Green Heirloom Tomato Soup with Bacon & Ciabatta Croutons

Now that it is late summer and tomatoes are everywhere, I thought I would kick off soup season with this recipe.  The original version from the NY Times calls for brioche, but I didn't have any so I substituted the ciabatta sitting in my freezer.  

Full of bright flavors from the heirlooms and the smokiness of the bacon, this soup won't disappoint especially on these cooler days.  

  Green Heirloom Tomato Soup With Bacon and Ciabatta Croutons
Yield: 3-4 servings
Adapted from the NY Times/Melissa Clark recipe

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds 

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 1/2 pounds green heirloom tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped (about 4 cups)

1 cups chicken or vegetable stock or water or combination

1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

2 ounces sliced bacon (*can be omitted and extra virgin olive oil or more unsalted butter can be substituted to toast the ciabatta)

2 slices ciabatta, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/3 cup crème fraîche (optional) 

1 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1 tablespoon honey, or to taste.

 

 Melt butter in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the coriander to pot along with garlic and sauté for 3 minutes longer.

Stir in tomatoes, stock, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; immediately reduce heat to medium-low and simmer soup  about 30 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, fry bacon in a skillet until crisp. Use a slotted spoon to transfer bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate. Return skillet to medium heat. Add ciabatta to bacon fat in pan and toss to coat well. Toast, tossing occasionally, until croutons are golden, about 5 minutes. Set aside and try to resist eating all the croutons.

Using an immersion blender (or puréeing in batches in a regular blender), purée soup until smooth.

Return soup to medium heat and stir in crème fraîche if desired, basil and honey. Heat up, 1 to 2 minutes. Taste and add more salt or honey or both. Ladle soup into individual serving bowls; crumble bacon over top and garnish with croutons.

Budget Grocery Shopping Tips

Great ideas for grocery shopping on a budget especially the link to Whole Foods & its items under $1.50

via Cooking with Amy: A Food Blog by Amy Sherman on 9/20/09

Hunger Challenge 2009
Just yesterday the San Francisco Chronicle reported that unemployment has reached 12.2% in California, that's the highest it's been since 1976. That means more and more people are struggling to make ends meet. More and more people are facing hunger.

I'm lucky, I've never faced hunger. I've never used food stamps or gotten food from a food bank, but for the second year in a row, I'll be participating in the Hunger Challenge sponsored by the San Francisco Food Bank. It's an opportunity to try to gain a better understanding of the challenges that come with trying to eat 3 meals a day for only $4, the typical food budget of a food stamp recipient.

I've already gone shopping twice at Whole Foods, once for my own cooking and a second time with Sue Kwon of KPIX to help her as she takes on the challenge. This week I'll be sharing my experiences, tips and recipes. To kick things off, here are some of suggestions for how to save on groceries at Whole Foods:

+ Buy bulk, that way you can get as little as you need for recipes using ingredients such as nuts, legumes or grains.

+ Frozen vegetables are often a better value than fresh, especially when it comes to green peas, spinach and broccoli.

+ Use flavor boosters to help make bland foods taste better--try a little garlic, lemon zest or chili flakes.

+ It's perfectly ok to buy one stick of butter, even if you have to open a package to get it.

+ Look to the Whole Foods 365 brand for tremendous values. Best bets include peanut butter, pasta, and oatmeal.

+ Protein is expensive, but eggs are still a good bargain and can be purchased for under $3 a dozen.

+ Lentils are another cheap source of protein and cook quicker than other types of beans. Dry beans are always cheaper than canned beans.

+ One of the best bargains in the produce section is carrots at 99 cents per pound. Eat them raw in salad, cooked as a side dish, or add them to soups and stews.

Here is a great list of 50 Items Under $1.50 at Whole Foods compiled by Stephanie at Noshotopia. Not all the prices are still the same, but they are pretty close.
This post and more original content can be found at www.cookingwithamy.com

Potato Focaccia w/Currant Tomatoes

Adapted from The Wednesday Chef

Potato Focaccia
Makes one 8-inch focaccia or one that is slightly smaller than a 9 x 13 inch sheet pan

1 medium Yukon Gold potato (*I used three tiny Yukon potatoes)
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon fresh yeast
A pinch of sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus more for salting water
2/3 cup warm water
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced crosswise (*I used currant tomatoes on the vine)
1 to 2 teaspoons dried oregano
Coarse sea salt

*optional: I added fresh basil leaves the last 1-2 minutes of baking

1. Wash the potato and place in a small saucepan along with enough water to cover the potato by an inch. Place the pot over high heat, covered, and bring to a boil. Add a handful of kosher salt to the water. Simmer until the potato is tender when pierced with a knife, around 20 minutes. Drain the potato and let it cool. Peel the potato and mash finely with a fork. Set aside.

2. Put the yeast in a large mixing bowl along with a pinch of sugar. Add the warm water in a thin stream over the yeast, using a fork to help dissolve the yeast entirely. Let the mixture stand for a few minutes.

3. Pour the flour into the yeast water and stir with a fork, then add the mashed potato and the salt. The dough will be relatively thick and shaggy. Use the fork to incorporate the potato into the flour. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and begin to knead the dough by hand. It will come together quite quickly. Knead against the bowl for a minute or so, until it is relatively smooth. Add more flour if the dough is too sticky to handle. Form the dough into a ball and let it rest, covered with a kitchen towel, in the bowl for an hour.

4. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of an 8-inch cake pan (*my sheet pan was 9 x 13-inches). Using your fingertips, gently release the puffy and risen dough from the bowl and place it in the cake pan. Gently tug and pat it out so that it fits the pan. Cover the top of the focaccia with the tomato halves, distributing them evenly. Sprinkle the oregano and a large pinch of coarse salt over the tomatoes, drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, and let it rest for another hour.

5. While the focaccia is resting, preheat the oven to 425 degrees (my oven was set to 400 degrees). Place the cake pan in the oven and bake for 40 minutes (mine baked for 35 minutes), rotating the pan halfway through. Let cool on a rack for 20 minutes before removing the focaccia from the pan.

Black Raspberry Muffins

I made these muffins tonight, but I used black raspberries instead of blueberries and buttermilk instead of yogurt.  Half are going in the freezer for future eating.

Juggling all the ingredients, mixing bowls, and muffin tins was a little interesting in the tiny kitchen, but I am getting used to working more efficiently with next-to-zero counter space.

PS: these muffins are delicious....