Roasted Garlic Tomato Soup with Cream

I once knew a Sicilian woman who used to say “garlic should kiss you on the lips, not slap you in the face.” I quite agree. Garlic is one of my favorite alliums but it is entirely possible to have too much of a good thing. This is why I like to roast it.

Roasting garlic gives it a sweetness. You can use a whole bulb and it won’t overwhelm you.

Below is my recipe for roasted garlic tomato soup with cream. You can omit the cream if you like but as I live in Northern Europe and it’s winter, I’ll be keeping it in probably until summer–all three days of it. One of the reasons I love this recipe, other than the taste, is that it’s extremely easy to make. The ingredients are few and most of them are kitchen staples you’ll have on hand.

Roasted garlic tomato soup with cream

Roasted garlic tomato soup with cream

Ingredients:

1 head of garlic

olive oil

2 x 400 g cans of chopped tomatoes

1/2 c to 3/4 c chicken stock

1/4 c dry sherry

salt/pepper/red pepper flakes

2 tbsp to 1/3 c. double cream

basil

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6/

Trim the top off the garlic bulb. Drizzle it with olive oil. Wrap it in tin foil and place it on a baking tray. Roast it for about 45 minutes or until the cloves are soft.

While the garlic is roasting, heat some olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the red pepper flakes then the tomatoes. When they start to thicken, stir in the sherry. After five minutes, add the chicken stock. Simmer for half an hour.

Once the garlic cloves are cool enough to handle, squeeze them into the soup. Season to taste and add the cream a spoonful at a time.

Use a hand blender to blend until smooth. Top with basil chiffonade and serve.

 

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Oven Roasted Tomato Basil Pasta

Years before I moved to London or knew who Nigel Slater was, I was cooking one of his recipes on the regular whilst living with friends and listening to Louis Prima most days in West Los Angeles.

One summer, my friend’s mother who had taken up part-time residence in England brought back the most beautiful cookbook.  It had matte pages and gorgeous photos and excellent writing.  Though I’d never heard of Nigel Slater, I loved The Kitchen Diaries.

Many of the recipes are delicious, but one in particular quickly became my favorite.    It was a simple pasta dish with oven roasted tomatoes, garlic, basil, and cream.  I am ashamed to say that I don’t own a copy of the book myself, but I have been making this for years by memory.  Each time it always satisfies.

Ingredients:

500g cherry tomatoes

2 cloves of garlic, minced

a bunch of basil, ripped

double cream

olive oil

salt/pepper

short pasta

pecorino and parmesan cheese

 

Method:

While the water for you pasta boils, pre-heat your grill.  Place the tomatoes on a large baking tray and cover them with some olive oil and salt.  Once your pasta is cooking, put the baking tray under the grill.  Cook the tomatoes until parts of them are black.  Pull them out, add the garlic, give it all a stir and put back under the grill for another minute.  Drain your pasta.  In a large bowl, combine the roasted garlic and tomatoes with salt, pepper, and a bit of the cream.  As it’s not my place to tell you how creamy your sauce should be, add it tablespoon by tablespoon until you get the texture and flavor you desire.  Lastly, add the basil leaves.  Pour this sauce into a large pot.  Add the cooked noodles and stir to coat.  Serve with cheese.

20160429_125721 20160429_130701

Why is Life Worth Living? (A Cream-Filled Cupcake Recipe)

I watch this scene from Manhattan whenever I want to be reminded of all the beauty life has to offer.  The simple pleasures–Groucho Marx, the Jupiter Symphony, the crabs at Sam Wo’s.  The exquisite pains–Swedish movies, Marlon Brando, Flaubert.  And while I love Louis Armstrong’s Potato Head Blues, were it my list, I think I’d substitute it with Thelonious Monk’s Blue Monk.  I’d also trade Cézanne’s apples and pears for Matisse’s Bouquet of Dahlias and White Book, Frank Sinatra for Hoagy Carmichael, Tracy’s face for my daughter’s, and I’d have to add my Grandma Helen’s cream-filled chocolate cupcakes.

These cupcakes are a perennial family favorite.  They have made an appearance at almost every birthday party and Fourth of July barbecue my life entire.  I have made one adjustment to my Grandmother’s recipe.  Taking my cues from The Barefoot Contessa, I use fresh hot coffee instead of hot water.  I find this adds depth and intensity and makes what is already an amazing cupcake that much more so.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I always have.

chocolate cupcakes

 Grandma Helen’s Cream-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes

 

2 ½ cups flour

2 cups sugar

5 heaping tbsp cocoa

¼ t. salt

2 eggs

1 t. vanilla

1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup buttermilk

2 t. baking soda

1 cup strong hot coffee

 

Mix ingredients together except for the baking soda and hot coffee.  Dissolve soda in hot coffee then add to batter and gently stir to mix.  Don’t be alarmed by how liquidy the mixture is.  This is why the cakes are so moist.  Fill cupcake holders ¾ full. Bake at 350F/180C/Gas 4 for 18-20 minutes.

 

FILLING:  

 ½ cup caster or granulated sugar

½ cup milk

2/3 cup Crisco

¼ tsp. salt

1 Tbsp Water

1 tsp. vanilla

½ cup powdered sugar

 

Mix caster sugar, Crisco, water, milk, salt, and vanilla together.  Beat for 5 minutes.  Then add powdered sugar.  After cupcakes have cooked, use a pastry tube to squeeze the cream filling into each cake.  Be careful not to fill too much or the cakes will crack.  Frost with chocolate frosting.

Frosting:   

6 oz. dark chocolate (at least 80% cocoa)

1/2 lb unsalted butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 c powdered sugar

1 egg yolk

1 tbsp instant coffee dissolved in a tsp of hot water

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler and set aside until room temperature.  Beat the butter with an electric mixer in a large bowl until light and fluffy.  Add the yolk and vanilla and continue mixing for a few more minutes.  Gradually beat in the sugar.  Lastly, incorporate the melted chocolate and instant coffee.

Classic for a Reason (a tribute to de Pomiane and his tomates à la crème)

 

Haute cuisine–so many foams and such small portions.  I can’t say it’s for me.  Tasting menus of this nature leave me as bored as a small child in church.  Also, I am quite fussy on my own; I don’t want my food to be.  I am not sure if this makes me of the old or of the new guard.  So allow me to claim the comfy guard, the common guard, as it is cuisine bourgeoise I love.

Home-style dishes one’s grandmother would have made is what I want to eat.  Not exclusively, but most days of the week.  Dishes that are simple yet executed with impeccable technique.  Dishes that are classic for a reason.

In France, I have eaten many meals.  The best I’ve had was not prepared by a Michelin starred chef but by a humble vigneron near Mount Ventoux.  His pork rillettes remain peerless in my memory as do the squash blossoms he grew in his garden and sautéed with wild garlic.  Never mind that he hailed from Yorkshire or that his wines weren’t very good.  The recipe for his rillettes came from an old woman in his village and the result was so tender and savory it tasted like butter made from meat.  Since that meal, I have yet to taste rillettes more perfectly spiced.  No one flavor note stood out above the others drawing attention to itself like a greedy songbird of a soprano revelling in her role as Carmen on closing night.  Instead, the seasoning was all harmony like the finale of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro when eight voices meld into one beautiful thing.

Oh, love.  L’amour.  It is many things.  To quote Georges Bizet, “L’amour est un ouiseau rebelle.”  And that may be, but the one thing l’amour n’est pas, at least where I’m concerned, is la cuisine nouvelle.  ( I know it should be nouvelle cuisine, but the eye rhyme is better with rebelle and nouvelle.)

Docteur Édouard de Pomiane also known as Édouard Pozerski was a scientist by profession and a cook by hobby.  Eventually, this hobby became his second profession.  He was the son of Polish emigrés who fled Poland for France and settled in Paris after the Revolution of 1863.  De Pomiane invented gastrotechnology.  He was also known for his straightforward writing and disdain of haute cuisine.

Elizabeth David wrote about him in an essay entitled, Pomiane, Master of the Unsacrosanct.  “Adored by his public and his pupils, feared by the phoney, derided by the reactionary, de Pomiane’s irreverent attitude to established tradition, his independence of mind backed up by scientific training, earned him the reputation of being something of a Candide, a provocative rebel disturbing the grave conclaves of French gastronomes, questioning the holy rites of the ‘white vestured officiating priests’ of classical French cookery.”

David’s essay includes a recipe for de Pomiane’s tomates à la crème.  Despite the French name, de Pomiane claimed the recipe was Polish and came from his mother.  What is striking about the recipe is its simplicity.  Only three ingredients are required–butter, tomatoes, and thick cream.  It’s laughably simple.  A child could make it.  Yet the marriage of these basic flavors yields a dish that is equal parts sophisticated and subtle.  I’ve been making it for days now.  And so long as it stays this cold, I will continue to do so.  As nothing makes me quite so happy at lunchtime as les tomates de Mère de Pomiane’s.  Well that and a little Mozart.

SW through the kitchen white cream simmering tomatoes cu simmering tomatoes with cavolo nero

Sweet Potato Pie with Pecans and Molasses

This is the James Brown of pies, y’all.  Which is to say it’s got soul and will make you feel good.  It’s a conflux of flavors that combines two of my favorite pies–sweet potato and sticky pecan.  Never let it be said in my presence that less is more.

Ingredients:   

For the sweet potato part:

1/2 recipe of only the best brisée ever

approximately 1 lb. of sweet potatoes

1/4 cup softened unsalted butter

the zest of an orange

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

1 teaspoon ceylon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 large eggs

1 can of sweetened condensed milk

 

For the sticky pecan topping:

1 large egg

3 tablespoons of blackstrap molasses

2 teaspoons of light brown sugar

1 tablespoon of melted unsalted butter

a pinch of salt

1 cup of chopped pecans

 

Method:

While your paté brisée is chilling in the refrigerator, bake your sweet potatoes.  Scrub them, pierce them with a fork, and place them on a baking tray covered with foil.  I bake mine for about an hour at 350ºF/180ºC/Gas4.

pre-baked potatoes

Allow them to cool while you blind bake your pie crust for about 15 minutes at 350ºF/180ºC/Gas4..  When it’s close to finished, brush it with egg white and place it back in the oven for another minute or so.

Next, spoon out the soft caramelized center of the sweet potatoes and add them to a large mixing bowl.

caramelized baked sweet potato

 

Stir in the remaining ingredients.  Use a whisk to smooth out lumps.

mix

Pour the mixture into your partially baked shell.  Bake for 30 minutes.

During this time, mix together the ingredients for your sticky pecan topping.

After half an hour, remove the pie from the oven.  Evenly spoon the topping over the pie and place it back in the oven.  Bake for another 15-20 minutes.

When the pie is finished, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool.  Serve with a whipped cream of your choice.  For this recipe, mine is cinnamon whipped cream.  I highly recommend it.

baked pie with topping sticky pecans cross section slice

 

 

The Fluffy Pancake Files

On Sunday, and quite by accident, I made the fluffiest pancakes ever.  I think the reason for this serendipity was because a) I was out of regular flour so I had to use self-rising and b) I added slightly whiffy cream to the recipe.  When some women feel experimental they drastically change their appearance, career, hometown or even add just one of 50 Shades of Grey to their bedroom.   When I feel experimental I add spoiled dairy to my pancake batter.  I’m crazy.  I know.  Well here I am to prosthelytize because the addition of that slightly whiffy cream was one of the best decisions I ever made in the kitchen.  The result was amazing(even better than my buttermilk pancakes).  Especially with my orange blackberry syrup.  If you fancy yourself a connoisseur of tasty, I recommend you make both.

Henry and Helena

Greedy Guts 1 and 2

don't talk with your mouth full

don’t talk with your mouth full

even caterpillar liked it

even caterpillar liked it

Ingredients:

for the pancakes:

2 large eggs

1 cup milk

1 cup cream that’s gone slightly off

4 tablespoons melted butter

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups self-raising flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

for the syrup:

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup fresh blackberries (or defrosted frozen ones and their juice)

the zest of 1/3 of an orange as well as the juice squeezed from that 1/3

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Method:

for the pancakes:

Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a bowl and set aside.  Now, in a separate bowl, combine the eggs, milk, cream, butter, and vanilla.  Make a well in the middle of your dry ingredients and pour the wet ones into it.  Whisk to combine but don’t over whisk.  Let the mixture sit a spell.  At least half an hour.  I left mine overnight but that’s because I tend to prepare things well in advance knowing that when my toddler awakes she wants breakfast NOW.  Heat some vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat for a few minutes.  Let it get really hot but not so it’s smoking.  Pour some batter into the skillet.  Wait until it starts to bubble then flip.  Continue cooking another minute then remove.  Transfer the pancake to a serving platter and butter.  Repeat until the batter is gone.

pancakes with orange blackberry syrup

pancakes with orange blackberry syrup

for the syrup:

Heat a small saucepan over low heat.  Add the butter, berries, zest, juice, sugar, and vanilla.  Simmer but do not boil.  The sauce will thicken.  When desired viscosity has been achieved, remove the syrup from the stove.  Pour it into a warmed ceramic jug.  Now get ready for some pancakes and a nap!

Orange blackberry syrup

Orange blackberry syrup

Creamy Coconut Raspberry Popsicles with Pomegranate Arils

Helena and her popsicle

Here’s another recipe for more frozen happiness.  I particularly love these popsicles not just for their exotic flavor but for their texture.  I hope you do too.  Tomorrow, I’ll do a popsicle recipe without cream.  It’s just that I’ve had it on hand and it is so good.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup coconut water

1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk

1/3 cup cream

1/2 cup finely shredded coconut

1/2 cup fresh raspberries

1/2 cup pomegranate arils

Method:

In a large bowl, whisk all ingredients together except for the pomegranate arils.  Make sure to mash the raspberries until they go pulpy.  Divvy up the pomegranate arils amongst your molds.  Then pour the coconut mixture on top and place your pops in the freezer.  Give them at least 4 hours to freeze fully.