Thursday, September 30, 2021

Fresh Tomato Soup

Here we are at the end of September. The tomatoes are ripening in multiples a day. I only planted two plants this year. The Black Krim has produced at least a half dozen super sized tomatoes and there are a few more ripening now, but the Early Girl plant has produced dozens and dozens of tomatoes. They are smaller and their flavor is milder, but they are perfect for putting in a green salad. I also love to slice them, spread the slices on a nice plate, douse them with good olive oil and balsamic vinegar, then sprinkle with pepper, a bit of salt, and some chiffonade of fresh basil. So good.

Since I have such a bounty of tomatoes, I decided to make fresh tomato soup for lunch. My Dad had a recipe from 1977 in which you simmer the peeled, seeded, and diced tomatoes in butter, then puree them in a blender before adding seasonings and flour for thickening, water and white wine or chicken broth. 

I used that recipe as a jumping off place. Before I simmered the tomatoes, I gently cooked a whole onion, diced, in olive oil, adding a minced garlic clove toward the end of cooking. I added the tomatoes to that with some non-dairy butter, but, although I peeled them, I didn't seed them and only cut each into six wedges. I used a hand blender to smooth out the cooked vegetables but it didn't make the soup smooth, just smoother. The seasonings were the same, but I put in a can of chicken broth instead of water and chicken broth. I also stirred in a few leaves of basil that I had minced. I let it all simmer then made a slurry of flour and water which I stirred in and let it all simmer a bit more until it thickened just a little. Eating it was like tasting the essence of summer. It's also healthy...only 85 calories a serving.

I'm going to give you Dad's recipe, but you can always change things up as I did to make it your own.

Fresh Tomato Soup

2 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced (See note)
3 tablespoons butter or margarine or olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon fresh-ground pepper
1 cup water
1/2 cup dry white wine or or vegetable broth or chicken broth - canned or home made

In large saucepan, simmer tomatoes in butter about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and rub through a wire strainer or whip smooth in a blender.
Return to saucepan. Sprinkle in the flour, salt, sugar and pepper, mixing well. Add water, and wine or chicken broth. Heat to simmering. Garnish with pat of butter or crisp crackers or thinly sliced fresh basil.
Makes 6 servings - about 85 calories per serving.

To peel tomatoes, bring a pot of water to boiling, only filling pot half way. With a sharp knife, cut and x on the 'bottom' of the tomato (the end opposite of the stem end). Place the tomatoes into the boiling water and cook a minute or two until the skin near the x starts to separate. Remove tomatoes from boiling water and peel from the x. Peel will come off easily - if it doesn't, return the tomato to the boiling water. To seed, cut in half horizontally and squeeze out the seed and gel. Remove stem end at center and dice.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Early Fall Fruitfulness in a Tart

Years and years ago when our son was pre-kindergarten age, he and his friends would roam the hill having fun in simple ways. We had an old telephone van that was beyond repair and became a favorite play area. It was at different times a fort, spaceship, racing car...and site for what Max called 'a feast'. The feast was usually held about this time of year when there were plenty of things they could collect to eat together. One time he showed me a serving: a large grapevine leaf held a half dozen or so ripe blackberries, a couple of walnuts that had been smashed enough with a rock that you could pry out the nut meat, and an apple from the Gravenstein apple tree. A nice snack from the land.

I was thinking about that when I dreamed up today's tart. I had collected a few ripe quince and a large handful of blackberries. I already had some of those early apples in a basket and a round of pastry dough ready. It took a little while, but soon I had the peeled, cored and sliced quince poaching, the dough into a tart pan, lined with parchment and filled with pie weights ready to pre-bake for 10 minutes or so, and the apples peeled and cored and sliced, ready to add to the tart.

Usually I make a frangipane filling with almond meal, but this time I wanted to use walnuts, just like those feasts of long ago. I took half the sugar needed for the frangipane and added it to the walnut pieces in the food processor...yes, you do need a food processor to make this recipe as written, but it will still taste great if you substitute already ground almond meal. A quick run in the food processor, followed by pulsing until it was all finely ground but not paste, and the walnut meal was ready to be added to the frangipane, along with some warm spices like allspice and cloves.

The fun part, aside from eating it, is placing the fruit in a nice pattern. I put drained poached quince slices on the outer edges, then apple slices, then blackberries in the middle and in a few places within the apple slices that had space.

This made a delicious tart, full of the fruits of the land in September here in Northern California. If I were to make it again, I'd add a row of blackberries all around the outer edge of the tart...but I should have remembered that Max loved his blackberries from the time he was a toddler. Their sweet/tart juiciness added a lot to the sweet quince and apples.

Early Fall Fruit Frangipane of Walnuts Tart

makes one 9-inch tart

1 medium quince, peeled, cored, and cut into slices
2 cups water
1/4 cup sugar
1-inch square (roughly) piece of orange zest/peel with no white pith

dough for 1-crust pie crust
parchment circle and pie weights

3 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon orange extract
2 large eggs
1 cup walnut pieces
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
dash ground cloves

1 medium apple (preferably Gravenstein, but any cooking apple OK), peeled, cored, and cut into slices

1/4 cup ripe fresh blackberries

Put the sugar (1/4 cup) in a small saucepan with the water and piece of orange zest. Bring to a boil and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add the prepared quince, stir, return to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook, stirring now and then, for 1 hour. Remove from heat, uncover, and let cool. When cool, drain the fruit over a large bowl or measuring cup. Reserve the liquid for another use (it's great for flavoring iced tea, for instance). Set aside the fruit. If any of the fruit is left over after making the tart, it makes a great addition to muffins, pancakes or waffles. You can poach a larger amount of fruit to make sure you have some for that if you like.

About a half hour before the quince are done, put the rolled out pie dough into the tart pan with removable bottom. fold extra dough down into inside of pan to make a double wall. Press dough into ridges of pan. Place in the freezer for 15 minutes. When frozen for that amount of time, line with parchment and fill parchment with pie weights. Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 10-12 minutes until light golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool completely on a wire rack. Remove pie weights and parchment. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl cream the butter and the rest of the sugar (1/3 cup) along with the salt and orange extract. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. 

In a food processor, add the final 1/3 cup sugar and the walnuts. Process for 30 seconds, then pulse until the mixture is light and has only very small pieces of walnut...meal size. Add the allspice and cloves and pulse a couple of times to mix the spices in. Add the walnut mixture to the butter mixture and beat until just combined. Pour mixture into the prepared tart shell and spread to even top.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the prepared fruit, including the apple slices, blackberries, and poached quince slices, in a nice pattern by pushing the fruit into the walnut mixture.

Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until top is golden brown and middle looks set. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack before removing sides. Serve warm or cool. 

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Babes Bake Wool Bread

You read the title right...this bread is designed to look like rolls of yarn...thick yarn in my case. It's a fun bake brought to us by our wonderful kitchen of the month Judy at Judy's Gross Eats.

I guess this idea of shaping bread to look like wool has been going around the internet recently, but somehow I missed it. Still, I do love milk bread (although I substitute soy milk and non-dairy margarine for the dairy products) and Sweetie loves it even more. I wasn't actually sure if soy milk would work for this recipe but it does! The dough needed a bit more flour than the recipe called for but once it came together, the dough was easy to work with and it bakes up into fluffy, soft, tender, mildly milky rolls. I followed the King Arthur Baking Company recipe that Judy had given us except for those dairy substitutions.

I had some cinnamon sugar in the cupboard so it was easy to use it to fill the rolls after I had shaped them with a bench scraper and before I rolled them up. Be sure to go to Judy's blog to see the will help with your shaping. I used a cake pan and they fit perfectly.

Do consider becoming a Bread Baking Buddy...this is an easy and fun bake and delicious eating! It looks impressive, too, in case you have someone you want to impress with baked goods. To be a Buddy, just bake the recipe, take a photo, and send Judy an email with the photo and a brief description of your bake, plus a URL of your post if you have one. Sept. 29th is the deadline, so you have some time.

Be sure to visit the other Babes on their blogs to see what they have done with this fun bread. Thanks to Elizabeth for again making this lovely badge, as she does every month.

Wool Rolls Bread

Japanese Milk Bread recipe from King Arthur Baking Company



·                     3 tablespoons (43g) water

·                     3 tablespoons (43g) whole milk

·                     2 tablespoons (14g) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour


·                     2 1/2 cups (298g) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour

·                     2 tablespoons (14g) Baker's Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk

·                     1/4 cup (50g) sugar

·                     1 teaspoon (6g) salt

·                     1 tablespoon instant yeast

·                     1/2 cup (113g) whole milk

·                     1 large egg

·                     4 tablespoons (57g) unsalted butter, melted


1.      To make the tangzhong: Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan, and whisk until no lumps remain.

2.      Place the saucepan over low heat and cook the mixture, whisking constantly, until thick and the whisk leaves lines on the bottom of the pan, about 3 to 5 minutes.

3.      Transfer the tangzhong to a small mixing bowl or measuring cup and let it cool to lukewarm.

4.      To make the dough: Weigh your flour; or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess. Combine the tangzhong with the remaining dough ingredients, then mix and knead — by mixer or bread machine — until a smooth, elastic dough forms; this could take almost 15 minutes in a stand mixer.

5.      Shape the dough into a ball, and let it rest in a lightly greased bowl, covered, for 60 to 90 minutes, until puffy but not necessarily doubled in bulk.

6.      Gently deflate the dough and divide it into four equal pieces; if you have a scale each piece will weigh between 170g and 175g.

7.      Flatten each piece of dough into a 5" x 8" rectangle, then fold the short ends in towards one another like a letter. Flatten the folded pieces into rectangles again (this time about 3" x 6") and, starting with a short end, roll them each into a 4" log.

8.      Place the logs in a row of four — seam side down and side by side — in a lightly greased 9" x 5" loaf pan.

9.      Cover the loaf and allow it to rest/rise for 40 to 50 minutes, until puffy.

10.  Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

11.  To bake the bread: Brush the loaf with milk and bake it for 30 to 35 minutes, until it's golden brown on top and a digital thermometer inserted into the center reads at least 190°F.

12.  Remove the loaf from the oven and cool it in the pan until you can transfer it safely to a rack to cool completely.

13.  Store leftover bread, well wrapped, at cool room temperature for 5 to 7 days; freeze for longer storage.

Here are some notes from Judy:

There is some debate about the origins of Wool Roll Bread.  It was popularized by a Malaysian baker (Apron), but another blogger in Vietnam had demonstrated bánh mì cuộn len (which translates to wool roll bread).  It is also similar to some Middle Eastern and European breads.

 Basically, it’s a soft, pillowy yeast dough stuffed with a sweet or savory filling, then sliced, rolled and stacked in a round pan, so as the dough rises and bakes, the final result resembles rolls of wool or thick yarn.  My version is not stuffed, because I couldn’t decide on a filling, but please feel free to go wild.  Most of the bakers use the milk bread/tangzhong method for the yeast dough, but there are other versions, such as sourdough or egg-free (see other links below).  I used a basic tangzhong dough from King Arthur Baking Company.

 Technique is the key component.  Feel free to search the Internet for YouTube videos that show all the possibilities.  Here is my shaping technique:

 Prepare pan:  You can use a bundt pan, cake pan, or a springform pan, which is what I used.  I greased the bottom and sides, and added a layer of parchment, also greased, to the bottom.

Dough shaping:  Divide the dough into 5 pieces.  Roll each piece into a thin, oblong shape, then, using a sharp object (I used a wobbly pizza cutter), start about 2/3s from the designated top and make 1/8” to ¼” cuts.  

 If you’re using a filling, add it now.   

 Begin rolling from the solid top, ending at the bottom, and carefully place it in the prepared pan.  

 Let the dough rise, brush with milk or egg wash, then bake as directed in the recipe.  Let the bread cool if you can, then enjoy the process of eating it, strand by strand. 

Monday, September 13, 2021

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls Like It Was Mid-Century

One of the cooler weather dishes that I really enjoyed growing up was stuffed cabbage rolls which are cooking in a tomato sauce. Not sure if it was the interesting bit of stuffing the cabbage leaves, or the challenge of keeping them together with toothpicks, even while browning them, of the comfort food aspect of eating them, but I remember them fondly. The leaves are stuffed with a mixture of ground beef and rice, plus a few secret ingredients. Since I can no longer eat beef, I substituted ground turkey and they were still tasty. If you can eat beef, use it because it gives an authentic and totally savory experience.

The hardest part was probably separating the leaves from the head of cabbage because I wanted unbroken leaves and the edges of my cabbage had grown together and didn't want to become individual leaves. The next challenging part was securing the cabbage once rolled with toothpicks so that they didn't unroll. One kinda did, but the others stayed together...I even was able to turn a couple of them over to brown on both sides! I know, supposed to do that with all of them, but it was fine and the flavor stays the same.

Because you have protein, starch, and some veg all in one dish, you don't have to have a side dish, but a green salad goes well with this meal. Leftovers are even better than the day they are made...must be the onions.

Do try this when you have a yen for a delicious, savory, flavorful meal where you get to play with your food in the making of it.

Stuffed Cabbage in Tomato Sauce 
Serves 6

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 cup cooked rice
1 small onion, chopped
1 teaspoon caraway seed
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 egg
12 whole cabbage leaves
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 cans tomato sauce (8 oz. cans)
¼ cup water
1 can beef consommé or beef broth
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Mix together the ground beef, cooked rice, onion, seasonings and egg in a large bowl. Trim off thickest part of the stem from the cabbage leaves which have been softened with boiling water and drained. Divide meat into 12 portions, wrap each in a leaf, and fasten with wooden toothpicks.

 Brown the cabbage rolls in hot oil. Add tomato sauce and water and stir. Cover; cook slowly over low heat about 40 minutes. Add beef consommé or broth. Remove cabbage rolls; thicken gravy with the cornstarch which you have mixed with at least ¼ cup water. Once gravy thickens, serve with cabbage rolls while both are hot. Serves 6.

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Spicy Bean Bake

I'm in the process of re-doing my family cookbook. It's fun! One of the things I did early on in the renovation was to change the font size to make it smaller. Originally I had it larger for my Mom, but this time around I'm looking at this as a resource for the next generation...and, perhaps, beyond, so I think they can handle a smaller type face.

As a result there is more room for extra recipes. In a kind of serendipity, I also found some recipe cards that had been missing, including some in my Mom's handwriting. One of the recipes was for a baked bean concoction that became popular with the family after I left home and moved to the West coast, so I had to ask Mom for the recipe and now it's in the cookbook. It's called Spicy Bean Bake, but it's not really that spicy. I suspect that my hot sauce loving siblings may add extra heat via sauces that contain things like habanero chilis after it's served. My Mom didn't really care for extra spicy things. You could also make this vegan by leaving out the ham or other meat and the bacon and adding a cup of cooked corn. 

What this recipe does have is a lot of flavor! It's also easy to make and makes a lot. The leftovers were even better than the original dish. Score!

I only made half the recipe, but Sweetie liked it so much that next time I'll make the full amount.,

Spicy Bean Bake

Serves 8-12 

One can 40-oz., baked beans
One can 1-pound, red kidney beans
2 large apples, chopped
1/2 cup raisins
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped bell pepper
3 cups chopped cooked leftover ham, pork or beef
4 slices crumbled crisp bacon
1 cup catsup
1/2 cup pickle relish
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 cup molasses

Mix all ingredients in a 3-quart casserole. Cover and bake in a 250 degrees F. oven about 1 1/2 hours.

Saturday, September 04, 2021

Morning Glory

It's fun to know that you can have a muffin and a flower with the same name...morning glory. At this time of year, the morning glories in my garden are going a little wild, having made their upward climb, some are twining on themselves for support so they can keep going, other are swooping down to attach lower down so they can climb again. I love the flowers...trumpets of pink, magenta, deep purple, pale blue and more. The truth is that they self-seed if not constantly dead-headed and become a weed sometimes, but I love them anyway.

The morning glory muffins are also prolific. One recipe makes a full two dozen muffins...that's a lot! They are filled with all sorts of deliciousness...apples, carrots, pecans, crushed pineapple, coconut, raisins and dried cherries as well as vanilla and spice. The wet ingredients includes apple butter but I found a jar of pumpkin apple butter and decided to use that to welcome in fall now that school is back in session. Since I did that, I also used a bit of pumpkin pie spice along with the cinnamon the recipe calls for. Since my supply of dried cherries was running low, I used some dried currants in their place and that worked well. Seems to me the recipe as written is a takeoff on Hummingbird Cake. 

Between the large quantities (you need two cups shredded carrots and a cup of shredded apple for example) and long list of ingredients, the prep takes a bit of time, but you end up with fragrant, delicious, moist and fairly healthy muffins...and lots of them. Do yourself a favor and make sure you set each and every ingredient on the counter before you start making these because it's easy to miss an ingredient. Better yet, prep and measure everything in advance. That way it will all go together quickly and you'll get the best rise out of the baking soda that is the only rising agent used. 

I removed these from the muffin tins in about 3 minutes after taking them out of the oven and I did have to run a butter knife around the edges on some of them to loosen them. If you stand them on their sides in the muffin cup to finish cooling it saves space and they are sturdy enough to hold their shape, too. 

Do try these delightful muffins. They are great for breakfast but also good for afternoon tea and would be a treat in a school lunch. The recipe came from my family but I suspect that it's been around for a long time. 

Morning Glory Muffins
Makes 2 dozen

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups shredded carrot
1 cup shredded apple
3/4 cups raisins
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup flaked coconut (sweet)
one 8-oz. can crushed pineapple, in juice, drained
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup apple butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 large eggs
2 large egg whites

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Coat 24 (2 dozen) muffin cups with cooking spray or vegetable oil.
Combine flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
Stir in carrot, apple, raisins, cherries, pecans, coconut and pineapple and make a well in the center of the mixture when combined.

In another bowl combine the oil, apple butter, vanilla, eggs and egg whites. Stir with a whisk. 
Add oil mixture to flour mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon or silicon spatula until just moist/barely combined.

Spoon the batter evenly in prepared pans, filling about 2/3 full.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 25 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center.

Remove from pan at once and cool on a wire rack. Yields 2 dozen.

NOTE: Can be stored, airtight, in freezer for 1  month. Wrap in foil and reheat at 300 degrees F.