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.

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.

Pizza Bianca with Whole Wheat Crust

I have to admit that I struggle with pizza dough and deciding which of the dozens and dozens of recipes really work.  There are a lot out there that claim to be fast or easy or capable of rising in the frig over night.  

The recipe from Smitten Kitchen could not be simpler to assemble and you don't need multiple bowls or any fancy tools.  I didn't even use a spoon to mix ... just my clean hands!

1 recipe of Smitten Kitchen's easy pizza dough (I substituted 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour for the AP flour)

basil, six to eight leaves (get it from the market!)

fresh mozzarella, four to six thin slices (plus a couple more for the cook to snack on; please don't buy the pre-shredded stuff.....)

extra virgin olive oil (I am using a great oil from California now ... look for it a Trader Joe's)

salt & pepper, to taste (I like Kosher or sea salt)

red pepper flakes (optional)
--------------------
Preheat oven to 450 degrees (or higher if thats possible & your oven won't explode).

Scatter some cornmeal (or flour) on a pizza stone if you have one (I, unfortunately, do not) or on a baking sheet.

Roll out the pizza dough onto the stone or sheet and layer on the basil and cheese.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle the red pepper flakes, salt & pepper.

Bake for 10 minutes .... actually, I would pull it from the oven at 8.5 minutes if you want the cheese a little less melted.

And then let the good eating begin.

Can't wait to make these...

Rustic Taza Chocolate Chunk Cookies (taken from tazachocolate.com)

Ingredients:

3 1/2 cups (14 oz) All Purpose Flour
3/4 cup (3 oz) Fine Yellow or White Corn Flour
1 1/4 tsp Baking Soda
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt

2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) Unsalted Butter (well softened to room temp, not melted)
1 2/3 cups (10 ounces) Dark Brown Sugar
1 cup (7 ounces) Light Brown or Granulated Sugar

2 large Eggs, room temperature
2 tsp natural vanilla extract

1 lb to 1 1/4 lb Taza Chocolate (any variety, but 70% Dark Bar works best), roughly chopped.

Flaky sea salt for sprinkling

Instructions:

1. Mix flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl until combined. Set aside.

2. Using either an electric mixer, hand mixer, or wooden spoon, beat (cream) the softened butter and sugars together, until the mixture is uniform and has lightened in color. It is important that the sugar and butter are well creamed before proceeding; this should take between 5 and 10 minutes.

3. After creaming the butter and sugar together, add the eggs, one at a time, waiting until one is incorporated before adding the next. As soon as both eggs are incorporated, add the vanilla, and continue beating until just mixed in.

4. With your mixer on low, carefully incorporate the dry ingredients, until just combined. Do not overmix.

5. Remove the bowl from the mixer, and add the chocolate chunks (a variety of sizes is best). Using a wooden spoon, fold in the chocolate.

6. Press plastic wrap against the dough and refrigerate for at least 12 hours, and up to 72.

7. After allowing the dough to rest in the refrigerator, preheat the oven to 350 f. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

8. Form the dough into large, golf-ball sized balls. Place no more than 8 cookies on a sheet, allowing enough space for the cookies to spread out. The dough should still be cool from the refrigerator.

9. Bake for approximately 12 minutes, or until just under done. The centers should be barely solid. Remove from oven, and, after a minute, transfer the cookies to cool on a wire rack. Right after transferring them, sprinkle liberally from high above with flaky sea salt (murray river, maldon, kosher) or a flavored salt of your choice (we love vanilla salt or alderwood smoked salt for this).

10. Serve very warm, with milk, ice cream, stout, or bourbon.