Yesterday I shared with you The World's Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich, made with garlicky greens, caramelized onion, and brie. It's only fitting that you have The World's Best Tomato Soup recipe to go with it. The two are a match made in heaven.
I've driven Interstate Five through California's agricultural regions many times. Enough times to see truckloads of produce pulling off the highway into the many canneries there. May I tell you that not all canned tomatoes are of the same quality? I've observed truckload after truckload of hard pink balls in the truck-trailers. It's not hard to know how they will perform in flavor and texture next to their red, ripe cousins. My practical observation is that you truly get what you pay for in canned tomatoes. Unless you use a lot of canned tomatoes, the price differential is relatively small. It might not make that much difference in a stew with lots of other flavors, but here's my rule of thumb: If the word tomato is in the title of the food I'm making, like tomato sauce, for example or the world's best tomato soup, I spend the extra dollar.
First, lets talk equipment. This is a time when an immersion blender is more than handy. Yes, you can blend the soup in batches in either a food processor or blender. However, a stick blender will get the job done and reduce the amount of cleanup you'll have. I've not met a cook yet who would argue with that!
Because it's still late winter I used dried herbs and a bay leaf, which also gets blended into the soup, but in the growing season, trade those herbs out for fresh basil, fresh thyme, or any of the tender, leafy herbs that suit you.
Two other touches make the soup extra special. I save parmesan rinds for times like this. Just throw one in during the short simmering period for an extra flavor boost. The rind will soften and become somewhat gooey looking, but holds together just fine and can easily be fished out prior to blending. If you don't have a parm rind on hand that's just fine. The soup is still lovely so don't let that stop you from making it. The second bit of magic comes with a hearty drizzle of balsamic vinegar as a finishing touch.
The olive oil in here gives it a creamy texture and appearance, but if you love a splash of milk or cream in your tomato soup, by all means use it.
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I often make soup and some kind of grilled sandwich or panini for supper in the cool weather months, and this week's sandwich was a true hit. Garlicky greens and caramelized onion grilled cheese made with creamy brie is a rather fancy sandwich. I'm going so far to say this is the world's best grilled cheese to date.
In my town there is one special spot that adds so much to my experience of living here. Provisions Market Hall is a beautiful place full of gastronomical goodness and so much more. Inside is a gorgeous florist, a wine shop, a beautiful kitchen and gift shop, a specialty foods grocery complete with lovely cheeses and charcuterie, freshly baked breads and pastries, wood oven baked pizzas with bubbly crusts, a coffee shop, and delicious lunch items. Provisions is a place of visual wonder, yes, but also offers practical support to the entire spectrum of us who cook and offer hospitality at home. When you visit Eugene, you just must visit Provisions.
I met a friend for lunch there last week ordered their chard and brie grilled sandwich special. It was so delicious I couldn't wait to try making it at home. I used kale because that's what I had on hand. Chard, kale, or even spicy mustard greens would each be gladly received in this glorious sandwich.
If you're a fan of the classic tomato soup and grilled cheese combination, this is the sandwich you'll want going forward. The slightly bitter greens, sweet earthy caramelized onion, and bloomy brie are the perfect foil to tomato soup. Tomorrow I'll share my recipe for the best tomato soup so you'll have the matched set.
There is nothing tricky here. Caramelize a few onions, cook some greens, and layer them on top of brie. Using a really good bread will also make a difference, so try for that, too.
Adulting has been especially challenging this week, and comfort food has been as important as ever. Green Goddess Macaroni and Cheese has that magical combination of being carb-y, cheesy-gooey, and packed full of good-for-you stuff that ensures that if this is all you eat for a week, you'll at least be getting your vegetables.
This recipe amps up the adult factor with the addition of Dijon mustard and a few anchovies to the cheesy base. These additions offer an exciting depth of flavor snuggled up with the same cozy familiarity you expect from good ol' macaroni and cheese.
When the going gets tough for friends and family we ask, "How can I help?" Often the response is something like, "Well, there's nothing anyone can really do except send your love/ good energy/ healing thoughts/ prayers." I'm a big fan of asking the universe to surround my beloveds in need, but when I hear that there's nothing I can physically do to help it is frustrating to not DO something.
This week the shoe is on the other foot. I have been on the other side of those words how can I help? and have learned their hidden power.
Even when there is nothing practical others can do to help, the willingness of a friend to accept a small chunk of my burden has a remarkable effect. Every person who asks this forms a network of support and love that lessens my emotional weight. Every one of the beautiful souls who steps forward to ask how can I help? becomes an invisible army around us-- my family and me.
So never be discouraged if there's "nothing you can do". Your presence, your calls, your prayers and good juju are so important. So impactful. So encouraging. Such a display of kindness. Love personified, even.
And, if you can, show up with a dish like this one so your loved one is sure to eat their vegetables all wrapped up in the comfort of good ol' macaroni and cheese.
Anchovies and Dijon mustard make this recipe incredibly wine-friendly, not that plain mac and cheese needs a lot of help with that! And this week there definitely has been wine! We found the 2020 Conde Valdemar Blanco Rioja from Valdemar Estates Winery in Walla Walla, Washington to be a better than perfect pairing. It is light, clean, and refreshing-- in other words, a wonderful foil to the rich cheese dish. This is truly a joyful wine.
I used to always make mac and cheese with this ratio:
One pound pasta/ 4 tablespoons flour/ 4 tablespoons butter/ 4 cups milk/ 4 cups (one pound) shredded cheese. This ratio feeds a tribe.
Since most of us here are feeding one, two, three or four people on a daily basis I've revised my formula:
One-half pound pasta/ 2 tablespoons butter/ 2 tablespoons flour/ 2 cups milk/ 2 cups (1/2 pound) shredded cheese. In our household, that makes enough for a very handy two meals apiece. If you are feeding a bigger household, guests, or a gathering, just double the recipe as it is written.
Yes, there are little anchovy fishies tucked into this dish. Umami, friend! Do give them a try. Adding the raw broccoli florets to the mixture right before baking keeps them a wee bit crunchy and not lost in the creamy pasta. The crispy topping adds a wonderful textural note, too. You may be tempted to forgo that part, but it is a low-effort-high-reward addition.
You'll also note that I used our local favorite Tillamook Creamery Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses in this dish. If you don't have a local cheesemaker near you, these are worth seeking out.
For every aspirational, time-consuming, detail-laden recipe in a cook's repertoire, she needs ten like this one in her bag of tricks. These 20-minute, one bowl Quickie Olive Oil Drop Biscuits have elevated so many meals in my lifetime. They are a perfect last-minute additional to all the soups and stews of the season. The biscuits also compliment any main-dish salad, and are a great way to stretch a meal when guests pop in (like back in the BC days.) Really, they are perfect wherever a dinner roll or biscuit would fit.
A fun trick is to make the biscuits small, dropped from a dinner spoon instead of a soup spoon, and serve them as an appetizer or snack with a glass of wine, an American version of gougères.
Selling point number one-- quickie olive oil drop biscuits are made in lightening speed. As in, begin preheating your oven now, and your biscuits will be mixed and formed before the oven is up to heat. There are only four primary ingredients to gather and measure here. Using olive oil eliminates the step of cutting in butter. Without the need to roll out and cut the dough like a typical biscuit you save that time, and a lot of cleanup by keeping everything contained in one bowl and not spread all over the counter.
Next, you'll fall head-over-heels for them because they are highly customizable. Olive oil drop biscuits without any of the optional add-ins are deliciously simple, and they become even more remarkable with the addition of some cheese, fresh or dried herbs, or better yet, both cheese and herbs. Any cheese that can be crumbled with your fingers or grated works here, and I often use a combination of cheeses just to use up the left-over nubbins.
Lastly, I love this recipe for olive oil droppers because it makes a relatively small batch. Did you know that in 2020, 53% of American households has one or two members? Most of us can't use a dozen biscuits. This fact is something I'm taking note of more and more when developing recipes, and you should see a change in the recipe sizes on these pages.
Any of the variations of Winter White Vegetable Soup: Get recipe here.
Healing Chickpea Orzo Bowl in Ginger Broth: Get recipe here.
Roasted Mushroom, Grain, + Spinach Salad. Get recipe here.
Roasted Peppers, White Beans, Feta + Simple Herb Sauce, made sheet-pan-style instead of grilled. Get recipe here.
I had forgotten how much I adored egg foo young. The recipe, "Eggs, Edamame, Bean Sprouts" in Nigel Slater's 2020 book, Greenfeast: Autumn, Winter opened my aroma memory floodgates. I was taken back to very special meals in Chinese restaurants as a child.
That sent me searching the phenomenal "Omnivore's Cookbook," with its hundreds of classic and modern Chinese dishes by Maggie Zhu. Her traditional egg foo young versions include the brown sauce I remember. Approachable recipes and interesting family history fill her beautiful blog.
This recipe is a mash-up of tradition and change. Omnivore's Kitchen for tradition. Greenfeast for the addition of edamame. My own addition of making the brown sauce mushroomy.
Maggie Zhu's trick for getting the omelette, as she calls it, thick and puffy is to use a fair amount of vegetable oil in the pan. Her recipes say to use between 2 and 8 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Less oil will give you a flatter, less puffy, less traditionally Chinese omelette, she says, and she is right. I found that 6 Tablespoons in my 8" skillet is perfect for that tall, puffy egg foo young that I remember having in Chinese restaurants. The extra oil helps the Chinese omelette become well-browned, with the slightest crusty crispness that is more traditional.
If mushrooms aren't your thing like they are mine, omit them. Instead of the water, substitute dark vegetable or chicken stock. Here's my recipe for a rich brown roasted vegetable stock.
The edamame is optional, or peas or finely chopped broccoli can be a substitute. Egg foo Young doesn't require animal protein, so leave that out if you'd like. Once you get the hang of it, you'll see that egg foo young is more of a method than a prescription. It can be filled with any number of things, just like a French-style omelette.
The resulting egg foo young is amazingly easy, restaurant take-out fast, and powerfully delicious. I hope you like it.