetarian Thai cooking class from Pim.  It was just outside Santa Cruz.  Randy took the boys to the boardwalk for four hours while I was in class.  They came to pick me up…

…and then we went right back to the boardwalk.

Graham was horsing around (ironically in the same parking lot where he had to do the attitude adjustment push-ups) and fell and cracked his chin open.  He got 5 stitches.  He was so scared he was shaking when the doctor came at him with the needle to numb him up.  But he was a trooper and five days later, they were already out.

My first baked good.  The two things the boys liked best from our time in the extended stay hotel were the pool and the buffet breakfast every morning.  They loved the breakfast potatoes and the small muffins.  So I made mini blueberry muffins.  They were a big hit.

Did you know Oakland is really hilly?  This is our backyard taken from our deck.  That is Graham trying to rescue a paper airplane from that tree.

I’ve always been jealous of people who could just walk out into their yard and pick tomatoes.  Now I am one of those people.

Two soups – coming up this week!

Veggies and Dip

September 3, 2012

Where do you stand on the term “foodie”?  How about “fridge”?  And “veggies”?  These are all words that food people frown upon.  I find myself refraining from using them when in reality none of them bother me and “fridge” is much easier to type than “refrigerator”.  So I’m going to talk about veggies and dip.  Not vegetables and dip.

You might think that years of going to parties where the only thing I could eat was veggies and dip might have soured me on that combo.  The opposite is true.  I zero in on that platter.  If I parked myself next to it, I might be able to eat the whole thing.  And taking a few veggies on your plate with a spoonful of dip just doesn’t taste as good as standing at the table and eating from the platter.  The same is true of chips and salsa.  Am I right?

I like making dips that keep well and having them easily accessible for friends and relatives who might stop by.  A casual weeknight dinner feels just a little bit more fancy if there is an appetizer involved.  I always keep good olives in my fridge (not refrigerator) for that same reason.  And then no one minds if it takes you a little longer to get dinner on the table.

This dip is just a bit unexpected with the smoked blue cheese.  I’m sure it would be great with regular blue cheese too but I have always been a fan of any smoked cheese.  I served this one night with these beautiful vegetables from Oxbow Farm and on another night with pita chips.

One Year Ago:  Yogurt and Oregano Pesto Soup,
Two Years Ago:  Savory Scones
Three Years Ago:  Mint Filled Brownie Cupcakes
Four Years Ago:  Fresh Summer Rolls with Hoisin Peanut Dipping Sauce 

Blue Cheese Dip

Bon Appétit
8-10 servings

Kosher salt
1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
2½ tsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme
½ pound smoked (or regular) blue cheese, crumbled
1 cup sour cream
2/3 cup mayonnaise
Freshly ground black pepper

Sprinkle salt over garlic and chop, occasionally smearing mixture with blade of knife, until paste forms.  Whisk garlic paste, vinegar, and thyme in a medium bowl.  Add cheese; mash with the back of a fork until cheese in finely crumbled.  Stir in sour cream and mayonnaise.  Season dip to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve with assorted vegetables.  (Can be made 2 days ahead.  Cover and chill.)