Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head!!

Soup and SammiesWhat to do? What to do? What to do?  A winter’s day ripe for hot tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. But, tomato season is over and I just can’t get my self to buy those pale pink, baseball hard orbs the grocer labels as tomatoes. I remember my mother trying to get the Kids to eat vegetables during the winter and serving us these rock hard, white tomatoes with a wedge of iceberg lettuce and an oversize portion of bleu cheese dressing. Yes, health was on her mind.

Now that I am on the topic, whoever thought it was a good idea to put an iceberg wedge salad on a restaurant menu anyway? Did you not grow up in the 60’s or 70’s?? We have so many more better tasting options than a crispy, crunchy facsimile of food which I find tastes exactly like water.  All iceberg lettuce has ever done for me is thin out the bleu cheese dressing. Better to serve a nice chunk of Roquefort with a glass of water.  Just sayin’.

Canned TomatoesAnyway, this weekend the rain was coming down and Suzanne and I were hankering for something warm and satisfying. Tomato soup sounded great but alas . . . no fresh tomatoes.  Wait!! That is not entirely true. While they were not fresh off the vine in the minute, I did have a jar of tomatoes that I put up right after picking.  I reached into my pantry and came out with a quart jar of lovely ripe, stewed tomatoes.  One of the great challenges of having an edible garden is using all of its produce.  This year I went heavily into tomatoes and was rewarded with a bumper crop. Take a minute to review my Pop Goes the Basil!! post to witness the results of my green thumb.

So out comes the jar of tomatoes, a red onion, some garlic, chicken broth and a heavy splash of whipping cream left over from Thanksgiving.  I started with half the red onion finely diced and 6 cloves of garlic sliced sauteing in olive oil in a stock pot. After about 3 or 4 minutes I dropped in the the tomatoes and let them all stew together for a few more minutes.  On top of that I add a quart of chicken broth, unsalted, and brought it all to a boil for about 5 minutes.

BlenderThe next step is  my favorite.  I like to blend my soups. Now some cooks like to use immersion blenders, those little electric motor sticks with wimpy little blades that barely move your soup around the pot. Me, I like using a blender on low speed until I get the texture I want.  And . . . every once in a while I forget to keep my hand on the lid and oops, I get a little messy. Occasionally I will strain my soup to remove any extra chunky bits.  I tried that this time and was not happy with the results so I dumped the solids back into the pot and was happy that I did.

Strainer Giving the puree’ a taste test I found the soup to be  a little flat so I added just a pinch of kosher salt. Wow!! Did that pick the flavors right up.  Normally I would add some acid to brighten the flavor but the tomatoes brought just enough to the dish so no vinegar was needed.

Now one of Suzanne’s jobs, in our relationship, is to make sure we don’t overindulge in bad or fatty ingredients.  Take a minute to look at her audition video for the Next Food Network Star.  In it Suzanne makes a surprisingly good Massaged Kale Salad.  She made this salad for me one night and I predictably rolled my eyes and turned up my nose . . . until the fork hit my mouth.  It’s a great recipe and kale is a great food for the body.  But . . . this time Suzanne failed me.  Thank goodness!! She MADE me pour the half cup of whipping cream into the soup.  She was right and the taste was amazing.

CreamFortunately for me she did not stop there.  Suzanne also whipped up a little fresh pesto which she used to coat a slice of freshly baked baguette.  On top of which she added slices of Gruyere and Mozzarella.  Get that all melty in the toaster oven and Man!! What a meal.

Pesto Cheesy GoodnessSo, this last rainy weekend, Suzanne and I tucked into freshly baked bread topped with pesto and cheese with a steaming hot bowl of tomato cream soup. Took the shivers right away. My advice is: If you find yourself wanting for grilled cheese and soup one rainy day, dig a little deeper into the pantry and see just what might make make the day a little brighter.


Eat Well and Smile Often,




p.s. Leftovers!!

I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing Bake!!

BaguettesI love bread. I love bread with butter. I love bread with olive oil  . . . and balsamic vinegar!!  I love bread with cheese.  I love bread with cheese and tomatoes and basil!! I like bread in rolls. I like bread in loaves.  I like to slice it, dice it, rip it and chew it.  I like it as the bookends of my sandwich or as a crusty chunk in my soup. I like it for breakfast, for lunch and for dinner. I like it when I am hungry and even when I am not!!  I like to toast it, soak it, dip it and fry it. Almost any way I can fix it I will try it!!

Bread is an amazing food.  The cultivation of wheat marks the change in man from nomadic to agrarian.  After always being on the hunt or following the herd, Mankind finally settled down in one spot and began the practice of cultivation. Of all the grasses and grains our European forefathers came across wheat became the preferred staple. The ability for wheat and flour to be stored over the non-producing seasons allowed families to provide themselves with calories and nourishment while the next crop grew.  Bread, at that time, was literally the stuff of life.

Bread for me IS the stuff of life.  (That and beer. It must be the yeast that they have in common.)  Recently I purchased new food processor and discovered that it has a setting for Dough.  Being the culinary purist that I am it took about . . . a second . . . for me to think, “Cool! No more kneading.”  For those of you who make, or have made, there own bread you will empathize with my next sentiment.  It takes a lot of work to make a loaf of bread!

Sure we have great recipes available to us and all the ingredients we need are on the shelves of the local grocery store. So why do not we make our breads?  Homemade bread tastes WAY better, in most cases.  Simple answer: (You guessed it.)  Effort. It takes a lot of work to make a loaf of bread.  For a while bread machines were all the craze but honestly . . . who wants to eat a cylindrical loaf of bread.  There is something about those hand wrought loaves that are more appealing.  I even purchased the heavy duty Kitchen Aid mixer with a dough hook so I could bake bread more often.  But I have found that it isn’t strong enough to knead stiff doughs and it stripped a gear with my last effort.

So when I saw how easy it was to use the food processor I jumped at the chance to try it out.  It was very simple with only a few detail points to consider. First, I did not need to proof the yeast. It simply got mixed in with the flour. Second, all of the dry ingredients get mixed in the bowl and the water is slowly drizzled in as the processor . . . processes. The only consideration was measuring the temperature of the flour and water with an instant read thermometer.  I spent five minutes mixing and kneading the dough.  After that, it only took a little forming and some patience. I did find that I needed to schedule my day around the rising periods but in the end the amount of effort expended was well invested as the results were superb!!

There was something very satisfying about having my house smell of freshly baked bread.  I knocked back one of the loaves with tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Another succumbed to rips and grabs.  The third I wrapped and gifted.  If you find a little extra time one day consider knocking out a loaf . . . the easy way.

Eat Well and Smile Often!!


p.s. Hmm . . . maybe I should try a Ciabatta next??


Can You Woo Like the French??

I have a new pen pal or in this day and age is, email acquaintance a more appropriate term? Melani Robinson, of New York, authors a magnificent, sometimes embarrassingly real, blog about dating at 50. I happened upon an article she had published which led me to her website: 1yearofonlinedatingat50.com Her article on To Groom or Not To Groom for Women Over 50 was so hysterically funny, and age appropriate, that I immediately dashed off a note in support of her bravery. Her blog . . . even funnier. A no holds barred style of writer I hope you will enjoy as much as I do. That being said, what does Dating After 50 have to do with food? Everything!!

Now wooing can go 1 of 2 ways; it either does or it doesn’t. I feel a man of a certain age should have a little something up his sleeve when it finally does. By this I mean breakfast. Now breakfast, the morning after, can say a lot of things. There is the, “How about a cup of coffee before you go?” line which really means “Thanks but could you find your pantyhose and go already.” OR “What say we get cleaned up and go out for breakfast?” meaning, “You were a fun date but I’m not ready to commit just yet and I have to drop by the auto parts store downtown anyway.” BUT, should that rare instance occur when you actually want that special someone to stay a little longer I recommend Wooing Like the French.

French Toast that is. Now what woman doesn’t like French Toast and I don’t mean soggy old milk toast. I mean something with a little thought and a little flair, like you. So this morning . . . I practiced. Having only my faithful hounds as advisers I put together the following.

In a small bowl mix

1/2 cup Ricotta Cheese
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup syrup, maple, real, don’t chintz

Whip in a separate bowl

2 eggs

Using either thick sliced bread (I sliced from the loaf I baked myself . . . eh hem.)
2 slices sandwich bread, preferably wheat

Slice a pocket in the bottom of the thick slice and stuff with cheese mixture or spread one slice with mixture and top with second

Heat a flat pan with 2 tbsp butter

Dipped stuff bread into egg and let sit for 30 seconds
Turn over and wait another 30seconds

When butter begins to bubble in pan place egg bread in and turn heat to medium
About 90 seconds later check to see if egg is browning.
When brown flip and let cook for about 60 seconds

When browned on both sides place on plate and pop in microwave for 30 seconds to warm cheese

Serve and woo!

Remember to Eat Well and Smile Often!


(How do you write so it sounds like your mouth is full?)

Bread of Life!!

For years, like ever since I was 8, I have been trying to bake a loaf of soft, light, sandwich bread. I even spent . . . $18,000.00 . . . going to culinary school to learn how. You think I would have it down by now. Not.

These loaves taste great and they will make a fantastic breakfast of french toast for me. But, to the discerning eye, one will notice the crumb is too dense and that the gluten has not been fully developed. This was an intentional mistake on my part. The successes I have had with bread involved a supercharged yeast, an 8′ long deck oven, a temperature controlled proofing box, a massive Hobart mixer and an experienced baker looking over my shoulder. Like many things, my childhood memories haunt me. My dear sweet mother, angel of a woman, a saint even, who could literally burn water, told me once; as I bragged about my youthful kneading skills; “It was good bread just hard and dense.” so I have been attempting to lighten up a little. By lightening up I mean not kneading as much. Kneading too much makes the bread chewy, I’m not going for chewy here.

What this means, with these loaves, is that I did not knead the appropriate amount. Therefore the gluten has not developed properly which, as a result, did not provide the correct crumb or cell structure to capture the Co2 released from the yeast which gives the bread it’s lift and lightness. Shucks. Only one two things to do:

1. Eat the bread warm with butter, eggs and syrup
B. Try it again.

Cheers and smile often,