Hello! We're happy to have you!

Showing posts with label garden recipes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label garden recipes. Show all posts

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Silky Smooth Tomato Eggplant Bisque

And - surprise - this version is vegan! 

Tomato soup has been one of my absolute favorites since childhood. When I was little, I had terrible separation anxiety so my dad would always bring me home for lunch during first, second, and third grade. This was a small enough gesture as a parent, considering that I only lived within walking distance of my elementary school, but I can tell you that it meant the world to me at the time. He wasn't much of a cook, but his special lunch that he would fix for me would be tomato soup and grilled cheese. 

Fast forward to my career as a chef and I get a job at this incredibly fancy country club - which shall remain nameless - and one of my first tasks is to produce a couple of gallons of their tomato eggplant bisque with Israeli couscous and saffron oil. I was a young sprig of a girl still and didn't realize exactly what I was making, but I followed the recipe to the letter and - when it was finished - I realized that I'd made tomato soup! This was not just my dad's tomato soup out of the can, though...this had depth and complexity like I didn't know it could have. While this here is not the exact recipe that I learned that day (which would be frankly unethical to share anyhow), this is my own version that I love to throw together when summer is turning to fall. After all, fall is soup season!

As always, thanks so much to KC Farm School at Gibbs Road for the veggies!

Tomato Eggplant Bisque

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed 
  • 2 medium eggplants, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 32 oz jar of chopped canned tomatoes
    • I made my own this year from the bounty of the summer. I don't have my canning recipe for that, but please check out my canning method and the recipe for Pickled Pears, if you're so inclined!
  • 1 14 oz can of full fat coconut cream
  • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper, as needed
Add a generous glug of olive oil to the bottom of a thick-bottomed soup casserole...aka a dutch oven. Heat over a medium flame and add the onion and garlic. Season generously with kosher salt and pepper and cover to let sweat for about 15 minutes on low. Meanwhile, lay your eggplant slices out on a cutting board and season generously with kosher salt. You're going to be drawing out the bitterness!

When 15 minutes pass, blot the bitter moisture off of the eggplant with paper towels. Don't worry about any discoloration that might appear; it'll all be blended into the soup. When your eggplant slices are patted dry, run your knife through them one more time to chop them into chunks. It doesn't matter too much how pretty they are, just as long as they're small enough to all fit into the pot. Uncover the onions mixture, give it a good stir, and add in your eggplant. Add your tomatoes, too, and bring them up to a boil. Reduce it to a simmer and let cook for about 5 minutes. Add the can of coconut cream as well as one can-full of water from the tap to rinse out any little goodies you may have left in there. Bring everything up to a rolling boil and stir well. Turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for at least 30 minutes. 

It's at this point that you can actually pop this in the fridge and let the soup base hang out overnight in the fridge if you so choose. This, like many fall meals, is an excellent dish to make ahead. Even better, the flavors will meld and mesh the longer it sits. The absolute ideal is 24 hours, but I won't make you wait. You can also - if you really want to - ladle this soup base into quart freezer bags and freeze them for up to 3 months. To be honest, I'll likely be doing this at least once in preparation for my baby. 

When you're ready to have your soup, bring it up to a boil again and immediately remove from the heat. Add your soup base mixture to the pitcher of a blender and blend on low for 2 minutes, then medium for 45 seconds, then high for 1 minute. If you must do this in batches, that's a-okay. The goal is to create a silky-smooth bisque of a soup with a bright red color. If you're feeling fancy, make yourself a grilled cheese sandwich to go with it. 

You may garnish this with fresh herbs if you like, but to serve it I simply prefer a drizzle of good olive oil and a few grinds of black pepper. Some people like to have it with parmesan cheese, and I've even heard of a person or two using a dash of hot sauce and a crispy fried egg. Honestly, do whatever makes you happy. This is your soup when you make it. 

I love this dish because it's a gorgeous color, vibrantly healthy, filling enough to be lunch or dinner, and it reminds me that my dad loved me enough to try in the only way he knew how. I especially love dipping a grilled cheese sandwich into this soup, but I love it just as much while drinking it from a mug with a few crackers sprinkled on top.

I hope this end-of-summer dish has inspired you to use eggplants and tomatoes together. You may not think they work, but I assure you they do. Eggplants and tomatoes are both nightshades, you know! This means they are from the same family, but please don't eat the greens, lest you get sick. Oddly enough, though, any nightshade vegetable will give you the benefit of all of the gorgeous antioxidants they contain, which are vital in repairing cells that were damaged due to stress. I don't know about you, but I could use some stress relief in my life...

Thanks so much for spending a piece of your day with me. I hope I've inspired you to cook in your own kitchen today and to preserve the bounty of your garden through food prep, food stocking, or even just taking tons of pictures of the stuff before eating it. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Friday, July 9, 2021

In Search of the Salad Nicoise


This is what the kids in the classical French school of culinary arts would call a classic composed salad. This means it is not a salad that is tossed, which is how we would normally have a salad here in the United States on our dinner tables. Composed salads take some more thought and a little more effort, but are absolutely worth it.  The actual definition I have from my days in culinary school are as follows:

Salad Nicoise

·         From Nice, France

·         Garlic, tomatoes, anchovies, black Nicoise olives, capers, and lemon juice

o   Potatoes and green beans are VERY much debated on

o   MAY see this on lettuce

I have no clue what I meant by most of my notes, but it's good to know what the classics actually mean. I assume that when I wrote "MAY see this on lettuce" means that the actual lettuce part of a salad is optional. In this case, I'm sure it's not uncommon for this to just be served as an antipasti platter. This comes from Nice, which is in the south of France, which means Italy is right on the border. If I remember correctly, we also usually serve this with tuna, but that's one of the foods I cannot have during my pregnancy...so today we're going to be having this with anchovies packed in olive oil instead!

I'm also going to note that I'm going to omit the capers and olives. Capers, which are pickled and brined peppercorns, are wonderful but I don't really keep them in my pantry as they don't necessarily coincide with how I normally cook. I'm not putting in olives because I personally hate olives. I think they ruin everything they touch. Please, though, don't let me stop you from adding olives to this salad! Nicoise olives are, after all, a key ingredient if you speak to most purists out there!

When it comes to a fancy salad your words to remember are mise en place. This is French for "things in place." If you're an avid reader of my blog, you know I've spoken about this concept before. It just means to prep everything ahead of time so you can quickly assemble. Because this is a salad made for just little ole me, I'll just be showing you how I make it the way I like it. I am eating for two, however, so I assure you that the amounts will serve two. My husband even ended up eating some of it, and we still had some left over. 

Here's how I made my own Midwest version of this classic of Southern France! 

Salad Nicoise a la Kansas City
Serves 2

  • Kale and butter lettuce washed and chopped
  • 2 small potatoes, fresh from the garden
  • A handful of young, tender garden green beans
    • About a dozen, I think!
  • 2 eggs
  • Anchovy filets, as many as you like
  • 2 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed and minced
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • Zest and juice of 1/2 a fresh lemon
  • 2 slices of bacon, sliced
  • Red onion, sliced ultra-thin!
  • A few cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • Oyster mushrooms, sliced, about half an ounce
  • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper, as needed
  • 1/2 c good extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp fresh chives, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh parsley, minced
First thing's first: let's work on our cooked items! 

Grab yourself a small sauce pot with about a 4 cup capacity, fill with cold water, and add a good fat pinch of kosher salt. Add your eggs and washed potatoes, cover, and bring to a boil. When your water is at a rolling boil, put on a timer for 5 minutes. In the meantime, prepare your green beans by snapping off the stem ends but leaving the pretty cute long ends in tact. Give them a quick rinse in cold water. Prepare an ice bath in a medium bowl. You're going to be blanching these babies!

When your timer goes off, evacuate your eggs and plunge them immediately into the ice bath. Add your green beans to the boiling water and cook until they turn a gorgeous bright green. This shouldn't take more than 30 seconds to 1 minute! Remove those beans from the boiling water and add to your ice bath, along with the eggs. Let your potatoes cook until they're tender, which usually takes a total of 15 minutes. You can chop the green beans if you like, but I don't think it's necessary. When your potatoes are cool, you can cube them in small pieces and set aside. Make sure you peel your eggs when they're cold!

To prepare the bacon, cut into batons, or slice crosswise in 1/4" pieces and fry until fat has rendered and until they're crisp. This doesn't take more than 5 minutes. Drain all of the bacon fat except for 1 tsp  and fry the mushrooms. You can slice these, but honestly I think I prefer to tear oyster mushrooms by hand because I prefer the look of it. Fry these until browned and set aside. 

To make the vinaigrette, combine the mustard, white wine vinegar, herbs, garlic, lemon juice and zest, and a generous pinch of both salt and pepper to a mixing bowl. Slowly drizzle in your olive oil while whisking constantly until it thickens. Taste for seasoning. You likely won't use all of it, so make sure to save what you don't as either the continued life of salad dressing or as a tasty marinade for chicken. 

Plating could not be easier! Simply tear pieces of kale and butter lettuce into bite sized pieces and pile into a bowl. Arrange all of your beautiful items atop and across the bed of lettuce in any design you like. I personally like the look of stripes, so I chose that for my presentation. I used quite a bit of anchovies all piled up because I love them and feel they replace the saltiness that the olives would have given, but you can change this up for your preference. Of course, you can do what you like!

Keep in mind, though, you're going to be messing it up when you grab some for yourself, so don't stress too much. This is meant to be fun! Play with colors and textures next to each other for maximum effect. See how beautiful that egg yolk is cooked after a 5-minute boil? See the bright green of the green beans next to the bacon? When making a composed salad, don't be afraid to be adventurous.

Salade Nicoise is such a wonderful summer dish to serve for a summer barbecue or a summer night. Do you see how I've said "summer" thrice in that sentence? This is because I want to drive home to you the importance of seasonality in your cooking. I got most of this from either my CSA box from KC Farm School at Gibbs Road or my own garden. When you grow your own food, you are allowing yourself to have a little taste of what it is to have a hand in creation. When you go back to the basics, like I just did in returning to my roots in culinary school, you're reminded of how far you've come in life. 

Maybe this is what the Salad Nicoise is? A little bit of il dolce far niente which is Italian (sorry, not French, but Nice is close to Italy) for "the sweetness of doing nothing" will take you a long way on the path of mental health. Learning to be in the moment has been one of my hardest struggles as an adult American woman, who has constantly been working against the grind and working with the hustle. Now that I'm in a better place in my life that I've been given the opportunity to stop and rest, I've found what's truly important. 

Maybe, while you're having some of this, you can think of what's important to you too? Happy cooking and happy eating!