Monday, November 16, 2009

All puffed up

I am feeling good about myself today, culinarily speaking. The day started with Ariella grouchily refusing to get out of bed. Then I told her that I would be walking her to school instead of Dani, since he had mishmarot (crossing guard duty) today. She leaped out of bed, cheered, and ran to wash up. Okay, that was not about food, but it was yummy.

Next, I made a very tasty tomato soup with very ripe fresh tomatoes. I got the thumbs up twice from David, which is high praise in my book. I was a little curious about how it was going to come out, since I had no recipe, just an idea of what I wanted to do and how I wanted it to come out. Fortunately, it really is delicious, and the perfect accompaniment to grilled cheese sandwiches. I had to explain to David the idea of dipping the sandwich into the soup, for the traditional combination. Somehow, he had missed out on that in his childhood. While we did not have homemade tomato soup, at least not to my recollection (feel free to correct me if I am wrong), we enjoyed canned tomato soup on a regular basis. It was really good, or at least it is in my memory. I feel like it is an iconic American comfort food, and even living abroad, I want that flavor memory for myself and my kids. I suppose by kids I mean the older two, as the younger ones won't touch tomato soup. Tomatoes are, if you were unaware, "gwoss." If you are interested, I am including the "recipe" - more like the method, since measuring did not happen.

Dvora's Can-less Tomato Soup

I began by seeding and chopping about a dozen fresh tomatoes. These were regular, possibly Beefsteak, tomatoes. (While I am well aware of the merits of Plum/Roma tomatoes, we just don't see them in the supermarket I frequent here. Back to our regularly scheduled program.) I chopped up two medium/large onions, about four cloves of garlic, and one carrot - chopped very finely. (Since the soup will eventually be pureed, the carrot was just for a little extra sweetness, and a way to sneak in a little more vegetables.) I sauteed the onions in a large pot, using a mixture of olive and canola oils. I added a little salt, and let them sweat a little more. Then I added the carrots and a little sugar and let things soften. I stirred in the chopped garlic, letting it cook just until it was fragrant. A couple of spoonfuls of flour were then added, cooking it, stirring, for a minute or two. (I needed to add a bit more oil to moisten the flour at this point.) I added in a couple of cups of warm water and mixed very well, scraping off the bottom. I poured in the tomatoes, along with whatever liquid had collected in the bowl, about 200 grams of tomato paste, and water to cover plus about an inch . To season, I added salt and pepper, sugar, and frozen chopped basil - two cubes. I could not possibly even approximate quantities of the other seasonings, so you will have to go for "to taste" and forgive me (especially you, Lori!). Start slow, as you can always add more seasoning but taking out is next to impossible. And that was today's wisdom. Let the whole mess simmer for about 45 minutes, until it is all tender. Use a handblender to puree the whole thing, or you can use a food mill and skip the next step. I did not really like the texture at this point - remember, I left the peel on the tomatoes, and did a cursory job of seeding, so there were a lot of "bits" in the soup. So I pulled out a handy dandy sieve and strained the whole darned thing into a large bowl, making sure to use a spatula to push everything through that could go through, and scraping off what was stuck on the outside. Then return the strained soup to the pot, or don't. Up to you. Adjust seasonings to make your taste buds very, very happy.

To serve, you could make yourself a delicious grilled cheese sandwich and dunk away, or sprinkle soup mandlen on top, maybe oyster crackers, anything else you can think of. You can also add a little milk to add some creaminess, cut the acid, and make the soup taste more like how my mom prepared the canned condensed stuff. If you want to fancy things up, you could add a swirl of heavy cream or perhaps a little chiffonade of fresh basil. Above all, ENJOY!

Last braggy item: Got a call last night to order cookies. The customer, also a friend, was telling me how her family enjoys when they order cookies. It's not dessert, she told me, it's an EVENT. One child brings in the platter, another unwraps, another reads the scroll listing the flavors and their descriptions to the family. (Funniest part: No one is allowed to eat any cookies until the table is clear, because apparently, "Dvora said no eating until everything is cleared off." That's her story and she's sticking to it. What power I wield... ) I loved how she described it, and it was exactly how I want everyone who eats Dvora's Cookies Creations to feel - like something special is happening, like it's a real treat, and someone really thoughtful brought/bought this wonderful gift!

So I have now violated my cardinal rule of behavior - don't brag; it's repulsive. Forgive me, I can pretend I am talking to myself when I write. So pretend this was just a ruse to include a recipe and photo that are not cookie related. While I am asking for forgiveness, I apologize for the quality of my photography. It's bad, I know, but learning how to take better photos of food is next year's project.


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