I don't want to brag, but I totally scored this Christmas. I got an iPod Touch, and almost immediately installed the Epicurious app. I was excited to find out that there is an Epicurious app, since I spend a good amount of time searching that site. My cookbooks gather dust. I also found a fun mixology app - one of the features is that you make a list of all the hootch and mixers that you have in the house, and it generates a list of recipes for you. I have a mishmash of leftovers right now, all those weird things that you buy to go into something else (in my case, truffles) and I got the most insane list of drinks. Mix tequila with Chambord? No thank you. (However, I did try the tequila/Kahlua drink and it's not half bad.) Mixology is another thing I (being the dilettante that I am) want to learn more about. I can cook intuitively, but I don't have the same feel for mixing drinks. A few of our friends are super into infusions and tinctures and carbonating things that are not normally carbonated and it is fascinating to witness. Plus I like to drink so, hey! Win/win.
Jeffrey also gave me an immersion blender and a nice mandolin, ensuring that I will be fingerless by my birthday. I'm kidding, I worked in enough kitchens to have a healthy fear of both of those instruments. It's like people who keep pit bulls - you love them and they are useful, but you know not to poke them in the eye - or in this case, really sharp blade. I have not had a chance to use the mandolin yet, but I have a gratin planned for later this week. I did get to use the blender, and I loooove it. It's short - so it's easy to manipulate with one hand, if you need to hold the pot/bowl/cup with your other hand. It's got a lot of power, for a compact non-commercial blender. I christened it in a batch of delicious tomato soup.
Campbell's Tomato Soup was a staple of my childhood. I think I probably ate it once a week until I moved out of my parents' house. We always ate it with grilled cheese sandwiches, and we always floated either goldfish crackers or Smartfood in the soup. Heaven, especially in the winter.
As I got older and ate less processed foods, I lost my taste for Campbell's. It's too sweet (there's a lot of high fructose corn syrup) and it tastes tinny to me. I don't know if that's from the can or from the preservatives. I've tried a bunch of different organic/natural brands, and they are all So Bland. It's like warm, low-salt tomato juice. So, I started making my own. It doesn't taste like my memories, but it will do.
The key here is to use really good tomatoes. Ambitious people (not me, hopefully this year it will be me) can their own tomatoes and can crack open that summer flavor in January. To the rest of us, I recommend Muir Glen Organics. I can find this brand pretty much everywhere, even in my weird little mom & pop down the street. The fire-roasted tomatoes are delicious, and I've used them in everything you would throw regular tomatoes in for a little extra flavor. They make really nice salsa, too. You can use any of their tomatoes for this soup.
Basic Tomato Soup
Two 28 oz cans of tomatoes
1 onion, chopped
chopped garlic to taste (I use a whole head, but I love garlic)
3 stalks celery, chopped -OR- 1 T celery seed
about 1/4 - 1/2 cup white wine (red works too, but I prefer white for soup)
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
salt and pepper
Saute' the onion, garlic, and celery in a couple tablespoons of olive oil over med/high heat until translucent. Deglaze the pan with wine. Let the wine reduce by half (this will only take a minute if your pan is nice and hot), then add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium. Let simmer for 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat, and blend. This is where the immersion blender come in handy, failing that a regular blender works just fine. Adjust the seasonings and you're ready to go.
Now, this is just a basic tomato soup. There are so many directions that you could take this in! When we had this for dinner the other night, I swirled in some pesto and served it with baked mac & cheese, and seared kale with garlic and balsamic vinegar.
Here are a few suggestions;
*A little spoonful of curry paste or powder, some chopped fresh cilantro and a dollop of yogurt
* grilled cheese croutons - grilled cheese sandwiches cut into little cubes, floating in the soup
* Chili powder or taco seasoning, add some corn and black beans after you blend the base. Serve with a garnish of shredded lettuce, tortilla chips, and a dollop of sour cream and/or guacamole
*fresh herbs - mix them in after you blend the soup, then return to heat on a low simmer for 5 minutes to blend flavors. I like a crumble of goat cheese and some spinach in this version.
Experiment! That's part of the fun. Sometimes it works, sometimes you're trying to give away leftovers to whoever (Whomever? Can never get that straight) is wandering by.