October, 2010 Archive

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

roasted eggplant soup

goat cheese topped eggplant soup

I’ve been doing a spectacular amount of hemming and hawing over this post. There’s the, “Is it too late to talk about eggplants and tomatoes?” question, as it is well into October and eggplants are so… late summery. But there are still a ton of eggplants and tomatoes at the markets, likely due to this warm fall we’ve been having. Although they may not be the perky specimen that first appeared in August, they are absolutely perfect for soup. Then there’s the “Ugh, SOUP” issue wherein I have to admit that I find soup kind of dull. Sure, I’ve got a slew of soup recipes in the archives that I find interesting, but still, the vast majority of soups out there to be either too salty, too watery, cream bombs (I’d rather save my heavy cream to top pie, thank you very much) or to taste like limp, boiled vegetables. And finally, there’s the fact that this soup is excellent the way it is but with endless potential for tweaking, and who wants a slightly unfinished recipe? But then, thank goodness, I said this to myself: “Zzzzz!” and also “pbbbblt!” Because if I put myself to sleep with all of this hand-wringing, I can only imagine how few of you will make it past paragraph one.

ready to roast
roasted

So here’s how this soup began: My mother gushed a couple weeks ago about an eggplant soup from, of all places, a casino in Atlantic City. Eggplant soup! At a casino! Worth talking about! Who knew? And so I dug through my recipe bookmarks and found one from an old Bon Appetit that sounded just right, with a few steps that would save it from many of the aforementioned soup evils. By roasting the eggplant, tomatoes, garlic and onion first, you’d deepen their flavors before throwing them in a stock bath. And although the original recipe called for a whole cup of cream, the head notes suggest you can skip it entirely, although I had no desire to do a silly thing like that. In my experience, it only takes a modicum of cream to make a soup taste especially lush, and that cream can go a long way towards anchoring the flavors that otherwise get a little lost in the … slosh of it all. Too much cream, and the flavors are held at a distance while you drown in richness, and I’d much rather save that for Things That Involve Cheese Or Chocolate.

eggplants, tomatoes, onion and garlic

Continued after the jump »

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

mushroom lasagna

mushroom lasagna

One of the most frequent requests I get is for is to organize a category of recipes that freezes well, or can be packed up and brought to new parents with bigger (er, tinier) things on their agenda than stirring pots. And you’d think I’d be an expert on this, having been in their shoes just one year ago but I never bothered. New York City is not a place where you have to stock your freezer to get a good meal in; we can get literally anything delivered to our door in under an hour, even food that is both healthy and better than I make at home. (Well, almost.) Plus, almost anything that sits in my freezer for more than two weeks smells… freezery. It was hard to summon enthusiasm to store anything worthwhile inside it.

creminis
noodles

But there are few dishes more freezer-friendly than a lasagna, and I love a good one. Unfortunately, it took me a while to find what I considered “good”. Most of the lasagnas I’ve had fall in the American-style ricotta/tomato sauce/mozzarella/ground meat style and I never took to them, finding them both heavy and yet, still dry. So it surprised nobody more than me that I found my lasagna nirvana in the tomato-free béchamel-ed variety, which managed to be light and almost delicate. White sauces are not the kind of thing people associate with a lightweight meal, especially over pasta, but paired with salad this was surprisingly refreshing meal without making us feel like we’d need to bust out the fat pants. Well, most of us, that is.

too many pots

Continued after the jump »

Friday, October 1, 2010

single-crust plum and apple pie

apple and plum pie

Early fall is a ridiculous time to get cooking block. Inspiration is everywhere as nearly everything that could possibly be in season currently is. The markets are flooded with great stuff; summer tomatoes, eggplant, corn and peppers fight for space on tables with apples, pears, greens and winter squash. But somehow — when I’m not playing SuperMom or Good Football Wife or gushing over tiny fall outfits — I’ve been at an impasse. The summer stuff is waning; the last tomatoes I brought home were… rough, to put it nicely. And given that the butternut squash and collards are the last bits of fresh produce we’ll see until asparagus spears pop up in May 2011, seven very long months from now, I’m sure you understand why I put off cooking with them for as long as possible.

prune plums
big yellow apples

So I was spending an unhealthy amount of time contemplating my First World Problem — What should I cook next? — when a reader (Hi, Janet!) sent me a link to Nigel Slater’s single-crust plum pie in The Guardian two weeks ago and, obviously, that was it as plum season is almost over. Slater argues that some fruits are too wet for a double-crusted pie and plums are one of them. To make up for getting stiffed by the absence of a bottom crust, he makes the top crust very thick and, look, these aren’t his words but let’s be frank: It’s a cookie. And it’s awesome.

apples and sad, old prune plums

Continued after the jump »


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