Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Great Pie Tips

To tell you the truth, I don't think I've ever tried to bake a pie from scratch by myself (I'd rather put in the time for "easier" desserts like cookies, brownies, and cake), but America's Test Kitchen's Feed posted some great tips for pies! You can view the tips at http://www.americastestkitchenfeed.com/curious-shortcuts/2011/12/your-pie-deserves-these-5-things/.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

My Favorite Tomato Soup Recipe

So far this fall weather has been pretty good to us. We've only had snow a few times, and this morning there were flurries floating through the air. This recipe takes me back to snow days when I was a little kid in Georgia. We lived on a steep hill, so whenever an ice/snow storm hit, we couldn't get out of the driveway and lots of time we lost power. Fortunately, we had a wood-burning stove so my mom could cook on it when we lost power, and one my favorite things she made was creamy tomato soup. Even though she was taking a can of Campbell's Tomato Soup and fixing it up by adding milk, it was a great way to warm up after playing outside all morning in the snow.

Now, Campbell's Tomato Soup just doesn't taste the same as it did when I was little, so I was really excited to see a recipe for "Classic Tomato Soup" in the February/March 2010 issue of Cook's Country. This soup was creamy and tomato-y. It took a little time to make, but the results were well worth it. I even made this with store-brand ingredients and the soup was yummy.

Classic Tomato Soup (serves about 6) from Cook's Country
2-28 oz. cans diced tomatoes
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda*
Salt & pepper
1/2 cup evaporated milk (or heavy cream)

Drain the tomatoes in a large colander set over the bowl so you can save the tomato juice. You will have to press on the tomatoes to get all the juice out. Transfer the juice and chicken broth a large measuring cup (there is suppose to be 4 cups of liquid-- I had to add a little more chicken broth). Set juice/broth mixture aside.

Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven set over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, which takes about 5 minutes. Add two-thirds of the drained diced tomatoes, the bay leaf, and brown sugar. Cook until the tomatoes start to brown, stirring occasionally, which will take 15-20 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and flour to the pot and stirring frequently, cook until the paste begins to darken. (This will only take a minute or two).

Slowly add in the reserved tomato juice/broth mixture, the baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir the soup together and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until thickened, about five minutes. Remove from the heat.

I goofed up in the previous step and removed the bay leaf before adding the paste and broth/tomato juice. The soup still came out fine, but probably would have been better had I led the bay leaf in.

Now you can puree the soup. Make sure to remove the bay leaf. I used an immersion blender to puree the soup in the pot. Stir in the evaporated milk and season to taste with salt and pepper.

*Note: According to Cook's Country, the baking soda "neutralized some of the acid in the tomatoes for a perfect sweet-tart balance. And its sodium ions weakened the pectin in the cells of the tomatoes, allowing them to puree into a silken soup."