Tag Archives: cook

Tomato Parmesan Soup – Grilled Cheese Crouton

Ah, the after school special. Was there anything better than coming home after a long day of physics tutoring, marching band practice, and hours of working on your friend’s failed cable access television show than a hot bowl of tomato soup and grilled cheese? Okay, maybe your high school experience was different from mine, but I’m sure your feelings are the same for the soup and sandwich.

Well, we’re not in high school anymore, so it’s time to put away those Campbell’s condensed tomato cans and make yourself some big boy soup. Lucky for you, it’s a pretty easy recipe it will make enough soup for days. DAYS!

So I usually don’t spring for the San Marzano’s because, well, I’m cheap. But since the tomatoes are really the star of this soup those extra 3 bucks per can are gonna be worth it. Plus these were on sale so it was actually only an extra buck per can. Totally worth it.

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Start with the butter onion, garlic, and thyme. Tie the thyme sprigs together with some butchers twine or just string without any dyes. You’re gonna need to fish that out later on and tying them together will make your life a whole lot easier. Don’t worry about how big or small you chop everything, since that’s gonna be all blended up later on.

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Once the onion is translucent, add your tomato paste. Brown that junks and it’s gonna give you flavor for days. DAYS!

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Add your tomatoes, some broth, some water, and let the magic begin.

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Oh yeah, don’t forget the secret ingredient: Parmesan rinds! Sounds weird but those things are totally edible.  I mean, I wouldn’t eat them straight up, but it’s great to add some body to soup or… stews. I don’t really know what else. If I think of anything I’ll let you know. So they sell these now at Whole Foods for like $50 or something ridiculous because it’s Whole Foods and they think they can sell you essentially kitchen scraps for top dollar.  They make me so mad sometimes!

…anyway I got these at Whole Foods.

If you buy fresh parmesan regularly (which I strongly suggest you do), you can always save the rinds yourself in the freezer and you’ll be good to go.

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After simmering for an hour or so, fish out your thyme and parmesan rinds.  The parmesan swells up, darkens in color, and kinda looks like pork belly at this point, but do not be fooled! It won’t be pleasant to bite into.

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Just got this immersion blender and I love it. Just a standard $30 Cuisinart, nothing fancy. It’s awesome.

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Add a little more parm, some S&P, let simmer a little longer, and you’re all set.

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It might be a little dumb to put up instructions on how to make a grilled cheese, but there are a few tricks I’ve picked up over my many years of grillin’ up cheeses that not all my know.

First thing: butter your bread FIRST. That way you’ll get a nice even brown on both sides with less chance of burning.

Second: I usually prefer good ol’ American cheese for my grilled cheese because it’s classic and when it’s melted it’s just so damn good. But since I’ll be cooking this a bit longer to make it crisp up, I’ll be using a sharp white cheddar that melts slower and will actually give you a nice crisp crust the longer you cook it.

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Remember: Butter side out!!

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Cut it up into crouton-sized bites, throw it on some foil, pop ’em into your oven.

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The more you know.

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TOMATO PARMESAN SOUP:

2 cans whole San Marzano tomatoes
10 sprigs thyme, tied together with butcher’s twine
1 medium onion, sliced
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup basil leaves loosely packed
2-3 Parmesan rinds
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup tomato paste
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tsp sugar
2 cups beef stock
6 cups water
Salt and Pepper

Melt the butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Add thyme, onion, and garlic. Cook until onion is soft and translucent, 10–12 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and add tomato paste. Keep cooking, stirring often, until paste browns in spots, about 5 minutes.

Add tomatoes with juices, sugar, beef stock, and water to pot. Increase heat to high and bring soup to a simmer. Add the parmesan rinds and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until soup thickens and reduces by 20%, about an hour. Turn off heat and let cool. Remove thyme sprigs and parmesan rinds, discard… or eat… or do whatever you want with them. Add basil leaves, then using an immersion blender, blend soup until smooth, about 45-60 seconds.

If you don’t have an immersion blender, work in batches and purée soup in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return to pot. Heat and bring back to simmer for 10-15 more minutes.

 

GRILLED CHEESE CROUTON:

2 slices crusty italian bread
1-2 slices of white cheddar cheese
Butter

Pre-heat an oven to 250 degrees.

Heat a skillet on medium-high heat. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Place one slice of bread, butter-side down on the hot skillet, put cheese on top, then place the other slice of bread butter side UP on top of the cheese. Butter-side always OUT!

When the cheese is slightly melted and the bottom slice is evenly browned, flip the whole sandwich over and brown the other side.  Remove from heat and let cool.

Cut up the sandwich into crouton-sized bites, place on cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until the bread is dried and crisp.

SERVING:

Ladle soup into bowls, top with 2-3 croutons, garnish with fresh chopped parsley.  Enjoy with some Lifetime Original After School Specials.

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Know Your Knives: Grip

What’s the most important tool in the kitchen? Your knife, you say? NOPE. It’s your hands. You could have a world-class chef’s knife made by Hattori Hanzo himself, but if you don’t know what to do with your hands it’s not gonna do you any good. So let’s talk about how to use your knife, mmkay?

The most popular knife grip in the kitchen is called the pinch grip. Here you pinch the spine of the knife right above the handle between your thumb and curled forefinger, then wrap the rest of the fingers around the handle. This grip gives you control, power, and precision during your knife work.

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Now it’s just as important to know what to do with your other hand when chopping, because you don’t want to end up with bits of your fingers in your meal.

While you’re chopping away with your knife in your dominant hand, the other will of course be guiding the food. Now if you don’t get anything else out of this post, please remember this one thing: FINGERTIPS IN!!! I had to learn this the hard way, but you are MUCH more likely to nick yourself if you guide the food with your fingertips spread out, rather than tucked in under your knuckles. Keep the fingertips in, and the knuckles can rest comfortably against the flat side of the blade, and that is a winning combination for no cuts.

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Happy chopping.

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(source: Knives Cooks Love, by Sarah Jay)

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Whole Roasted Porgy (Scup) with Root Vegetables

So I recently went on a fishing trip out in Buzzards Bay, RI. I wasn’t super successful… after 8 hours of fishing I only had 2 porgy (aka scup) and a little baby bluefish to show for it. I also caught a couple sea bass but they were too small to keep. Boo. Oh well. Let’s cook!
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Most of the work for this recipe is in the prep.  After I cleaned and scaled the fish (tutorial to come, hopefully), all you really need to do is season and prep the fish for roasting. Here are my babies cleaned, fins cut off, and scaled:

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When you “score” a fish that means you cut into the flesh of the fish in the thickest parts of the meat to allow for even cooking. Fish will overcook and dry out like you wouldn’t believe so this is important to get nice, tender fish throughout, rather than fish jerky on the sides and sashimi in the middle. Cut at an angle towards the head, kind of like cutting another gill into the flesh. Try not to get all the way to the bone. Depending on how big the fish is, you may need 2 or 3 scores.

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(Adapted from Cookstr)
Ingredients:
2 12-in porgies, cleaned, scaled, and scored
1 lb fingerling potatoes
3 medium sized carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 large Spanish onion, cut into large 1-inch chunks
1 lemon, sliced thin
6-7 sprigs thyme
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
olive oil
salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place potatoes, carrots, onions, 4 sprigs of thyme and garlic into a roasting pan and coat liberally with the olive oil. Season generously with salt and pepper and pop the whole thing into the oven for 30 minutes. The vegetables take a lot longer to cook than the fish, so they need a head start.

While the veggies cook, drizzle olive oil all over the fish and season with salt and pepper, both sides, inside the cavity and in the scored flesh. Break apart the remaining sprigs of thyme and tuck them into the scored flesh and into the cavity. Place a couple slices of lemon into the cavity as well.  After 30 minutes, take the veggies out of the oven.

Increase the oven heat to 425 degrees.

Arrange the fish on top of the veggies so they aren’t touching each other. Place a few more lemon slices on top of the fish and pop the whole thing back in the oven. Roast for another 20 minutes or until the flesh is completely opaque when cut with a knife. Cooking time will vary based on the size of the fish. Generally a 1-2 pound fish will take 20-30 min to cook.

Serve with fresh pesto and olive tapenade if you’re fancy pants.

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goodwilltasting beer pairing suggestion: Stone Saison Du Buff

Note: you may be wondering what happened to the little baby bluefish. I dredged that little guy in flour, seasoned with plenty of S&P, and fried it up in a good amount of oil. He was small but delicious!

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Basil-Arugula Almond Pesto

Sauces and condiments can make almost any dish go from ordinary to delicious. Think about it. What’s a Thanksgiving dinner without turkey gravy? Or Eggs Benedict without hollandaise? Or a Shake Shack burger without Shack Sauce?  Yeah I don’t know either.

Let me say something else: fellas, do yourself a favor and get yourself a decent food processor.  If you hate prep work like I do, then this is a must have appliance for your kitchen. Cuts your chopping, slicing, grating, and mixing time by like 80%. Real talk. I have a 9-cup Cuisinart.

Here’s all you need to make this pesto:

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(Not Pictured: Fresh Arugula)

(adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe)

Ingredients:
1/2 cup dry roasted sliced almonds
9-10 cloves garlic, chopped
4 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
2 cups fresh arugula leaves, packed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups good-quality olive oil
1 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Tools:
Food Processor
Preparation:
Fit the food processor with a steel blade and process the almonds and garlic for 15 seconds, or until it looks like this:
Add the basil, arugula, salt, and pepper. Important: Make sure the basil and arugula are washed and dried before placing in the processor. You don’t want watery pesto. While the processor is running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until the pesto is thoroughly pureed. Add the Parmesan and puree for a minute. Use right away or store the pesto in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin film of olive oil on top.
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Final product:

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Notes: Pesto becomes brown and dried out as it is exposed to air. For storing, pack it in containers with a thin film of oil or plastic wrap directly on top with the air pressed out.

I had some olives so I also made a simple tapenade after I made the pesto, with a handful of olives, a couple basil leaves, the juice of half a lemon, and a 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped.  Again, add olive oil while processing until you get the desired consistency. You don’t even need to clean the bowl!

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One more thing: do you know how much pesto costs at specialty markets? It’s like $10 for a little 6 oz tub! Get outta my face with that stuff! I made this with basil I had growing in my backyard and I had enough to fill a 32 oz jar. It was basically free. Enjoy!

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