Tomato soup lives in a class of culinary nostalgia that everyone can relate to. Its warm and comforting essence is matched by a simplicity uncommon in “adult” fare. On a lazy Saturday afternoon or when the pantry pickins were slim – tomato soup and grilled cheese was a go-to meal growing up. I imagine you have a similar story to tell about this yummy dish.
Now that my palette has matured and my culinary ambitions have expanded, I have graduated from Campbell’s soup to a homemade recipe pictured above. Bonus for anyone with children or picky boyfriends: this recipe has tons of hidden veggies, i.e. nutrients. So let’s begin.
- 2 28 oz. cans of San Marzano tomatoes
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 head of celery, diced
- 5-6 whole carrots, peeled, diced
- 16 oz. chicken stock
- 2-4 tbsp. fresh basil
- 1 cup heavy cream or half ‘n half
- olive oil
Start by sautéing the celery, carrots, garlic in a large stock pot, about 10 minutes or until just softened.
Next, pour in your chicken stock, tomatoes and basil. Season generously with salt and pepper. Bring soup to a boil and then bring heat down to low. Allow soup to simmer for 1-2 hours.
Pour in cream and simmer for another 15-20 minutes, until fully incorporated into the soup. Finally, using an immersion blender, blend the soup until silky and smooth.
As a nod to my past, I paired my soup with cheesy sourdough toasts – two pieces of sourdough bread, spread with butter, topped with shredded cheddar and broiled on high for about 5 minutes.
Salads are a staple of my diet. They’re quick, they’re generally easy to throw together, and they’re healthy. This salad has a great mix of textures and flavors and is a nice breath of fresh air during the dull winter months.
- 1-2 cups baby spinach
- 1/2 golden delicious apple, sliced paper thin
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- Candied pecans, roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp. mayo
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tbsp. dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of pepper
Whisk dressing ingredients until they emulsify. Toss spinach, shallots, apples with dressing. Sprinkle candied pecans over salad. Tip – when adding dry ingredients such as croutons, seeds or nuts into a salad, toss the lettuce and other veggies with the dressing first and then incorporate the dry ingredients into the salad. The croutons/seeds/nuts will bind to the veggies better and distribute more evenly throughout the salad.
Another tip – candied nuts will take any salad from 0-60 in less than 5 seconds. Throw strips of grilled chicken into the mix, and you got yourself a meal!
Growing up, I hated peas. I thought they smelled weird and tasted even weirder. However, as I’ve gotten older and my palate has matured, my anti-pea stance has changed, in fact it’s completely reversed. Peas provide such a meaty and almost buttery essence to any dish, while also packing a punch of protein and fiber, that I’ve grown quite fond of this little green super food.
All that said, the same ol’ boiled peas or split pea soup ain’t gonna cut it. I need something more creative to keep my interest and during a recent visit to Nando’s Peri Peri Restaurant, I found my answer. The Portuguese-South African fusion restaurant specializes in robustly seasoned, flame-grilled chicken, yet it was their unassuming side dish of Macho Peas that really wowed me.
After some internet research and recipe testing, I settled on a recipe that almost perfectly replicates Nando’s peas.
Start by boiling 1 lb. of frozen petite green peas. Strain them. Toss them with 2 tbsp. of butter, until butter is melted and fully incorporated into the peas.
Next, roughly chop a generous cup of flat leaf parsley.
Separate 1 cup of peas, set aside. Add parsley and 1 heaping tbsp. of crushed red pepper to the buttered peas. Season with salt and pepper.
Using an immersion blender, blend parsley, peas, crushed red pepper until they reach a semi-smooth consistency. Incorporate the whole peas back into the mashed peas. Serve.
These peas are a perfect complement to any grilled chicken or grilled fish entree, and their unique flavor will amuse any diner.
Two weeks before Christmas, my roommates and I hosted a Christmas Beer Exchange. Each guest was required to bring a 6-pack of his or her choice, a stipulation that D.C. yuppies are more than happy to comply with. The variety of unique, high quality beers at the party made it a success.
Unfortunately, I can’t quite say the same for the food. We made a fondue spread, savory and sweet, with numerous little foods for dipping. It was ambitious and in theory, a great idea. However, the fondue hardened a bit, the dipping items got a little stale and at the end of the night we had a significant amount of leftovers. It was an honest effort, but just didn’t quite work.
One food item, however, bucked the trend that night.
As a supplement to the fondue, we baked about 100 frozen pigs-in-a-blanket. Within minutes of setting them out, they were gone. We baked more. Again, within minutes, gone. Beyond the annoyance that I was only able to get my hands on one, it was a reminder that simple classics are real crowd pleasers especially when beer is involved.
Following this experience, I felt compelled to learn how to make pigs-in-a-blanket myself. Frozen foods are great for convenience, but nothing beats homemade dough and, of course, Lit’l Smokies.
As a departure from the typical, biscuity dough typical of pigs-in-a-blanket, I decide to marry delicious Lit’l Smokies with a pretzel “blanket.”
The results were nothing short of epic.
Having never made pretzels before, I adapted my dough recipe from the German Soft Pretzel Sticks from Food & Wine Magazine. I prepared the dough, hand-rolled small strips and wrapped each Lit’l Smoky. Similar to bagels, pretzels are boiled before they’re baked. I was hesitant to include this step in the process, unsure of how boiling the Lit’l Smoky would affect its texture and flavor. But, no problems arose.
I brushed the pretzel piggies with egg wash, sprinkled them with sea salt and baked each batch for 8-10 minutes, until they turned a deep (but not burnt) brown.
I paired the magnificent treat with a spicy mustard for dipping, seen at top. Again, they were gone in minutes.
If you’re hosting a game-watching party or just looking for a great snack for your next social event, these piggies will please any crowd.
A wise man once said, “Give me a mandolin and I’ll give you chips.”
Well folks, on 11/11/11 the world did not end.
However, the storied phenomenon did result in one very, very significant event – my 22nd birthday.
It was a great birthday on several accounts, but particularly for my kitchen. Among my various shiny new toys, I received my long-awaited mandolin! This paper-thin-slicing, waffle-fry-making, julienne-cutting machine has been on my wish list for quite some time. So obviously, I put it to work immediately.
Given the season, sweet potatoes seemed like the perfect veggie to break in the mandolin. Side note for other mandolin novices – potatoes are also a good starter veggie for the mandolin due to their density and size.
These Thyme-Garlic Sweet Potato Chips are a heavenly fall treat, something that would pair perfectly with that post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwich.
Start with the following ingredients:
- 1-2 sweet potatoes
- 1 bunch fresh thyme, de-stemmed and finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons Sea Salt
- 2 tablespoons cracked black pepper
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 4-6 cups canola oil
Whether you’re using mandolin, food processor or good old fashioned knife, you need to thinly slice the sweet potatoes. Paper-thin is preferred. Leave the skin on for added texture and an earthier flavor. Place the sweet potato slices in a bowl with water, just enough to cover them. This will prevent any browning. Set aside.
Heat the canola oil on high.
Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, mix the thyme, salt, pepper and garlic powder until evenly distributed. Set aside.
Now, it’s time to fry. You’ll want to fry your chips in batches according to the size of the pan. If you fry too many at once, the chips will crowd or change the temperature of the oil and not fry properly.
To avoid any of the above issues, I suggest working in smaller batchers. Using a slotted spoon, carefully place 7-10 slices in the hot oil. Fry each side for about 30 seconds. Using the same slotted spoon, remove from the oil and place on a paper-towel-lined plate. Repeat, until all slices have been fried.
Toss the hot chips with the spice mixture until they are evenly coated.
Line a basket or bowl with wax paper. Add chips. Serve immediately.
Ahhh… Thanksgiving. What a wonderful holiday. Every year I look forward to the spread of turkey, ham, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, rolls… and of course, STUFFING.
Of all the glorious foods on the Thanksgiving table, stuffing takes the cake. Or should I say, takes the turkey?
Although I consider myself a staunch Thanksgiving purist, I have tweaked my stuffing recipe slightly this year to boost its utility and give my plate full of food a little more finesse.
These Stuffin’ Muffins are a heavenly treat that nestles beautifully on the plate.
Let’s get started!
First, gather your key ingredients, seen here. One ingredient not seen here – an egg. A note about the bread – a crustier bread will produce a better stuffing. Try whole grain, sourdough or even Jewish rye.
Next, cube the bread.
Dice the apples (store them in water until the last minute to avoid browning) and celery.
Pre-heat the oven to 400°.
Remove sausage from casing. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon until it’s completely crumbled.
Once sausage is thoroughly cooked through, add the celery, apples, dried cranberries to pan. Sauté for 5 minutes.
Stir in Cream of Celery soup. Sauté for 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat.
Add the cubed bread and stir until all ingredients are evenly incorporated.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg. Add the egg to the stuffing mix. This will help the ingredients bind as they bake.
In a muffin pan, fill each muffin cup with a heaping spoonful of stuffing mix.
Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove muffins from oven and let sit for 15 minutes.
Pair with a salad of field greens, red onion and white wine vinaigrette (seen at top).
Four years ago, I vividly recall eating The Trachten Burger at Tonic, a restaurant/bar on GW’s Foggy Bottom campus. Now, don’t get me wrong, Tonic was never a shining gem of my college eating experience. It was more of a default stop that was fancy enough to satisfy your restaurant fix, and convenient enough to tolerate the terrible service. However, The Trachten Burger was something special. The burger was named after the famed former GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg who transformed the image of GW from a cultureless, urban campus to a competitive, spirited, East Coast academic powerhouse. True to its name, the burger was big, bold and transformative. A quarter pounder patty with swiss cheese, orange cole slaw (I believe from the addition of Russian dressing), lettuce, tomatoes and red onions. It was the first burger I ever had featuring the cole slaw + beef combination. The tangy slaw and lush patty were enough to whip me right out of the midterm doldrums.
Sadly, Tonic no longer offers The Trachten Burger. And at the risk of implying that correlation does equal causation, I will say that I’ve never had a pleasant experience at the restaurant since. The menu is now void of any GW flare, which represents a tragic missed opportunity in my opinion.
So imagine my joy when I saw that Whole Foods Foggy Bottom was sponsoring a GW-themed burger competition. The winning burger (shown above) was the Thurston Fix – chorizo/beef patty with colby and cheddar cheese, fried onions, roasted red peppers, tater tots and a fried egg. While I would venture to guess that the winning combo defies certain laws of physics (sounds messy!) – I approve!
I’d like to other eateries local to GW embrace their main clientele in the same way that Whole Foods has. Whether through promotions like the above burger competition, or other GW-themed menu items, there’s an array of creative options for any restaurant to incorporate into its menu. A few options come to mind:
- Chernak Chowda – Robert Chernak is a bright and encouraging GW admin, known to occasionally adorn Ugg Boots. His Boston roots and obvious winter-weather fashion sense make him the perfect inspiration for a New England chowder recipe.
- The S4 – Standing for Sesno’s Seasonal, Sustainable Selection, this menu item earns its name from the prolific GW SMPA Director Frank Sesno, an acclaimed journalist and professor specializing in issues related to energy, climate and sustainability. The seasonal, locally sourced S4, if it were served today, would feature breaded free-range chicken and apple/cabbage slaw stuffed between two slices of Magnolia Bread Company’s Broa bread, sweet potato chips on the side.
- The Gelman Sampler – After a night of studying in the hot, smelly, crowded library, this platter of fried goodies including (but not limited to) fried potato balls, fried zucchini spears, fried shrimp and fried chicken. This all served with assorted dipping mayos. Pitcher of Yuengling included!