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Tomato Soup

This soup is easy to make, easy to adapt with what you have on hand, and is perfect with a grilled cheese sandwich! And even though it uses canned tomatoes, it is so much tastier than canned soup! This makes a big batch but is great leftover or freeze some for an easy weeknight meal. Of course, this is awesome when fresh tomatoes are at their peak in the summer.

Ingredients:

  • Two 28 ounce cans San Marzano whole tomatoes
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1/4 C flour
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil or less
  • 1 cup finely chopped sweet onion, such as Vidalia
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 4 large garlic cloves, smashed
  • Sea salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth (or veggie stock)
  • 1 sugar
  • red pepper flakes to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley or basil or thyme

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot. Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic and a large pinch of salt and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the cumin and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Break up the tomatoes with your hands or scissors. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.

Pass the soup through a food mill or fine sieve, pressing hard on the solids. (Alternately, use a blender.) Return the soup to the pot. Add the chicken stock and sugar and season with salt and pepper. Simmer over moderate heat until reduced to 10 cups, about 25 minutes. Stir in the herbs. If you want to make it creamier, add heavy cream Ladle the soup into shallow bowls, garnish with fresh herbs and sour cream if desired Serve hot.

South of the Border Braised Awesomeness

 

Is this a fajita? A taco? Is it even considered Mexican food? Who knows? What we do know is that this is fun, easy and freakin’ delicious. It’s a low and slow meal with a quick prep time and a long cooking time (about two hours) - perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

The amounts below will make about four-five “tacos” - perfect for two. Adjust your recipe accordingly.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 C sour cream
  • Zest of a lime (we use a microplane)
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/2 C chopped cilantro
  • 1 small can of chipotle chilis in adobo sauce
  • 1/2 cup queso fresco cheese (crumbled)
  • 1/2 ripe avocado (pitted and sliced)
  • Corn tortillas
  • 2 small radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 thick, large rib-eye steak (14-16oz)
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/2 C beef stock
  • 1/2 C red wine
  • A bay leaf or two

In the morning you are making this dish (or even the night before), get your rib-eye out, pat it dry and season with salt and pepper (generous on the salt) and put it on a plate and stick it, uncovered, back in the fridge. Let it hang out and “dry age” for 2-12 hours.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

For the prep, we’ll start by making a tasty crema that will provide cool and acidic notes. First, pull out one or two of the chipotle peppers in adobo - roughly chop them up. In a bowl, combine sour cream, lime zest, lime juice, 1/2 the cilantro (about 1/4 C) and the chopped chipotles. Mix up and taste - amazing, right?

Pull your rib-eye from the fridge and let it warm up a bit. In an oven-safe pan with a lid (dutch oven, cast iron pan - your pick), heat the olive oil until shimmering. Brown all sides and edges of your rib-eye to get a nice sear.

Turn down the head and add the stock, wine and bay leaf (you might also want to toss in a sprig of thyme and a few roughly chopped bits of onion, carrot and celery, if it’s handy - the classic mirepoix). You don’t want the liquid to cover the rib-eye, but maybe come up half way.

Get the goodies simmering and then put on the cover and slide into the oven. Set the timer for one hour.

While that cooks, prep the radishes and jalapenos and maybe pour yourself a nice glass of wine.

At the hour mark, check the meat. It won’t be quite ready yet, but you’ll want to make sure there is still enough liquid in there (you don’t want it to go dry!). If not, toss in a little more stock and wine.

Check again in 30 minutes. If done, pull out, but if not, braise for another 30 minutes.

When the steak is done, put into a bowl and shred roughly with two forks - it should almost fall apart. Mix in a bit of the braising liquid to keep it moist and season with salt and pepper if needed.

In a dry, clean frying pan on the range, heat up the corn tortillas for a few seconds (we do two at a time).

Pro tip: if you have a gas range, you can heat the tortillas right over the flame and get a little char on them.

Fill the tortillas with the braised beef, some crumbled cheese and a generous scoop of crema. Add a few avocado slices. Top with jalapeno and radish and finish with a few pinches of fresh cilantro. Take a bite and just smile. You’re welcome!

Pro tip: the queso fresco will spoil quickly in the fridge. We only use about a quarter at a time (yields about 1/2 C of crumbles), so we toss the other quarters in a baggie and freeze - it’s one of those rare cheeses that freezes very well.

Best Bagels for Brunch

Alliteration aside, nothing beats fresh, awesome homemade bagels. This recipe may seem complicated the first time you make it, but really it’s pretty simple. By the second time, you’ll be a pro!

Ingredients (dough):

  • 1 T barley malt syrup
  • 1 t instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 t salt
  • 1 C (plus 2 T) warm water (about 95 degrees)
  • 3 1/2 C bread flour

Note: you can find barley malt syrup at a natural foods store or online at Amazon.

Note: you’ll want to make the dough the night before.

To make the dough, stir the malt syrup, yeast, and salt into the lukewarm water. Place the flour into a mixing bowl and pour in the malt syrup mixture. Use the dough hook on your mixer and mix on the lowest speed for 3 minutes. The dough should form a stiff, coarse ball. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.

Resume mixing with the dough hook on the lowest speed for another 3 minutes. The dough should be stiff yet supple, with a satiny, barely tacky feel.

Place the dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and put in the fridge overnight.

Ingredients (poaching liquid):

  • 3 quarts water
  • 1 1/2 T barley malt syrup
  • 1 T baking soda
  • 1 t salt

The next morning, pour yourself a good cup of coffee and get ready for some awesome chewy bagels! Get the bowl of dough out of the fridge and turn it out on your work surface.

Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Form each piece into a loose ball by rolling it on a clean, dry work surface with a cupped hand.

When you’re ready to shape the bagels, prepare a sheet pan by lining it with parchment paper or a silicone mat, then misting it with spray oil or lightly coating it with oil.

To get the bagel shape, poke a hole through the center of the ball. Holding the dough with both thumbs in the hole, rotate the dough with your hands, gradually stretching it to create a hole about 2 inches in diameter. It’ll seem like a large hole, but the dough will pull itself back into a more reasonable shape.

Place each shaped bagel on the prepared sheet pan, then mist with spray oil or brush with a light coating of oil. 

Now we check whether the bagels are ready for baking using the “float test”: Place one of the bagels in a small bowl of cold water. If it sinks and doesn’t float back to the surface, shake it off, return it to the pan, and wait for another 15 to 20 minutes, then test it again. When one bagel passes the float test, they’re all ready to be boiled. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees.

To make the poaching liquid, fill a pot with 3 quarts of water, making sure the water is at least 4 inches deep. Cover, bring to a boil, then lower the heat to maintain at a simmer. Stir in the malt syrup, baking soda, and salt.

Gently lower each bagel into the simmering poaching liquid, adding as many as will comfortably fit in the pot. They should all float to the surface within 15 seconds. After 1 minute, use a slotted spoon to turn each bagel over. Poach for another 30 to 60 seconds, then use the slotted spoon to transfer it back to the pan.

Now it’s time to put toppings on your bagels. We make savory “everything” bagels - for us, that’s onion (we use dried onion bits and rehydrate in water for about 20 minutes first), corse kosher salt and poppy seeds. Make a quick egg wash of one egg white and one T of water - whisk until smooth. Brush the top of each bagel with the wash and sprinkle on the toppings.

Transfer the pan of bagels to the oven, then lower the oven heat to 450 degrees.

Bake for 8 minutes, then rotate the pan and check the underside of the bagels. If they’re getting too dark, place another pan under the baking sheet. Bake for another 8 to 12 minutes, until the bagels are a golden brown. Cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing or serving.

We enjoy ours with onion and chive cream cheese and smoked lox-style salmon. Simply amazing!

Adapted from: Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day

Spicy Sesame Noodles

Sometimes, we crave a good spicy meal with the taste of Asia. This is a great hybrid (meaning a mishmash of cultures) meal that can be made as either a vegetarian meal or with some good old America pork. Chose your tasty poison.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 T fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 T peanut oil
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 2 T balsamic vinegar
  • 3 T sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 T sugar
  • 1 t hot chili oil (you can find in an Asian grocery store)
  • 1/2 C sliced green onions
  • Noodles (oriental rice, angel hair or fettuccini - whatever you like)
  • 1/3 C fresh basil, chiffonaded
  • 1/4 lightly chopped peanuts
  • 1 thick cut pork chop (optional)
  • Sweet and Spicy BBQ Sauce (see earlier MAW recipe)

First, we’ll start with the noodle sauce. Heat 1 T of peanut oil in a small pan an sauté the garlic and ginger for about 90 seconds. Add to a good sized mixing bowl. Add the next six ingredients to the bowl and whisk to combine.

pro tip: Unless you are very comfortable with the heat of your chili oil, maybe add a little less to start and test for the heat. You can always add more heat later.

Cook the noodles in salted water and drain when just a little further than al-dente. Rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process. Add to the sauce, toss in the green onions and use tongs to mix all together. Set aside for 30-60 minutes to allow the noodles to absorb the sauce.

If you are adding the pork, make the BBQ sauce. Set your grill to medium heat and grill the pork chop indirectly, basting with the BBQ sauce. When the pork hits about 130 degrees, put it on direct heat and flip twice, basting each time, to get a nice, caramelized glaze. Set aside to rest.

Plate your noodles, then thin slice your pork against the grain. Arrange on the noodles and top with the basil and chopped peanuts. Enjoy!

Better Than Beer-Can-In-The-Butt?

Earlier this week, we read an interesting article by a food scientist who was debunking that American icon: Beer-Butt grilled chicken.

Now we're fans of that particular kind of weirdness and even have one of those little stands to make it easier, but the article made some compelling points about how the steam doesn't really help the chicken and the uneven thermal mass actually drys out the chicken and makes it cook unevenly. The better way, they said, was to spatchcock the chicken and grill it without flipping it. So, in the name of science (and awesome chicken), we gave it a try.

And yup. Better. Much. Better.

So here's how:

Get yourself a whole chicken and rinse and pat it dry. Grab some good kitchen shears and turn the chicken over and snip along both sides of the backbone, cutting the bone free. Chuck or freeze the bone (if you save that sort of thing for stock). Turn the chicken over, spread it out and then place your palms on the breast and "lean in". You want you put enough pressure on it so you break the breast bone. Now your chicken is pretty flat.

We season the skin with salt, pepper and some lemon pepper seasoning. We also melt a few tablespoons of butter for basting. Don't forget to fold under the wings.

Heat your grill, and get it ready for indirect heat. Put the chicken on the grill, breast side up (with the breast pointing towards the heat). Baste the skin with butter, cover the grill and let it cook. We shoot for a grill temperature of 425-450 and cook until the breast hits about 155 degrees (it'll hit 160 when resting). Baste with butter a few times. No need to flip it or move it.

It'll take about 40 minutes and wow... is it amazing! Moist with crispy skin and an awesome flavor. I think we're sold. Give it a try! If you have a hard time giving up the beer, just chug down an ice-cold can and call it good.

Old School Broccoli Salad

Sometimes, you just need a salad. Other times, you need a salad with lots of bacon and fat. This is the one! If you look at the photo above, you can see the origins of this recipe and that wicked moment of genius when the cauliflower was cut in favor of a pound of crispy, tasty bacon!

Ingredients:

  • Florets of 2 bunches of broccoli
  • 1/2 red onion, small dice
  • 1/2 C golden raisins or dried cherries
  • 1/2 C Miracle Whip (sorry and not even kidding. This is the ONLY thing where real mayonnaise doesn't work as well)
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 3 T white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 - 1 pound cooked bacon, crumbled
  • salt and pepper to taste

*sunflower seeds, optional

Mix Miracle Whip, sugar and vinegar until combined. Add to other ingredients and chill. Great for potlucks and picnics!

Chicken Saltim-AWESOME!

Actually, it’s Chicken Saltimbocca. This is a recipe that only slightly resembles the inspirational dish from Buca Di Beppo - we’ve tweaked it over the years and it’s become its own thing - its own tasty, can’t get enough-of-it thing. It’s our go-to thing.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Chicken breasts
  • 4 T seasoned flour (see below)
  • 4 T fresh chopped sage
  • 2-4 thin slices prosciutto, pancetta or capicola (cured ham)
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 T EVOO
  • 2 T capers
  • 2 T fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 C white wine
  • 1/2 C heavy cream

Take the chicken breasts and turn them over (smooth side down) and slice them down to about 1/2” thick (you can also pound them out, but this seems to work better because they don’t puff back out).

pro tip: we keep a heavy freezer bag at the ready and then dice up the portions we slice off the breast - toss them into the bag and into the freezer. After 2 - 3 Saltimbocca dishes, you’ll have enough chicken chunks in the freezer bag for an easy mid-week stir-fry meal.

Put the flour on a plate or in a shallow bowl and season with salt, pepper and some cayenne pepper. Mix together.

With the chicken still “good side” down, sprinkle with the chopped sage. Now, lay a slice or two of the cured ham over the breast (you don’t want it thick, but covering the whole breast), and secure loosely with a toothpick or two (any of the cured ham listed above is great - we we tend to like the spicier capicola best).

Now, dredge the chicken breasts on both sides in the seasoned flour. Get a heavy skillet up to medium-high heat and add 1 T of the butter and the EVOO - get good and hot. Add the chicken ham side down and brown until the cured meat is good and crisp. Flip over and cook on the other side until nicely browned then remove from the pan onto your cutting board. Reduce the heat and deglaze the pan with the white wine, scraping up all the tasty brown bits. Add in the lemon juice, capers and cream and stir - bring to a boil and slightly reduce, then add the last 1 T of butter to finish the sauce.

Pull the toothpicks from the chicken and set on your plate and smother with the sauce. We serve ours with rice pilaf and bourbon glazed carrots. We dare you not to smile after you take a bite!

Dutch, Dutch Baby (aka Bismarck) Done Two Ways

Sunday Brunch is a Schuytema tradition at our house and a great way for us to enjoy a leisurely meal with his youngest child who is usually with us. Paul has certain go-tos (best damn scramble for one) but he is always looking for something new and interesting that we all can enjoy.

Enter the Bismarck. It is sort of a cross between a pancake and a popover. I used to make this as a not-so-sweet dessert years ago and we have had it a few times in the past few months. I am not much of a sweets eater and thought I would try to make a savory one as well. I made one double batch, then split them into two bowls and add the savory ingredients to one. The recipe is for one batch so do with it what you want!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 C flour
  • 1/2 C whole milk
  • 3 T butter
  • 3 T granulated sugar (omit if making savory)
  • 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs 
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (omit if making savory)
  • Powdered sugar, for serving
  • Lemon wedges, for serving
  • Splash of Grand Marnier

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a medium bowl, lightly beat flour, milk, eggs, granulated sugar, vanilla, and salt until just combined. Batter will be slightly lumpy.

Put butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet and place in oven until melted and bubbling. Add flour mixture and transfer to oven. Bake until pancake is golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

Sprinkle pancake with sugar and return to oven for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with lemon juice; serve immediately with jelly, jam, or marmalade. We also like it with a splash of Grand Marnier.

To make it savory, add these ingredients to the above.

Ingredients:

  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 1/4 C freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 T finely diced green onion
  • 1 T fresh thyme
  • 1 T fresh minced parsley

Beef Stroganoff

I’m a sucker for carbs. And beef. And rich, creamy sauces. This simple but delish dish combines them all. It is super easy and quick to make on a weeknight but is fancy enough to serve at a casual dinner party.

Ingredients:

  • 4 T butter
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound button mushrooms, sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 T Cognac
  • 1 C chicken stock
  • 1/2 C sour cream
  • 1 T Dijon mustard
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds tender beef (tenderloin, ribeye), sliced 1/2 inch thick and cut into 2-by-1/2 inch strips
  • Chopped parsley, optional

Melt 3 T of butter in a large skillet. Add onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook onion for about 2-3 minutes then add the mushrooms. Continue cooking until both are browned and tender. Off heat, add the Cognac. Cook over high heat until evaporated, about 10 seconds. Add the stock and boil until nearly evaporated, about 5 minutes. Stir in the sour cream and mustard and simmer until thickened about 5 minutes.

In another skillet, melt remaining 1 T butter. Season meat with salt and pepper and add to hot skillet. Cook on high, turning once, until browned in some spots but still rare, about 2 minutes. Scrape the meat and any juices into the mushroom and onion sauce and simmer until heated through, about 1 minutes. Serve over egg noodles and top with parsley if desired.

pro tip: if there are lots of yummy brown bits still in the pan, deglaze with a few tablespoons of white wine and pour into the main meat, mushroom and sauce pan.

Try this delicious, comfort dish with a lively Italian red such as Montepulciano D’Abruzzio.

Minestrone Soup

We really had a fabulous time on vacation! We caught our own fish (snapper, grouper and sheepshead) and had a blast cooking them up in different and delicious ways! When we got home, we binged on pizza, chicken wings and various other not-so-good-for-us crap. It was good, but I really was hankering for something hearty but healthy. Enter Minestrone Soup.

This can easily be done on the stove but is perfect to put in a crock pot in the morning and have it ready to eat in the evening.

Don't use cheap, off-brand tomato sauce for this one. It really matters.

Ingredients:

  • 3 C vegetable stock
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15-ounce) can white (cannelloni or navy) beans, drained
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 C onion, chopped
  • 1 t dried thyme
  • 1/2 t dried sage
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 C cooked ditalini pasta
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 2 C coarsely chopped fresh spinach
  • 4 T grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • Basil sprigs, garnish, optional

In a slow cooker, combine broth, tomatoes, beans, carrots, celery, onion, thyme, sage, bay leaves, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours or on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours.

Thirty minutes before the soup is done cooking, add ditalini, zucchini and spinach. Cover and cook 30 more minutes. Remove bay leaves and season, to taste, with salt and black pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle parmesan cheese over top. Garnish with basil, if desired.