Creamy roasted tomato soup

THIS IS NOT ONE OF MY GRANDMA’S RECIPES. At least, not that I can recall. Rather, this is something I just whipped up for lunch after having been inspired by a similar recipe posted on Pioneer Woman’s blog. I read it and thought to myself, Self? You have everything in the house right now to make this soup, and you have two ripe tomatoes, too. Why don’t you roast those maters and use that instead of tomato paste?

So that’s just what I did.

Just like in my last post for green turkey chili, this isn’t so much a recipe as it is a description of how I did it. Soup recipes are very forgiving – they practically beg for the cook to improvise.

FIRST: I sliced two ripe tomatoes in half and cut out the hard center. I didn’t totally scoop them out. I placed cut side up on foil on a cookie sheet, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt, and placed in a 275 degree oven for about 2 hours. It should have been longer, but my inspiration didn’t happen until mid-morning and I wanted this for lunch. I also would have used exclusively these, if I’d had enough tomatoes in the house. But this was a use-whatever’s-in-the-kitchen exercise. If I were making it with just these, I probably would have needed 7-10 tomatoes.

(A note on roasted tomatoes. If you haven’t done this before, you totally should. Roasting intensifies the flavor. And makes your kitchen smell great. Depending on how long you cook them, you can use them in pasta sauces, or as a substitute for tomato paste. You can make them ahead and store in your fridge, too. Check this feature on 12-hour tomatoes from the Washington Post and bookmark or Pin it for reference next summer when you’re all, what do I do with all these tomatoes??)

NEXT: I peeled and finely diced a carrot, diced half an onion, cut up four of those mini sweet bell peppers (yellow, red, and orange), and coarsely chopped 4-5 garlic cloves. I tossed that into a saucepan with maybe 1/4 cup olive oil (PW used OO + butter) and sauteed over med-low heat for maybe 10 minutes. Then I tossed in my four roasted tomato halves and stirred them around for a few minutes. Next, I opened a 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes and tossed them in, along with 3/4 of a can of water and a heaping teaspoon of chicken bullion. (PW used vegetable stock, but I didn’t have any of that. Those desiring a vegetarian soup could easily sub vegetable stock here.) Lastly, I added a generous sprinkle of Italian seasoning blend, because it’s January and I don’t have fresh basil, but if I did, I totally would have added some sliced basil. Because, mmmmm basil. Oh, and a pinch of sea salt. You could add black pepper, or even a pinch of cayenne.

I turned up the heat to med-high, covered it, and let it boil for like 15-20 minutes. Then, I removed it from the heat and pureed it with my stick blender. (I love my stick blender. Do you have one? If not, you could also let the soup cool slightly, then puree it in your blender. Or, just get yourself one. You won’t regret it. I have this one, except mine isn’t two speeds.) I gently whirred it until it was smooth-ish – not as smooth as the canned tomato soup, but no actual chunks.

Lastly, I like my tomato soup creamy, so I stirred in some half and half. Cream would have been better, but like I said, this was an exercise in making lunch from what was already here. And OK, fine, I admit it – I also added a pat of butter. Because, mmmmm butter.

PW served hers with homemade parmesan crostini, which sounds great, except that I had neither the cheese nor the bread to make them. Croutons right outta the bag would have been good, or, you know – saltines. I had a cup and a half, then I scooped out another bowl, and there’s about enough left for one more small cup. So, it’s not a big recipe. But it was just what the doctor ordered on a chilly, rainy January Monday:

This soup runs circles around that congealed stuff from a can.
This soup runs circles around that congealed stuff from a red can.

 

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Apricot Kolachi (Kolache)

THIS IS NOT technically my grandma’s recipe, but I still consider it a traditional one in my family. This one is was introduced to me by my cousin, Linda, with whom I was fortunate to have shared Grandma Losch.  It’s a cream cheese and butter pastry with apricot filling, and lots and lots of powdered sugar. Just a few ingredients, but so big on taste.

Linda is no stranger to the kitchen; I always admired her culinary skills. But of all the things I remember coming out of Linda’s kitchen, these made a strong impression. She made these unspeakably delicious treats each year around Christmastime and always delivered a plateful to our house.  I would selfishly inhale most of them, then ask for more.  I vowed as a teen to learn how to make these, and all but demanded Linda share the recipe.  I’m glad I did, because there have been more than two hours of asphalt between Linda and me for the past 20 years, which means she would have had to undertake Herculean efforts to deliver my annual plate of Kolachi.

Interestingly, I Googled “kolachi” and what turned up didn’t come close to resembling the version I make.  Searching for “Apricot Kolaches” turns up a yeast bread with an apricot filling -not even close. I persisted with variations of the search term, and finally found a similar recipe here, called Apricot Kolacky (spelling variation) that’s close, but not quite… what I remember.

So, here’s what I grew up calling KOLACHI.

INGREDIENTS

1 stick (1/4 lb) butter, softened
1 cup flour
1 8-oz brick of cream cheese, softened
2 cups (approx.) confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
1 can of Solo brand Apricot filling

EQUIPMENT

Pastry cloth
Cookie sheets (optional: parchment paper)
A shaker for the powdered sugar

In a medium bowl, with hand mixer, cream together butter and cream cheese. Add flour and mix until combined. Form into small balls about the size of a small walnut and refrigerate these for at least a few hours or overnight.  (Recipe makes 24-30.)  Remove them from the ‘fridge and let them sit at room temperature for almost one hour before working.

Dump confectioners’ sugar on the center of a pastry cloth. Roll each ball in the sugar…

…then flatten into a circle, using your hands (keep ’em covered in sugar) or even better, the flat bottom of a glass that’s about the diameter of an average wine glass. But don’t use a wine glass; they’re not flat enough. I use this one:

Place discs on either an ungreased cookie sheet, or one lined with parchment (optional).

Onto the center of each disc, place about 1/2 teaspoon of apricot filling.

Learn from my mistakes: you absolutely must use the Solo brand filling. Don’t try apricot jam or jelly; it melts. Experiment with Solo’s different flavors if you must, but do – DO! – use their brand. Not every store carries it; but look for it. Trust me – it matters.

Bring the sides of the disc up to the center and pinch them. (Again, keeping your fingers covered in powdered sugar.) They’ll separate when baked.

Place in preheated, 275 (yes, that’s two-hundred seventy-five) degree oven and bake for about 25 minutes, until the pastry begins to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and shake some powdered sugar on them while they’re hot.  After ten minutes, transfer them to a cooling rack, then when they’re all the way cool, shake even MORE powdered sugar onto these. To store, cover loosely, lest they get soggy.

They’re a little bit tedious to make, but oh so worth the effort.

Judy McCormick’s Pepper Slaw

She’s not my grandma, but she is the grandmother of my kids, and that qualifies her to contribute a featured recipe to my blog.  Judy – the kids call her Bammy J – is my husband’s mother.  Her recipe for pepper slaw (or pepper cabbage) is perfect. The finished product reminds me of the version made by both my grandmothers. 

You really can’t make this without a food processor. If you’re looking for an excuse to dig waaay back into that cupboard – you know the one – and dust off your Cuisinart, this is surely the one.

This is a sweet-and-sour slaw, not a creamy slaw. The recipe makes a huge batch, but don’t worry – it “keeps” in the ‘fridge for days and days.

(Note: for an account of my experience actually making it one Saturday morning, click here.)

INGREDIENTS

1 small head of cabbage (as if there is any such thing – aren’t they all at least 3 pounds?)

1 small onion

1 carrot (or a handful of baby-cut carrots)

1 green bell pepper

1/2 cup cider vinegar

1/2 cup water

1.5 cups granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon celery seed (not salt – SEED.)

1 teaspoon mustard seed (has to be seed!)

DIRECTIONS:

Make the dressing first: Place vinegar, water and sugar in a saucepan and heat until boiling, stirring to make sure sugar dissolves. (Or, place in a microwave bowl and cook about 3 minutes, stirring every minute or two to dissolve the sugar.)  Set aside to cool.

Commence to choppin’: Cut the onion into chunks, toss into your food processor, and pulse several times until finely-chopped. Remove and place into a large bowl. Do the same thing with the green pepper, and then the carrot. (Or get crazy and do the carrot first, then the green pepper, then the onion. It doesn’t matter. Just so you do them separately.)

finely-chopped onion, green bell pepper and carrot
finely-chopped onion, green bell pepper and carrot

Remove the first few outer leaves of the cabbage so that the lighter-colored ones remain. Cut the cabbage into chunks and discard the hardest part at the base. Fill your food processor about half-full with the cabbage, then pulse maybe 6-8 times until it is very finely shredded. (This is not a stringy, sliced slaw, it’s an extremely finely chopped one.) Remove to the bowl, then repeat until all the cabbage is finely chopped. (Fish out any larger pieces and rechop or discard or just munch on ’em. They’re tasty.)

finely chopped cabbage.
finely chopped cabbage.

Mixing it up: Now that all your veggies are finely chopped and in the bowl, add the salt, mustard seed and celery seed.  Then pour the cooled dressing over top and stir and stir and stir some more until the veggies, spices and dressing are thoroughly mixed.  Refrigerate for at least a couple of hours to allow flavors to blend. Stir before serving.

It's Pepper Slaw!
It's Pepper Slaw!

MAKES: Enough to feed your entire neighborhood, a congregation of Methodists, all your relatives (even your funny uncle), a college football team and all the coaches, or a whole bunch of mourners.

Pig Stomach (Hog Maw)

Folks, don’t judge before you read about it. Try to stay with me for this one.  I remember my Grandma Losch making this, usually when Uncle John had butchered a pig.  It’s called Pig Stomach, also known as Hog Maw. Now, don’t get all grossed out and wrinkle your nose, because the stomach is really only the vessel inside which is roasted a savory mixture of seasoned meat and vegetables that’s really quite tasty. You don’t really eat the stomach part. Think of it as a sausage casing. Check out what Wikipedia has to say about it here.

Now, I don’t actually have my grandma’s recipe for this, so I turned to my friend The Internet to find one. And I got really lucky! Here are a couple of sites that have good descriptions and recipes for this traditional Pennsylvania Dutch recipe:

Teri’s Kitchen – she has a great recipe for Pig’s Stomach that looks to be very close to what I remember.

AllRecipes has a version of it here.

Lastly, I found a nice story by Donna Godfrey about her grandmother’s list of food required to feed the many folks who would be involved in a Mennonite or Amish barn-raising. At the end of the story is her grandma’s recipe for Pig’s Stomach, which she called Dutch Goose.

I also searched for images and found a great set, taken by a fellow Central Pennsylvanian. Thanks to cthoyes for letting me borrow these photos so you can get an idea of what this looks like:

If you don’t happen to be butchering your own pig (and really, nowadays, who has time?), you need to track down a pig stomach.  There really is no substitute. Where I live, that probably means I would first have to find a butcher shop, because I don’t think they have this at Safeway in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.  However, in regions where people would not look at you funny when you ask for this, you may be able to snag one at a grocery store with a good meat department. This fellow found one at a great grocery store in Central PA, Karns Market:

Pig Stomach, a.k.a. Hog Maw
Pig Stomach, a.k.a. Hog Maw

Then, you make the filling, which contains bulk ground sausage, potatoes, and other yummy-good things:

The Filling
The Filling

Then, you put the filling into the stomach – not YOUR stomach, silly, that comes later – the raw pig stomach. Think of it like stuffing a giant sausage casing:

Pig stomach, Ready to bake
Pig stomach, Ready to bake

Then you bake it and it gets all juicy and yummy good. For Realz.

Just slice 'n' eat!
Just slice 'n' eat!

The thing about this dish is that, even though I remember my grandma making it, I myself have never made it and I sure don’t know anyone my age who has made it.  It’s definitely a regional thing and may in many ways be a generational thing. My children may never eat this.  If nothing else, I have tried to capture it here so that you know a little bit about where I come from, a little piece of the history of rural Central Pennsylvania.

If you have memories of eating – or making – this dish, I would appreciate reading about it. Please leave a comment below.

Angel food cake

angel-food-cake-recipe

Moms love to cook for their sons.  Curt’s mom once provided me with the recipe for her sour cherry pie – “Curt’s favorite” – along with the already-made crumb topping.  My own boys are starting to love some of the things I make – chicken pot pie, for one – and you’d  better believe that’s the stuff that’s in heavy rotation now.

Well, my own dad’s mom was no exception – she made this Angel Food Cake at his request, or even when he didn’t request it, just because she knew how much he loved it. Of course, the rest of us loved it, too.

This cake was most often served with peaches or strawberries in sauce. I also remember that it was so tall and fluffy that it had to be cut with a very sharp, serrated knife. Otherwise it’ll squish down and that defeats the whole thing.

I haven’t personally tried making this, but I am reminded now that I should.  Meantime, I will reprint her recipe here for the record. If you make it, check back and leave a comment to let me know how it went.

SARA’S ANGEL FOOD CAKE

 

2 cups egg whites (Grandma didn’t say how many eggs it takes to make 2 cups. Probably the better part of a dozen!)

1½ cup all-purpose flour

2 cups granulated sugar

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

 

  1. Sift together one cup of sugar with the flour.
  2. Beat the egg whites until they are frothy. (Much easier with an electric mixer, but knock yourself out if you have a hand-crank egg beater.) Add cream of tartar and vanilla extract and continue beating until peaks form.
  3. By hand using a spoon, gradually add the remaining 1 cup of sugar and beat, then add the sugar/flour mixture, gently folding into the eggs in 4 equal parts.
  4. Pour batter into an angel food cake pan.  (Oh, crap, this is a show-stopper. I don’t own one of these. Therefore, step #1 should probably be, run to Target and buy an angel food cake pan.)
  5. Bake at 375 degrees until browned and feels “springy” to the touch.

Admittedly, Grandma’s card was a little skimpy on the details. Because I lack the direct knowledge that would be immensely helpful in posting this recipe (but why let that stop me?), I had to turn to the internet to fill in the blanks. Alton Brown’s recipe from The Food Network looks good, and although the ingredients are different, I have to believe the technique is similar. His helpful details include:

 

  • Use 12 of the freshest eggs you can find, because they are easier to separate, and they should be close to room temperature
  • Food-process the sugar so that it’s super-fine
  • He suggests cake flour because of its finer texture
  • He also includes instructions for testing for doneness, and requires that you leave the cake upside down to cool for an hour in the pan before attempting to remove it from the pan.
  • The tube pan should be UNGREASED! I would have thought grease, and Grandma’s card didn’t specify. Alton (and others) say no grease, so there you have it.

LOOKS LIKE:

Picture by musicpb on Flickr
Picture by musicpb on Flickr