Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Carrot Jalapeño Soup with Apple Cheddar Quesadillas

I recently harvested all the veggies I planted because I knew it was going to freeze.  What I picked included about 7 jalapeños and about a bajillion carrots which was perfect because Brandon had been bugging me to make Carrot Jalapeño Soup he tried at a local restaurant and loved.

We all know that carrots are a really healthy food.  They are rich in vitamins and antioxidants, especially beta-carotene and falcarinol, which is essential for colon health.  They are low in calories and high in fiber, and boiling carrots actually concentrates the falcarinol levels, making it easier for your body to absorb more.  Jalapeños, like all chile peppers, contain capsaicin.  That's the phytochemical that makes peppers taste hot.  Capsaicin has many benefits, and in order to keep this short and simple, I'll just list them: it helps fight cancer, relieve pain, prevent sinusitus and relieve congestion, fight inflammation, soothe intestinal diseases, burn fat and lose weight, and protect your heart by reducing cholesterol.  

So basically, this soup is not only delicious, it's a nutritional power-house.  It's thick and creamy, filling, tastes amazing and totally in season right now.  There's no reason not to make this soup ASAP!

*tip, don't worry about chopping all the veggies super small, you're going to blend them all up!

Carrot Jalapeño Soup
2 T olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
6 celery stalks, sliced
6 carrots, peeled and sliced
5 jalapeño chiles, halved and seeded
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 t ground allspice
1/4 t cinnamon
1 t dried thyme
8 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup fat-free half and half
1 cup graded sharp cheddar cheese

Heat olive oil in heavy large pot over medium heat.  Add onions and sauté until tender.  Add celery, carrots, jalapeños and garlic and sauté until carrots begin to soften.  Add 4 cups stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently about 30 minutes, until carrots are tender.  Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender (or transfer, in batches, to a blender, with the center of lid removed).  Add remaining stock and half and half.  Heat until warm.  Ladle into bowls and garnish with cheese.

Apple Cheddar Quesadillas

Slice one large, or two small, apples.  Sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese over one half of a tortilla.  Arrange apple slices, barely overlapping, on top of cheese, and top with more cheese.  Fold tortilla in half.  Melt a small amount of butter in a large skillet and cook each quesadilla until golden brown on the outside, and the cheese has melted.  Enjoy!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Creamy Tomato Soup = Heaven

Ok, I know I've stated this phrase before, but I absolutely love this dish!  I am a sucker for tomato soup.  Interestingly enough, according to Wikipedia, tomato soup is the top comfort food of the United States and Poland.  So if you are an American, or Polish, you know about the phenomenon of this classic soup.  In fact, it ranks among the top 3 flavors of soup produced by Campbell's.  While I began my love affair with the canned variety, as our relationship grew deeper, I wanted the real thing, Fresh Homemade Tomato Soup with Cream.  One of the best things about the homemade version is that it can be frozen and reheated for months to come.

This is the time of the year where fresh picked tomatoes are are their peak, and this soup is best when fresh tomatoes are used, but it's still stellar if you use really good canned tomatoes.  San Marzano tomatoes are considered by most chefs to be the best canned tomatoes.  Compared to Roma tomatoes, they have a thicker flesh and less seeds, which leads to a richer, stronger flavor, more sweet and less acidic.  Their flavor is complex, which when combined with ingredients, becomes more intense.

This recipe is the best one I've found so far, (but I'm not done looking...) and to make things even better, it super easy to make!  It is adapted from a Splended Table recipe.  The key to keeping the flavor fresh is to add the cream in after dishing up the soup; don't cook it in.  This recipe makes a lot of soup and freezes really well.  A tip from my kitchen; freeze it in one-  or two-serving sized batches.  That way, it takes less time to thaw, and you won't have to thaw it all at once.

Tomato Soup with Cream

Olive oil
3 medium onions, chopped
Salt and peper
4 large cloves of garlic, minced
Pinch of hot red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon tomato paste (I love Amore, the kind in the tube)
2 1/2 to 3 cups chicken broth
A big handful fresh basil leaves, torn
3 28-oz cans San Marzano tomatoes
1 cup heavy cream (for serving)

Pour a generous amount of olive oil into the bottom of a 12-quart pot and set over medium high heat.  When warm, add onions and about 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions start to change color.  Stir in garlic, red pepper, and tomato paste and cook 1 minute.  Add broth, basil, and tomatoes.  Bring in a lively simmer, cover the pot, and cook 15 to 20 minutes.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  Once soup has cooled, use an immersion blended, blend in a traditional blender until smooth.  Rewarm and serve, stirring a generous tablespoon of cream into each bowl.

The only thing that could make this soup better is some homemade croutons scattered atop!

Saute cubed day-old bread (from a baguette or french bread is best) in butter, season to taste with salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder.  Once coated with butter and seasonings, place in a heated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until crispy.