Heirloom Tomato Soup



My wonderful father in-law, one of the two lovely in-laws who’ve inspired this blog, also inspired my garden this year. For Christmas, I was presented with the most thorough catalog of seeds I’ve seen in some time. With not enough space to go pumpkin crazy, I opted for rewarding tomatoes. Six varieties to be precise and would you think that would stop my seed gift? No way, he even planted, sprouted and babied these specimens until they were ready to head to earth.

With a late start to the summer and a bit of a back problem, these little babies soon grew into towering providers. Eight feet of unstretchable plant has blossomed into hoards of tomatoes that now, so close to the first of fall, have finally begun to ripen; all at once.

With the more than occasional rain and cooler nights, I’ve summoned my three year old farm hand, who has no trouble crouching, to help with the over abundant harvest.

The soup, I could handle. It was pretty simple and very delicious.

CREAMLESS CREAM OF TOMATO SOUP
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Small Onion, diced
3 Cloves Garlic, minced, about 1 1/2 teaspoons
2 Lbs Assorted Heirloom Tomatoes, I used Black From Tula, Snow White Cherry, Roma & Riesentraube, diced (or one large 300z can)
1 Bay Leaf
1 1/2 Cups Vegetable Broth
1 teaspoon Brown Sugar
1 Slice of Bread, crusts removed, torn
3/4 teaspoon Salt, more or less, to taste
Freshly Ground Black Pepper, optional, to taste
Fresh Basil, chopped, optional for garnish

Heat the oil in a large pot.
Dice and add the onion, minced garlic and bay leaf.
Sauté over medium until the onions are soft and translucent but not browned.
Add diced tomatoes and cook for about 10 – 15 minutes or until the tomatoes have softened, released their juices and lost their skins.
Stir in the sugar, bread and broth, then bring the soup to a boil then reduce it to a simmer.
Once the bread is soft and begins to break down, remove the bay leaf.
Using a hand immersion blender, mix the soup until smooth.
In batches if necessary, pass the soup through a mesh strainer and return to a cleaned pot.
Reheat as necessary.
Add salt, and pepper if desired. Seasoning to taste.
Garnish with fresh basil.

Serves 4

Gum Drop Cake


Had enough sugar yet today?

My Nana used to make this cake for us when we were kids.

I’m not sure if it’s one of those depression era cakes that remind me of grandma’s and farmhouses or if it’s just a classically good everyday cake that’s delicious enough to serve for any celebration.
…And most days are worth celebrating, aren’t they?

GUM DROP CAKE

1/2 Cup Butter, vegan
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
1 Cup Plain Soy Milk
2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 Cup Chopped Gum Drops, about 15

Combine the milk with the lemon juice and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF and grease a loaf pan with butter and flour.
Cream the butter with the sugar.
Add the salt, cinnamon, baking powder and soda.
Alternating, add about one third of the milk and 1/2 cup of flour until it has all been incorporated.
Stir in the chopped gumdrops to combine.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 50-60 minutes or until a cake tester is cleanly removed.

Cool completely before serving.
If desired drizzle with a tangelo glaze:

1/2 Cup Icing Sugar
Zest and juice of 1 tangelo

Sift the sugar and add the zest.
Whisk in the juice until smooth, add water, one drop at a time, if necessary.

Holiday Kourabiedes – Walnut Sugar Cookies


Tis the season to learn of new traditions. When I first heard of these I couldn’t help but be excited.

Greek Kourabiedes are popular special occasion cookies. They are often served at weddings, christenings and of course, Christmas. You might also find them on an Egyptian cookie tray for the similar celebrations. There, they are called Kahk.

They remind me a bit of what a cross between a shortbread and a sugar cookie.
They’re simple, nutty AND they use some of my orange blossom water I coveted for recipes past.

Kourabiedes are subtle and not too sweet. The seasonal walnuts may be traded for almonds, but I love the combination of the bitterish walnut and bursts of salt with a hint of citrus and the warming, sweet and intriguing fragrance of orange blossoms. They’re perfect for the Holidays. I hope you try them.

KOURABIEDES – WALNUT SUGAR COOKIES

3/4 Cup Walnuts
1 1/4 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) (vegan) Butter, like Earth Balance, softened
1/2 cup Confectioners Sugar, plus more for dusting
1 Tablespoon Cointreau
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Tablespoon Orange Zest
2 Tablespoons Orange Flower Water

Toast the walnuts in a 350ºF oven, until golden brown, about minutes.
Pulse about 1/4 cup of the nuts in a food processor until finely ground.
Add the flour, baking powder, remaining nuts and salt. Pulse again to mix everything together and roughly chop the remaining nuts.
Meanwhile, beat the butter, sugar,  Cointreau, orange zest and vanilla extract together with an electric or stand mixer until and fluffy.
At a low speed, stir in the nut/flour mixture to make a crumbly dough. Bring the dough together with your hands (it IS crumbly). Flatten it into a disk, like pastry dough, and wrap it in plastic wrap.
Refrigerate dough for about half an hour.

Preheat oven to 350º F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or a silicone liner.
Unwrap the dough and cut into 20 pieces. Roll into balls between with your hands. Flattening to shape each piece into a round   disk.
Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets.
Bake until the cookies are golden, about 15 minutes.
Remove them from the oven and lightly brush the orange blossom water over the tops of each cookie.
Transfer to a cooling rack and dust with additional confectioners sugar.

Strawberry Breakfast Cake


Seems late for strawberries, but this year the weather went from hot to cool and rainy then back again. It may leave me with not being able to pack my long pants away but at least I have more time to visit the strawberry field. Usually the year’s weather will determining the look (and taste) of the strawberries for the season, however this year they were all over the map. I suppose you could say, kind of like that weather.

The cooler sunny days seemed to make them smaller, sweet and abundant. Of course you won’t hear any complaints from me.

After picking several pounds of them, I naturally feasted, making full meals while hulling sinkside. I revisited my recipes of past years, I even shared a few baskets. With my last two pints in the fridge, I wanted some for snacking but I was also left craving something a little less sweet and perfect for a Sunday morning, or anytime. This is strawberry season of course.

STRAWBERRY BREAKFAST CAKE

1 Cup Self Rising Flour
1/3 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/3 Cup Quick Oats
1/3 Cup Semolina
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
¼ teaspoon Salt
3 Tablespoons Sugar
1 ½ Cups Soy Milk
1 Banana, well mashed
3 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 Tablespoon Orange Zest, about 1/2 an orange
1 Pint Strawberries, divided

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Prepare a 9” round cake pan with oil and a dusting of flour.
Hull the strawberries and roughly dice half of the pint, equally 1 Cup.
Slice the remaining strawberries and reserve for serving. Macerate strawberries in orange juice, sugar and Contreau, if desired and it’s brunch, not breakfast:).
In a large bowl combine the flours, oats, semolina, baking powder, soda, salt and sugar.
In a pourable measuring cup, mix the soy milk, mashed banana, oil and vanilla.
Add the milk mixture to the dry stirring just to moisten and combine.
Fold in the orange zest and chopped strawberries then pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a cake tester can be removed cleanly from the centre of the cake.
Cool to remove from the pan and serve with reserved strawberries.

Rhubarb Compote


It’s springtime, and even though I might have a bad back, I’m a die-hard gardener.
Some of the most simple and rewarding treasures of a garden are the ones taken for granted. Possibly because they are so easy to grow they are often over-stepped. Take rhubarb, it’s one of the first things up and it doesn’t need any tinkering, thank goodness it’s so big and bright I get a red reminder to pick some and make something like this for breakfast. Although, I’m sure if you have leftovers, rhubarb is one of those great flavours that can pair really from sweet to savoury. Give it a try. Today I did with breakfast!

RHUBARB COMPOTE

2 Cups Chopped Rhubarb Stalks
1 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Water
4-5 Cardamom Pods
Small 1/2″ nub of Ginger, peeled and minced
Juice and Peel of one Tangelo (of course you could use an orange)
Pinch of salt

Add rhubarb, sugar, water and cardamom pods to a medium sized saucepan and bring it to a simmer.
Scrub your tangelo, then using a vegetable peeler, remove the outmost peel, leaving the bitter pith.
Add the juice, peel and a pinch of salt to the rhubarb and return it to a boil.
Reduce it to a rolling simmer and cook for about 10 minutes until the rhubarb is tender, but not mushy and the liquid has reduced and thickened.
Set aside to cool then remove the cardamom pods, and the peels, if desired.

Maple Pumpkin Butter


I was a little hesitant on making this. I didn’t think I’d know what to do with it honestly. When one of my many pumpkins started going (and I’d found that I’d already made my repitoire of pumpkin goodies) I figured it was time.
Tasting along the way, this sugar-free variety kept it’s promises of tasting like the best of all pumpkin pies, but did I want that on my toast every morning? As delicious as it was, only days after making it, I’m finding that I didn’t make enough. A spoonful into pancake batter or with soy milk for french toast, pumpkin butter is perking up and making already great treats extraordinary.

MAPLE PUMPKIN BUTTER

2 Cups Pumpkin Purée
1 1/2 Cups Apple Juice
1/2 Cup Maple Syrup
2 teaspoons Cinnamon
1 teaspoon Freshly Ground Nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon Ground Ginger

Mix everything together in a food processor until well blended.
Add the mixture to a large saucepan and bring it to a simmer. Continue to cook on a low heat until the colour deepens and the purée reduces, about 1 hr.
Store in an air tight container or can to preserve, if desired.