Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I Used To Be About Knitting

Things knitters frequently have in common, besides knitting:
Crocheting, spinning and/or weaving (duh)
Or both
Cooking and/or eating

We are, by and large, crafty pet-loving foodies. Would you say that's relatively accurate? I think a love of animals is innate in one who loves fiber, and love of food is innate in one whose natural proclivities tend toward the handmade. Makes absolute sense.

Since I haven't knit anything I can show off but I really want to post again before the new year, and I figure an off-topic post would be somehow preferable to disappearing from the blog for weeks on end YET AGAIN...and also so I can say happy new year and thanks to the folks who have hung around and read this blog despite my waning presence...I wanted to post another recipe, this one pretty simple and just good winter (spring summer fall) comfort food. I whacked together this soup last night and have eaten it three times since then, and it's only just after lunch. You do the math.

(Also, if this food stuff interests you at all, I stumbled onto a wicked food blog, Alinea At Home, which is based around this woman who's cooking every recipe from the somewhat-imposing Alinea cookbook at home. I got this cookbook for Christmas and am anxiously awaiting a surprise trip to Chicago to hit Alinea - it's coming any day now, I'm sure, someone's just waiting for the right moment to send me plane tickets and my reservation confirmation for the Four Seasons - so this blog is a wonderful read for me. She's also FRIGGING HILARIOUS and I'm going to find out where she lives, show up on her front door, give her a big hug, and then plop myself down at her kitchen table and wait to be served. Oh, she did the French Laundry cookbook too.

Without further ado, something much less impressive than Alinea or French Laundry but tasty nonetheless:

Smoky Creamy Tomato Soup

2 big honkin' cans of whole tomatoes (32 oz?), undrained*
1/2 - 1 tbsp smoked paprika, depending on your love of smoke/spice**
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup sherry or sweet vermouth, or a few tablespoons of olive oil***
1/4 - 1/2 cup heavy cream (depending on how creamy you like your soup - and cream is optional)
sea salt****
fresh ground pepper

I am incapable of not adding too much unnecessary narrative to my recipes, so here's stuff on all those asterisks:

* My favorite canned tomatoes to use are the Muir Glen Fire Roasted Organic Tomatoes. That fire roasted thing adds a whole other dimension of flavor, they're amazing.

** Smoked paprika = not regular paprika. Regular paprika does little other than add color, and remind me of that Ramona Quimby book I read when I was little, in which paprika was heavily in play when the girls made dinner for their parents and disaster ensued and ever since I've been wary of paprika. I digress....smoked paprika is my New Most Favorite Thing and can be found at specialty stores for an ungodly amount of money, and then subsequently on every shelf you pass in every grocery store every time you go, once you've paid said ungodly amount of money. Lesson from me: check the spanish/mexican food section in your grocery store, the stuff's like two bucks. Also can sometimes be found, incredibly, sandwiched between some washcloths at a Home Goods. Seriously, the cheap smoked paprika is now just mocking me. Smoked paprika comes in varying levels of hotness - I like the hot, Travis would prefer the mild. Meh. Don't like smoky flavors? Screw it, leave out the paprika, it's still a good quick and easy soup.

*** It's for cooking the garlic. I, for one, enjoy cooking with booze. I also like cooking, with booze. So I used the vermouth for cooking, with some vermouth reserved for the cook (wink wink). If you're not a fan of cooking with alcohol, you can use a bit of olive oil to cook your garlic.

**** For added smokiness, I used smoked sea salt. Travis probably wishes I hadn't, but he doesn't care so much for smoky stuff. Use regular salt if you want. I won't give you a hard time. I probably won't even eat your soup. Unless you want me to. I'll send you my address just in case.

Okay, food:

Puree the tomatoes (with the juice from the can) in a blender until smooth and rich in texture. (Learn from me: You may need to do this one can of tomatoes at a time. Shut up, I was really tired, okay?) Pour puree into a large-ish saucepan and heat over medium-high, adding the seasonings (paprika, thyme, oregano, salt, pepper).

While this is cooking, peel three garlic cloves and either mince finely or shmoosh with a garlic press. Heat the olive oil in a small saute pan, or warm a dry pan over medium heat. Add the garlic to the olive oil, or add the garlic to the dry pan and immediately add the sherry or vermouth. Allow to cook, moving the pan constantly so the garlic doesn't burn, for about a minute in the oil or until the sherry/vermouth has reduced by about half. (Lesson from me: don't lean over the pan and inhale all the alcohol. Wooziness ensues.) Add the garlic mixture to the tomato mixture.

Let the soup simmer for a while over medium to medium-low heat, for about ten minutes. Return the soup to a blender and puree again. (Same lesson from me, when will I figure this out: maybe do this in two batches too. What do you expect, I was now tired AND woozy.) Alternatively, if you have a handheld immersion blender, jam that in the pot and hit it.

Now, while the soup is pureeing, I like to add the heavy cream to the empty pot and let it warm a bit. I've found that sometimes when I add the cold cream to warm soup, the soup gets grainy on me. But it's fine to just add the cream. Or don't add it at all, if you're not a creamy soup person. This soup would be good without it, too. Combine the soup and cream, stirring to blend. (Or get going with that immersion blender again. You gotta wash it now anyway, might as well use it twice.)

Serve with crusty bread and some cheddar and apples (and bacon! everything goes with bacon!), and again like that tomorrow, when it'll be even better. Nom nom nom!

Have a very safe and blissfully happy new year, my friends!!