Friday, January 11, 2008

TOMATO, TOMAHTO!!

Is there anything more basic or comforting as a bowl of tomato soup and a gooey, grilled cheese sandwich? I like my grilled cheese with american cheese, mayo and olives and though plain white bread will do, sourdough or french really raises this up a notch. There are certain tastes that we all remember from growing up. As we've gotten older and our palates have gotten more sophisticated, we may realize that some of those old favorites are not exactly what you might think of as fine dining, but boy, there are some tastes that you just can't get anywhere else and just tasting it again can make you feel all warm and fuzzy. Campbell's Classic Tomato Soup in the familiar red and white can is one of those favorites. When you think of tomato soup, I'll bet 9 times out of 10, Campbell's comes to mind. It has gotten more expensive these days, but I know it had to be a bargain to end up in our cupboard when I was growing up. I still crave it and other cheap , pre-packaged delicacies come to mind. The old frozen Chicken Ala King and Gravy with Sliced beef in the pouch, the boxed Chef Boy AR Dee spaghetti, and a personal favorite of mine, Banquet Turkey Pot Pie. Dill pickle chips with mustard on saltines took care of my salt fix. I still sneak that snack sometimes. It's a good alternative to the bag of potato chip "dust" left by someone in the cabinet. There must be something in those preservatives that gives these foods their staying power (pardon the pun) but I really do go back to these golden oldies when I want that particular "Taste." I have some great grown up versions of each of the aforementioned treats, but the originals will always be a mainstay in my diet.
This is a really good recipe for Tomato Soup if you wanna take a little time to make it home made. Fresh is always best, but this particular recipe is very canned tomato friendly. It's good in the summer time when the tomatoes are plentiful and delicious at room temperature. You can spiffy it up with a bit of cream at the end if you like, but it's good just as is. I've included freezing instructions at the end.
Try this, but keep your Campbell's in the pantry for those winter nights when you're too tired to cook but need a little Comfort and Joy from the good old days. comfortcook@gmail.com


CLASSIC TOMATO SOUP

4 TBS (1/4 stick) butter
2 TBS olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
coarse salt and ground pepper
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 TBS tomato Paste
2 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried thyme)
2 cans (14.5 oz each) reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 cans (28 oz each) whole peeled tomatoes in juice (with basil if available)

1. In a 5 quart saucepan or Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat: add oil and onion, season with salt and pepper. Cook until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour and tomato paste, cook 1 minute to cook starch taste from flour.
2. To saucepan, add thyme, broth and tomatoes, breaking up tomatoes with your fingers. Bring to a boil: reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.(Remove thyme leaves before blending)
3. Using an immersion blender, puree soup in pot leaving a fair amount of tomatoes in chunks. Or, working in batches, puree half (5 cups) of the soup in a conventional blender till smooth, being careful with hot liquid and covering top off blender with a towel and holding tightly.
Return to pot with remaining tomatoes and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, or let cool to room temperature before dividing among airtight containers (leaving 1 inch space at the top) and freezing.

Comfort Cook Catering (615) 525-8336

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

RICH AND SIMPLE

I read on some website yesterday that January is Soup Month. So if you've ever needed a reason to celebrate that wonderful , comforting hot steaming bowl of goodness....dig into this recipe. I found this recipe a few years ago and have made it umpteen times and it never fails to impress. We served it as a soup of the day at a little tea room and it sold out each time. People were really surprised that it tastes so rich and takes only minutes to make. It is not the hour and a half, slowly caramelize the onions, kind of French Onion Soup. It takes only 30 minutes from beginning to end and it is really quite good to be such a quick version of the timely classic. If you want a more "labor intensive" recipe for French Onion Soup, then please email me 'cause I can get one for you. But try this....it's the one I throw together when that "Oniony, cheesy, hot gooey bowl of soup" craving hits me. comfortcook@gmail.com

FRENCH ONION SOUP
Rich and Simple

1/4 cup butter
1 tsp olive oil
4 Cups sliced onions (yellow or white)
4 (10.5) cans beef broth
2 TBS Dry Sherry (VERY IMPORTANT STEP)
1 tsp dried thyme ( or one TBS fresh thyme)
1/4 tsp Salt
Ground blk pepper to taste
6 slices French bread
6 Slices Provolone cheese
6 slices Swiss cheese
1/4 Cup Parmesan cheese

1. Melt butter in an 8 qt stock pot or big dutch oven over med heatAdd olive oil and mix. Add onions and stir often till tender and translucent. Salt the onions at this time ( adjust salt after cooking if necessary.) DO NOT brown the onions.
2. Add the beef broth, sherry and thyme. Season with pepper and simmer, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes.
3. Ladle soup into oven safe serving bowls and place one slice Italian bread (I toast mine first) or croutons on top of soup.
4. Layer the Provolone, Swiss and sprinkle some of the Parmesan on top of bread.
5. Place bowls on a baking sheet and place under broiler until cheese bubbles and browns slightly. Keep an eye on them at this point as the broiler works quickly.

TIP: (You can skip this broiler step when reheating soup if you place the cheeses on top of bread and microwave on high for about 40 seconds. Careful! This is hot.)

I hope you'll try this easy French Onion Soup recipe. It tastes really good and is much easier to make than it looks. Let me know if you try this and what you think comfortcook@gmail.com

For catering and menu information, please contact me at:
COMFORT COOK CATERING (615) 525-8336

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