Tag Archives: croutons

RUSTIC GAZPACHO

The bounty of summer is beginning to pour in. Our neighbor has more peaches than he knows what to do with. Now we have more peaches than we know what to do with. And he has invited us back for more. Unfortunately his apricot and cherry trees had no fruit this year, probably because of  late frost.

Good friends gave us some delicious plums from their back yard. We will probably get some more when we visit them today. So far, no one has given us any zucchini, but they will come. The tomatoes are in abundance.

This week we went to the market at the Community Farm instead of our usual visit to the farmers’ market at the Rail Yard. The Community Farm is a group of fields and orchards owned by a 90+ year-old man who has contributed their use to the city. Volunteers do all of the work, and so the vegetables are not the perfect specimens that you find at the farmers’ market much less the supermarket. But the produce is put to good use. Most of it goes to the local food bank and a program of meals for house-bound clients. The farm has a public market every Sunday afternoon. We pulled into the driveway and were greeted by a group of volunteers clearly proud of their efforts: piles of fresh vegetables. We bought baskets of  fragrant and colorful vegetables, and now we have to make some good stuff from the bounty.

There were lots of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and a red onion in our basket. What could be better to make than a summer soup of gazpacho? Actually, I am not a big fan of most gazpacho. It is often puréed into oblivion and resembles baby food. I much prefer to have identifiable vegetables and crusty garlic croutons. That’s what this recipe is.

RECIPE

Rustic Gazpacho

Ingredients

  • 6 ripe tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, seeds removed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup minced parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • juice of ½ lime
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • salt and pepper
  • garlic croutons
  • snipped chives (optional)
  • sour cream (optional)

Method

  1. In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, onion, parsley, and garlic.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, lime juice, sugar, and olive oil until well combined. Stir the mixture into the vegetables.
  3. Stir in the chicken stock. Chill, covered, in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Adjust seasoning with more lemon juice if desired, salt and pepper. Serve, topped with croutons. Garnish with snipped chives and sour cream if desired.
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CREAM OF GLOBE SQUASH SOUP

The weather has definitely shifted to autumn, and the farmers market has begun to wind down. The other day, one of the vendors had piles of different squashes, none of them with labels. I saw a beautiful winter squash that would make a great soup. I thought I was buying a calabaza, but when I got it home it turned out to be a zucchini-like globe squash. Yes, I can hear you saying, “Another zucchini recipe.” I split the squash in half, and roasted it anyway, and it turned out to make a savory soup that was just right for a cool autumn lunch. You can make it vegetarian by using vegetable stock. You could even make it vegan by substituting vegetable oil for the butter and silky tofu for the cream.

RECIPE

Cream of Globe Squash Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 large globe squash
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/3 cup long-grain rice
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • ½ cup cream
  • nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 1 slice French bread, crusts removed and cut into cubes
  • mozzarella cheese, grated
  • salted, roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

Method

  1. Cut the squash in half, stem to blossom end, and remove the seeds. Brush the melted butter on the cut surface, and place cut-side down on a lipped baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 minutes in the middle of a 350°F oven. Check for doneness with a kitchen fork. If the flesh is soft, remove from the oven and scoop the squash into a bowl. Set aside
  2. Meanwhile, in a 4-quart covered saucepan sweat the onions in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Do not allow the onions to brown. Add the rice, and stir until the grains have become translucent. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce to the simmer, covered, for 30 minutes or until the rice is completely cooked and soft. Stir in the squash, return to the boil, and then simmer for another 5 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat, and cool enough to work with easily. Puree with a blender. You may need to work in batches. Return the soup to the saucepan,, add cream, and bring to the simmer. Do not boil. Add nutmeg to taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
  4. In a small sauté pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium flame. Add the garlic and stir until the garlic starts to brown. Remove the garlic and add the bread cubes. Sauté until crisp and lightly browned. Drain the croutons on paper towels and salt lightly.
  5. Ladle the soup into serving bowls, and garnish with croutons, grated mozzarella and pumpkin seeds. Serve

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ONION SOUP WITH GARLIC CROUTONS AND MELTED CHEESE

Yellow onions

Who doesn’t like onion soup? My older daughter for one. She actually doesn’t like anything with onions. I can’t understand her taste, because for me a well-made bowl of onion soup topped with a crisp round of garlic crouton and melted Gruyère cheese approaches the perfect simple evening meal. The problem is that there is many a bowl of not-well-made soup. The dehydrated variety doesn’t even really qualify as soup, and the canned sort is not much better. Sometimes you see a version of onion soup in the steam table on a buffet line. That, too, is usually not very appealing. And all of this is too bad because the real thing is so easy to make.

Thinly-sliced onions

Julia Child showed Americans how to make a good soup, along with a lot of her other revelations on good cooking. From time to time we still watch Julia making soup on a black-and-white DVD of her early shows I got as a gift from my children many years ago. I also check out her classic recipe in our tattered, disintegrating copy of Volume One of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” (pages 43-45). As is always the case, Julia took no shortcuts, and her instructions can sometimes appear daunting.  Those may be the reasons that onion soup is not a mainstay of most kitchens. Another reason may be that the soup is viewed by  modern cooks as a bit old-fashioned. I say too bad to that! The final reason may be that many, like my daughter, don’t like onions. That remains a mystery to me.

Caramelized onions

The version  that follows is a riff on Julia Child’s recipe, but I have tried to simplify preparation a bit so that you can whip up soup in the afternoon for dinner in the evening. Add some crusty French bread and fresh butter along with a bottle of chilled dry white wine, and you have everything you need for a relaxing evening at home.

Soup at the simmer

RECIPE

Ingredients  

  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 medium yellow onions, slice as thinly as possible (use a mandoline)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 3 Tablesoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 Cups beef stock (home-made or packaged)
  • ½ Cup dry, white vermouth
  • pepper to taste
  • 4 half-inch slices of French baguette
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced in half crosswise
  • 2 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated coarsely

Ready to pop under the broiler

Preparation

  1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed 4-quart saucepan with lid. Add the onions and salt. Stir and cover to sweat the onions. Be careful not to let them burn.
  2. When the onions are translucent and soft, remove the lid, turn up the heat to medium-high, and stir in the sugar.
  3. Stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, caramelize the onions until they are golden brown. They will not begin to brown until most of the liquid has boiled off. Be very careful not to let the onions burn.
  4. When you are satisfied with the color of the onions,  add the flour, stirring until the onions are completely coated. Cook a few minutes so that the flou loses its raw taste.
  5. Add the beef stock and vermouth; adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Stir well. Cover and turn the heat to simmer so that the mixture just barely bubbles every few seconds. Simmer for at least two hours.
  6. While the soup is simmering, prepare the croutons by placing the baguette slices on a sheet pan in an oven preheated to 200°. Bake until the bread has dried out a bit. Then remove from the oven and scrape the cut garlic over both sides of the bread slices. Return to the oven and continue to bake until the bread has completely dried and turned a light brown color. Remove from the oven, cool the croutons,  and set aside.
  7. When your soup has simmered long enough, ladle it into four oven-proof soup bowls. Top each bowl with a garlic crouton and cover with the grated cheese.
  8. Place the bowls on a sheet pan and slide under a pre-heated broiler for just a few minutes until the cheese is melted and – if you prefer – lightly browned.
  9. Serve immediately.

Is it soup yet? Definitely!

Serves two if you’re really hungry or four if you would rather enjoy the wine.

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