Roasted tomato and garlic soup

Tomato soup is one of those things on the list of “Oh, I thought I didn’t like that,” which has gotten shorter and shorter as I’ve gotten older.

For years I despised tomato soup, because I thought it all tasted like Campbell’s Cream of Tomato, which always tasted tinny on my tongue and then itched in my throat going down.

My Dad liked it though, and our little cat at the time, Truffles, would lap it furiously out of her bowl the instant the bowl was put on the floor (she would coat the wall in orange splatter, unable to wait until it cooled even slightly to dive in), so we always had cans of it in the pantry. I preferred Cream of Mushroom, but I was in the minority.

You don’t need beautiful tomatoes for this; the ruddy, ugly, sort of soft or bruised ones are fine. The secret to good tomato soup is to roast the tomatoes first. Though around here that isn’t such a secret – a friend at work pointed out that roasting is my go-to technique for just about every ingredient. It sounds like I might be a bit predictable. But anyway. Roast the tomatoes. And the garlic. Use too much garlic. This is the future, and we’re okay with that now.

Roasted tomato and garlic soup

(Serves six)

  • 5 medium field tomatoes (2 1/2 to 3 pounds)
  • 3 heads of garlic plus three cloves, peeled
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, packed

Lightly grease a 9×13 pan. Preheat your oven to 300°F.

Quarter tomatoes, and line up in the pan. Scatter the peeled cloves from three heads of garlic over top. Drizzle olive oil over the contents of the pan, and sprinkle about a teaspoon of coarse salt over as well. Roast for 90 minutes to two hours, until tomatoes have withered and garlic is deeply golden. (This step you can do in advance; I like to roast a lot of tomatoes and garlic and stick them in freezer bags for easy weeknight dinners during the winter.)

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat two tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add three remaining cloves of garlic. Sauté onion until translucent, then add pepper, pepper flakes, and oregano, stirring to coat. Add tomatoes and garlic to the pot, scraping any solids that remain in the pan into the pot. Stir.

Add stock, and reduce heat to medium. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes, until later garlic cloves have softened. Purée using an immersion blender. Taste, adjusting seasonings as needed, then add basil and parsley and purée again. Add water to thin to desired consistency, if needed.

Serve drizzled with olive oil.

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Kroketten: Make your holiday leftovers into delicious fried snack food.

Nick is all about croquettes. He demanded them for his birthday, and he gets very excited whenever the possibility of croquettes arises, which for him isn’t often. Croquettes, or kroketten, are a Dutch thing, and given Nick’s Vander-leaning heritage, he gets a little nostalgic over them, a little obsessive even, possibly the same way I do for good fish and chips. You can buy them at the Dutch store, but that’s an hour’s drive away, and you can get them at the little Dutch pancake restaurant in town here, but they close early and we sleep late.

This year though, we ended up with enough leftover meat to make a couple of batches. So, inspired in part by this recipe, in part by a recipe from my in-laws, Mark and Jess, and by the taste of the things, which is always fairly consistent, I made my first Dutch croquettes. They’re basically deep-fried soft meatballs, so by their very nature they’re delicious.

They seem like more trouble than they are. They weren’t all that time-consuming, because the majority of the work was not intensive and I could leave them in stages and do other things. So if you’ve got a lot of extra turkey, chicken, or roast beef, or even pork, and you’re tired of soup and sandwiches already, why not try kroketten? One batch makes about two dozen, and they freeze well, so you can enjoy your holiday leftovers as a snack anytime.

The recipe below is for a beef version, but I’ll include the variation I used for the turkey ones as well.

Kroketten

  • 1 tbsp. plus 1/4 cup butter, 1/4 cup reserved
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1.5 lbs. cooked beef, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 lemon, zest and juice
  • 2 cups beef stock or reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 3/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups dry breadcrumbs
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs, beaten

(Variation: For turkey kroketten, use chicken stock instead of beef stock, and use dried sage instead of rosemary. You could throw in a handful of raisins or dried cranberries here, and it would be lovely.)

Melt butter and sweat onion, carrot, and celery, and garlic cloves. Add the meat, lemon zest and juice, and stock. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes.

Strain meat mixture, reserving stock. Transfer meat mixture to a food processor*.

Add parsley, dry mustard, pepper, rosemary, thyme, and nutmeg, and pulse until well-combined and mostly puréed. You want some texture, but not too much, as these aren’t really “chewing” snacks. They should be very soft.

*Alternately, if you don’t have a food processor, separate the meat and the veggies. Mash the veggies, and pull the meat apart with a fork, and then chop very finely. Mix meat and veggies together, and then proceed as below.

In a pot over medium-high heat, melt the reserved butter, and stir in the flour. Pour in your reserved stock and stir frequently until the mixture comes to a gentle boil and thickens. Add your meat mixture to this, and stir to combine. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Transfer to a 9″x13″ pan, cover, and refrigerate for up to three hours.

Go out, do other things.

When you come back, set a workstation up for yourself with one parchment-lined baking sheet, one bowl of the beaten eggs, a plate with the flour, and a pie-plate containing your breadcrumbs. Form into logs, about 3/4-inch thick and 2 1/2-inches long. Alternately, you can roll them into balls about the size of golf-balls. If you’re making two different kinds, it helps to make both so that you can tell them apart later when you want to eat them.

Dip first into flour (coat all sides), then into egg, and then drop into breadcrumbs, rolling each piece in your hands to thoroughly coat. Place on cookie sheet. You should end up with about two dozen. Make sure that the coating is thick and even, or else the meat will burst out of the croquette’s more delicate places when frying.

At this point, you can either freeze them or fry them. If you are going to freeze them, cover them (on their cookie sheet) with plastic and place in the freezer until frozen solid. Remove them to a large, sealed container, where you can store them in the freezer for up to six weeks. If you are going to fry them, return them first to the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Heat a pot of oil, about four inches, to 350°F. Drop kroketten in, four or five at a time, and cook each batch for three to five minutes, or until golden brown. Remove to a paper-towel lined plate, sprinkle with Kosher salt, and serve piping hot, with a big bowl of yellow American mustard.

If you’re not super comfortable with deep-frying, you can fry them in a regular frying pan, in about an inch of oil. Just give them a bit longer, and make sure you brown them on all sides.

At this point, your version of Nick, whether Dutch-inclined or not, will be all kinds of grateful, and will likely even volunteer to do things for you, such as washing the dishes and/or keeping your hand filled with cans of ice-cold beer for the remainder of the evening. Your version of Nick will also be hugely complimentary and will let you go to bed early and not get mad at you for not dealing with the last of the laundry or “forgetting” to put the sheets and duvet cover back where they should be.

The moral of the story is that there is something pleasant you can do with leftovers that doesn’t only involve turning them into soup or sandwiches. If you freeze them, these little croquettes will make a nice make-ahead treat for your guests on New Years Eve. Happy leftoversing!

Grilled (and then chilled) potato salad, or, “How to Accessorize a Meatfest.”

It’s been oppressive-hot around here, and I have not felt like writing these past few days. We continue to eat, but the act of balancing hot computer on lap has been less than appealing. But then Nick started playing video games for hours on end, so a retreat to the bedroom (to Nick’s non-laptop computer) was in order.

Yesterday was one of those half-naked, stand-by-your-fan kind of days, and though I promised Grace a meatfest, I wasn’t able to deliver it in my apartment. Slow-cooking heats 600 square feet remarkably quickly, and as Canadian Tire was out of big fans, we’re currently operating with just the one. So I made the food, and transported it to Grace’s, who’s apartment was much more temperate.

But one should not make a meal of meat alone. No. I made the ribs that I wrote about before, except that I used pork side ribs this time, and the result was even better. (Also, I noticed that I screwed up typing the recipe for the barbecue sauce, so I’ve now fixed it. Oops. Sorry.) Last week I went to Costco, and confronted by two sets of meat, back ribs and side ribs, side by side, I couldn’t decide what was better. The side ribs worked out well – very meaty. Was pleased. I couldn’t make the full amount, because when I finally got most of these defrosted, the bottom rack was still frozen. Good thing: I don’t have an oven big enough to cook that much meat.

SDC10498Anyway, I decided that we really ought to have a summer salad as well, and maybe something with potatoes – I found some lovely new and purple potatoes at the market that morning. Of course, it was intolerable inside and I certainly did not want to hang out over a pot on the stove, so I decided to grill the potatoes. Every recipe I found for grilled potato salad sounded very good, but it was all for warm potato salad, which was really not appealing. Here is my alternative:

Grilled Potato Salad with Tarragon Aoili

  • 4 cups grilled chopped potatoes
  • 1 cup grilled asparagus, chopped
  • 1 cup grilled green beans, chopped
  • 2 cups whole grape tomatoes
  • 4 slices bacon, chopped

As mentioned, you’ll want your vegetables to be grilled and then chopped. Except for the tomatoes. Keep them fresh and raw for a delightful pop. Once your vegetables come off the grill, allow them to cool for awhile, until you can handle them comfortably. Make sure to parboil your potatoes before grilling: Give them six to eight minutes in boiling water, or until they’re almost done. Fry the bacon. But don’t stand over the stove-top too long.

cooling veggies

Aoili:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp. dijon mustard
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 cup olive oil (use good stuff. Or use grapeseed oil. Hell, you could even use canola – it doesn’t matter. Use what you like.)
  • 2 tbsp. fresh tarragon

Blend the egg, garlic, mustard, zest, salt, and pepper in a food processor until the garlic has broken down and is in tiny little pieces that you can’t quite see. Slowly pour in the oil (while the blade is in motion). This will produce mayonnaise, which is awesome. Dribble in the lemon juice, and add the tarragon, continuing to process until the herb has been destroyed and thoroughly integrated.

This will make more aioli than is necessary for the salad, but that’s good news. You can use the rest on vegetables, or spread it on sandwiches. Either way, don’t use it all, and don’t throw it out either.

Toss the veggies and bacon with the dressing, as much or as little as you like, and return it to the fridge for at least an hour before serving. Let those flavours sink in!

Serve cold, with meat.

potato saladAnd then we went to Grace’s. And Grace took lovely pictures of the food. She has photography skills.

A plate of ribs in flattering yellow light.
A plate of ribs in flattering yellow light.
Another shot of food in flattering yellow light. Grace has good lighting. I look much better there.
Another shot of food in flattering yellow light. Grace has good lighting. I look much better there.
And now, the eating process in three slides.
And now, the eating process in three slides.
SPEED!
SPEED!
I like how you can see me in the side of this shot, nerding out and taking my own photos of the food. Fail?
I like how you can see me in the side of this shot, nerding out and taking my own photos of the food. Fail?

The result was a delicious feast that I was pleased to have endured a day of heat to make, all things said and done. Grace made margaritas, and we drank wines. And then Grace produced a rhubarb shortcake with whipped cream that was all sorts of revelatory, and I learned that rosemary and rhubarb are a magical pairing that I would like more of. Possibly every day. Holy crap. I wish there was a photo. And with that, I now must figure out how to feed myself while wearing almost nothing and not turning on the stove, as despite the cloud cover, it’s still very warm. Goodbye, for now.

Roasting chicken makes it easy to forget that some days your job is kind of boring and takes up all your chicken-roasting time.

Here’s the best part of my yesterday:

Paprika Roast Chicken

  • 1 whole chicken, 3–5 lbs.
  • 1 tbsp. paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

Pre-heat oven to 350°F.

Pat chicken dry (if for some reason it’s not already), and then loosen the skin on the breast, thighs, and legs with your fingers.

Combine paprika, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, sea salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Toss together, and then rub all over chicken, top and bottom, making sure to get some under the skin. Sprinkle inside cavity, and shove the garlic in there as well. Admire handiwork. It will be a lovely colour.

Place in a pan with about 1/2 cup of water (or dry white wine, if it’s payday – with roast chicken, I recommend the Quails’ Gate Chardonnay) and bake, covered, and in the lower-third of your oven for an hour.

Go about preparing your side dishes. I stewed tomatoes, onions, and okra in a delightful madras curry with too much ginger and garlic. Mmmm.

Increase oven temperature to 450°F, keeping covered, and cook the chicken for another 20 minutes. Once the buzzer goes, take off the lid (or, as in my case, aluminum foil), and cook for another 10–15 minutes, or until skin looks golden, crispy, and delicious.

Re-cover, and let sit for 10 minutes while setting the table and assembling sides. Then eat. So good.

I’ll buy a camera soon so that you can see the things I see and enjoy them just the same.