Real Tomato Soup

You can always open a can of tomatoes for this recipe or you can buy some out of season tomatoes and try roasting them  *  By roasting them along with a chopped sweet onion, the flavor becomes more concentrated  *  More flavor can be added by simmering them with white wine and herbs  *  Remember peak season tomatoes are best, nut the season is short  *  Let’s start with 2 pounds of ripened tomatoes-cut in half and stems removed  *  Preheat the oven to 300 degrees  *  Toss the half-ed tomatoes together with 1 medium sweet onion, 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, 1 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper on a rimmed baking sheet  *  Make sure the tomatoes and onions are evenly coated  *  Roast on the middle oven rack until the tomatoes and onions are soft but not browned – this takes about an hour  *  Now increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees and transfer the mixture to a medium saucepan  *  add 1 cup of dry white wine and cook over medium-high heat until the liquid has reduced by half  *  Stir frequently to prevent scorching  *  Add more water to cover the tomatoes and stir in the remaining 1/4 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper  *  Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium or medium low so that the soup barely bubbles  *  cook stirring on occasion until the flavors come together and the mixture begins to thicken (maybe 20 minutes)  *  Once the soup has thickened a 1/4 cup of chopped herbs such as cilantro, flat leaf parsley or basil leaves can be stirred in  *  Puree the soup in a blender until smooth and return to the saucepan  *  cook the soup for 5 more minutes using medium heat  * taste and add more salt or pepper as needed  *  as an added surprise, by grating 4 ounces of Gruyere cheese and placing the grated cheese on a parchment papered baking sheet in four equally spaced portions – a kind of “grilled cheese” delight called a frichi can be enjoyed  *  Roast the grated cheese until it becomes flat, lightly golden brown and crisp (maybe 12 to 14 minutes)  *  Let them cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes  *  Using a metal spatula carefully transfer them to a plate to cool completely  *  serve with the tomato soup as a grilled cheese sandwich – without the bread or butter  *  Gruyere is a good cheese choice for frichi, but grating and roasting any cheese you have on hand will allow it to become flat, light brown and crispy – but you have to watch it closer

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Student Cooking

When should students start cooking at home  **  Learning to use the microwave and toaster could be a good start  *  Boiling water and hot stoves should be avoided  *  I will never forget my first cooking lessons at home  *  I was taught how to make a grilled cheese sandwich  *  What a sense of pride and accomplishment to transfer a golden brown grilled cheese sandwich onto a plate to be served  *  Making eggs is also a good way to practice the art – scrambled eggs before other variations to set the pace  *  I have met families that encouraged their children to prepare their own meals very early in life  *  It becomes an activity with adult supervision and a built-in eatable reward  *  Mixing batter for cakes and adding a teaspoon of ground coffee for extra flavor  *  Spreading sticky things on bread to bring to school for snack or lunch before leaving on the school bus can be a good wake me up  *  I think that cooking should start at home and be encouraged for further study at school  *  Students who can create what others go to culinary institutes to learn have much to proud of   *  Is it worth a students time to learn food prep and cooking skills in a middle school or a high school – I think it is – Especially when the high cost of culinary school after high school is calculated  *  Shopping, clean up, sanitation and nutrition are components of a farm to school program that can provide nutritious meals to children in schools and families at home  *  By letting student chefs create meals in a competitive environment -menus can be changed to winning dishes for other students  *  Having student cook offs on shows such as Food Network, You Tube, Chopped, Food Network Star and other culinary arts programs bring the art to an even higher level  *  Learning the criteria for well received meals at school or at home can lead to critiquing for better results  *  Execution, appropriateness, best use of local ingredients, appearance, creativity, presentation and taste can all be used for scoring  *   Cooking skills and the weight watchers program go hand in hand for students  *  

The Ultimate Turkey Sandwich

As we say goodbye to November and the fond memories of Thanksgiving Day – some may have a small amount of turkey left over  *  Passed down from other generations and refined for fusion tastes…this ultimate turkey tribute sandwich does not represent the end of a holiday, but the beginning  *  Lightly toast 2 slices of rye bread  *  On one slice spread a small amount of mayonnaise  *  Add a tablespoon or more of left over stuffing (hopefully stuffing with walnuts) and cover the slice of rye bread  *  Place 5 ounces of carved turkey breast on top of the stuffing and set to the side  *  Take the other slice of toasted rye bread and spread a light coat of Dijon mustard with mayonnaise mixture on it  *  Add a tablespoon or more of cranberry sauce and cover the slice of bread  *  On top of the cranberry sauce add a covering of pickled ginger (key ingredient for ultimate turkey sandwich)  *  This is the same pickled ginger you would use on a sushi platter  *  Place both slices of toasted rye together and cut the sandwich in half  *  Enjoy with the last of the apple cider  *  Savor it!!!

WILD YEAST

Wild yeast culture is also called levain  *  Making it begins with a container and lid that fits  *  A quart sized deli container works  *  Weigh the container and write down its empty weight on a piece of tape  *  Attach the tape to the outside of the container (you will need this later)  *  Let’s start the seven day process  *  Day 1: mix 100g of water (100F) with 100 g of room temperature whole wheat flour in the container  *  Leave it out at room temperature without its lid for a couple of hours  *  Then put the lid on  *  Day 2: evening  *  24 to 36 hours after the first feeding of the new culture (levain) add 100 g of water (100F) and 100 g of room temperature whole wheat flour  *  Mix by hand until integrated and let it sit on the counter  *  Leave it uncovered for a couple hours to capture some  of the natural yeast that floats in the air  *  now cover it  *  Day 3: evening  *  After just 48 hours after starting the ne  w wild yeast culture – it should be gassy  *  Remove about half of the mixture from the container (by hand) and throw it away  *  Add to the remainder another 100 g of water (100F) and another 100 g of room temperature whole wheat flour  *  Mix it all together by hand and leave it out at room temperature covered  *  Day 4: evening  *  Remove about three-quarters of the bubbly mixture and throw that away  *  Once again, add 100 g of water between 85 and 90 degrees F  *  Add another 100 g of room temperature whole wheat flour to the new culture  *  Mix it together by hand and leave it out at room temperature – covered  *  Day 5: evening  *  Using the recorded weight of the empty container for reference – remove and dispose of all but 50 g of the culture  *  Add 150 g of water (85F) and 75 g of room temperature whole wheat flour and 75 g of all-purpose white flour  *  Mix by hand until fully integrated  *  Leave it out at room temperature – covered  *  Day 6: evening  *  The wild yeast culture is almost ready to go  *  Remove and discard all but 50 grams of the culture and add 100 g  of water (85F) and 100 g of room temperature all-purpose white flour  *  Mix by hand until combined and let it sit out overnight – covered  *  Day 7: morning  *  The culture should feel like it is alive – gassy and goopy – with a nice lactic- slightly alcoholic fragrance  *  Place it in the fridge  *  Tonight you can mix a starter and tomorrow morning a pizza dough for pizza in the evening (day 8)  *  Remember 2 Tbsp = 50 g,  1/3 cup = 100 g

Maintaining The Levain: Once every week (7 to 10 days) – remove all but 25 g of the levain from its container and discard  *  Add 100 g of all-purpose white flour and 100 g of 85F water  *  Mix by hand  *  Let it sit for 10 to 12 hours  *  Put it back in the fridge  *  The culture should perform well for the next week and you should have enough to make four more batches of levain dough  *  If more is needed – double the feeding to 50 g of culture and 200 g    *  flour and 200 g of 85F water  *  Remember the amount of ambient yeast in the air is subject to the environmentin  *  Wine country provides more wild yeast in the air than a desert does

MILK BREAD

Give yourself some extra time to make a loaf of this minimal crust – maximum crumb milk bread  *  Baking time is about 35 minutes, Rising time is two to three hours and the recommended cooling time is another three hours  *  Start by whisking four cups of all  purpose flour with 1 Tbsp of rapid rise yeast and 2tsp salt in a bowl  *  In a separate vessel combine 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp (9 ounces) of whole milk at room temperature with 1/4 cup (2 ounces) of  water at room temperature, 4 Tbsp (2 ounces) of melted unsalted butter and 2 Tbsp sugar  *  Using a stand mixer or a wooden spoon, slowly add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and mix until a dough starts to form and no dry flour remains (about 2 minutes)  *  Working a little faster – knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic and clears the sides of the bowl (about 8 minutes)  *  Transfer dough to a lightly floured counter and knead by hand into a smooth round ball (about 30 seconds)  *  Place dough in a lightly greases large bowl – seam side down – and cover with a plastic wrap  *  let the dough rise until it is double in size (1 to 1 1/2 hours)  *  Turn the dough back out onto a lightly floured counter and press and stretch dough into a 10 by 12 inch rectangle with the long side parallel to the counter edge  *  Roll the dough away from you and  keep it taut by tucking it under itself as you go  *  Pinch seam closed and place in a prepared pan (13 x 4 inch greased Pullman if you have one)  * press dough gently into the corners  *  Let the dough rise again (1 to 1 1/2 hours) so that it is level with the lip of the pan  *  Heat oven to 350 degrees   * Slide the pan into the oven using either the Pullman cover or a tin foil cover  *  Bake until the loaf is light golden brown  – if a thermometer is available – it should register at 205 – 210 degrees or a baking time of 35 to 40 minutes  *  Remember to remove the lid and rotate the pan halfway through baking  *  Let the loaf cool in the  pan for 15 minutes  * Let it cool another 3 hours  after it is removed from the pan before serving  *  Before the bread is sliced and put in a toaster, let’s make a cup of spread to place on some toasted slices and share with friends  *

In a small bowl mix together 4 ounces of ricotta cheese with 4 ounces of cream cheese (or Neufchatel) and set aside  *  In another small bowl mix together 4 minced green onions with wilted portions and ends removed, 1 tsp prepared horseradish, 1 tsp Dijon mustard with 4 ounces of finely chopped smoked salmon  *  Mix until well blended by hand (try to avoid a food processor for this)  * And fold into the ricotta-cream cheese mixture  *  Serve on freshly toasted milk bread – if any salmon spreads is left over it can be used as a  fresh  vegetable dip  *

Summary – bread making takes time because you have to let the dough rise  *  Not once, but twice – the first time is after you make the dough and the second time is after you have placed it in the pan before baking  *  The rest is simple

Raspberry Cream Sieve

Here is a special flavored cream filling that can be used on cakes or served as is after it has been chilled  *  In a large sauce pan – place a 10 oz package of raspberries  *  Stir in 1/4 cup of sugar and 1/2 tsp lemon zest into the pan  *  Let the berries release their juices – it usually takes about 15 minutes  *  Now mash the berries with the back of a fork until they are pulp like  *  Thicken the raspberry pulp and juice with heat at medium high and stirring until juice thickens (1 – 2 minutes)  *  Pour the mash into a sieve with a bowl underneath and run hand over the mashed raspberries to force most of the liquid into bowl  *  Discard solids and let the juices cool  *  Using a bowl and whisk – whip 1 cup of heavy cream and 1 Tbsp of sugar until peaks begin to form  *  Add 1 tsp of almond extract to the top of the peaks and whisk just a slight bit more  *  Fold berry-juice and small solids into the cream  *  Cover and chill for 1 hour  *  Scoop into small bowls and enjoy 6 one half cup servings/or fill layers in a chocolate cake  *  This recipe can be varied by placing 1/4 of the berries on the side and adding them back when the juice is folded back into the cream  *  This creates a cream with some whole fruit to bite into

APPLE CRANBERRY PUFFCAKES

Fire up the oven to 450 F and place oven rack in middle position  8*  Melt 4 Tbsp of butter in a heavy bottomed 12″ skillet over medium high heat ( use butter if that’s your preference – I’m not big on butter so I soften the apples up in hot water)  *  Add five peeled cored and thin sliced Granny Smith apples and 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon when the butter is post foaming or the water is near bubbles  *  Cook stirring until the apples are quite tender – maybe 15 minutes  *  Stir in 1/4 cup of honey to blend and cook an additional five minutes  *  set aside to keep warm while preparing the pancake  *  Place a 10″ to 12″ cast iron skillet on oven rack  *  In bowl combine six eggs 1 tsp lemon grated zest, 1 cup whole milk 1 tsp almond extract and 1/2 tsp salt and turn on the stand mixer  *  Beat the mixture for five minutes or until it is light lemon yellow-thickened and very smooth  *  Add the flour in thirds – stopping to scrape down the side of the bowl after each addition  *  Now the hot skillet can be removed from the oven and add the remaining 4 Tbsp of butter  before returning to the oven ( I avoid butter and must use olive or coconut oil instead)  *  Pour the prepared batter into the pan all at once  *  Quickly return the pan to the oven and bake for fifteen minutes  *  Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake an additional  8 to 10 minutes or until the pancake is puffed and golden brown  *  Remove from oven and pour the apple filling over the pancake  *  Place cranberries over the apples – 1 or 2 per square inch  *  Dust with powered sugar and cut into wedges  *  Serve while it is still hot – it should serve 4 to 6 people

HOT DOGS AND PEPPERS PLATE

A hot dog survey was taken last month and by far – the best all beef hot dogs to be had on this planet are Kirkland All Beef dogs  *  for those not familiar with the Kirkland name – that is the brand of franks sold at Costco  *  This recipe is best when three colors of sweet peppers are used;  green – red – yellow or orange  *  Clean and slice the peppers into thin crescents and set aside  *  add 2 Tbsp of olive oil to a skillet and heat  *  peel and slice an onion into small crests and add to the olive oil  *  add two cloves of garlic  *  add a teaspoon of fresh sliced ginger and the peppers  *  once the onions are translucent-add two Tbsp of marinara sauce for body  *  continue to cook until the peppers soften  *  cut up four Kirkland all beef dogs into dime size pieces and distribute them throughout the pan  *  continue to cook until the franks are warmed on both sides  * continue to stir and remove from the heat when the fragrance peaks  *  serve with rice or if adventuresome serve over mashed potatoes  *  serves two or three people – but tell them in advance that this is a tasty low-budget meal!

SALAD ANTIPASTO

By adding some additional vegetables – the traditional antipasto platter can be toned down to a big salad with extra greens and some torn radicchio for more color  *  Let me create a fifteen cup concoction that will easily serve five people (each three cups)  *  The salad antipasto is a low-fat – high protein – good carb loaded dish  *  with a 15 oz can of rinsed chickpeas to supplement the other proteins – up to 15G of protein can be had in each serving  *  In a large bowl whisk together 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 3 Tbsp of red-wine vinegar, 1/2 tsp dried oregano and 1/2 tsp of ground pepper  *  Now for the heavy lifting – add 6 cups of torn escarole, 2 cups of radicchio (best to rinse and wash in ice water first), 1 pint of halved and sliced cherry tomatoes, one 15 oz can of rinsed chickpeas, 1/2 zucchini halved and sliced, 1 cup of slivered fennel, 3/4 cup (about 4 ounces) of diced fresh mozzarella, 1/2 cup of chopped marinated artichoke hearts, 1/2 cup sliced pepperoncini (highly recommended), 1/2 cup of sliced radishes, with 1/2 cup sliced salami (maybe 2 ounces) and 1/2 cup sliced black olives  *  Toss to coat  *  let it marinate for ten minutes before serving  *  This great big salad tastes good just the way it is and can travel well in a plastic container

Garbanzo Bean Recipe

An easy way to enhance flavor and appeal to many vegetarian dishes is to add ingredients such as chopped tomatoes, onions, ginger,  garlic and perhaps other herbs  *  This garbanzo bean recipe can be a nutritious snack or a side dish  *  In 2 Tbsp of oil, cook and stirring 1 tsp of curry powder (or chili powder) for a minute  *  Add 1 medium size onion – sliced, 1 clove of minced garlic, 1/2 tsp salt or to taste and saute (while stirring) until onion is translucent  *  Add one tomato diced fine and saving a little for garnish  *  Cook and stir (about 8 minutes) until a chunky curried sauce is formed  *  Open a can of 15 ounce garbanzo beans and drain  *  Add beans to sauce – stirring until the beans are piping hot and covered with sauce  *  Place on a dish and garnish with chopped sweet onion, cilantro and reserved tomato  *  Serve with a some hot sauce, soy sauce mixed with ketchup on the side or a more elaborate chutney  *  Crushed potato chips over each serving is something different  *  I especially enjoy this dish as a side with eggs and peppers and some small sausage –  such as breakfast sausage