You say tomahto, I say tomayto, roasted heirloom tomato soup that is! Yes, more tomato stories! Sorry, please indulge me here... I am going heirloom tomato crazy these days. The tomatoes are so gorgeous right now, I can't pass a tomato without wanting to squeeze it. They are my siren calling from the depths of the ocean, taunting me to make with them everything imaginable from savory to sweet and back again. The past few weeks I've been living on one of the many tomato tart attempts in my fridge from my last culinary adventure and last night I just had to make that soup again. If nothing else then to see those gorgeous colors and color combinations and designs only found from the tap of Mother Nature's wand.
A friend from the hi-tech trenches who I hadn't seen in years came over for dinner so out came the tomatoes. I went with three tried and true recipes and two new ones from a fellow cook on the Cannes Film Festival trip a few years back. Brian is the cutest guy on the planet, not to mention a total rock star chef, and a week or so ago he sent me a salmon recipe that looked so good, I had to make it as soon as possible. So with Connee coming over, I knew she’d be game to be my culinary guinea pig for a night. We hadn't seen each other in six years and a lot of life had happened in those six years so a time to celebrate the fact that we keep on keepin' on in spite of life's speed bumps (that more often feel like 2x4s) and rekindling a friendship after many years. Starting with bubbles was a given. Cheers!
Domaine Carneros by Taittinger 2005 Brut Sparkling Wine
Spanish Marcona Almonds
Torta de Aceite Olive Oil Crisp Bread, sugared with almonds
Domaine Charles Audoin 2008 Marsannay Rosé
Roasted Heirloom Tomato Soup
Apricot Chili Smoked Salmon
Brie Stuffed with Dried Cherries, Blueberries, Apricots
Mixed Greens with Lemon-Orange Vinaigrette
Vanilla-Banana Grand Marnier Flambée
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Roasted Heirloom Tomato Soup
For 8 people (this gives 2 large ladles per person)
5 pounds heirloom tomatoes, all different colors
20 sprigs thyme, leave removed, stems discarded
1 handful basil leaves
1/2 head garlic, individual cloves, peeled
1/4 cup *good* olive oil
1 tbsp sea salt
1 tbsp fresh ground pepper
1. Cut the heirlooms into wedges, put into a roasting pan with high sides. Tomatoes shouldn't come up higher than 2/3 up the side of the pan because lots of juice will come out and you don't want all that goodness spilling over the sides.
2. Add thyme leaves, basil, garlic cloves, olive oil, salt, pepper. Stir to combine.
3. Roast in 400F oven for 60 minutes
4. Blend with an immersion blender, or ladle in batches into a blender.
5. Taste for seasoning. Add salt & pepper if needed.
6. Serve with a drizzle of good olive oil, thyme sprig
Note: Other garnishes: rustic croutons, dried tomato slice...
Basil is optional. The first time I made it, I didn't use basil and it was delicious.
This can be made ahead and reheated gently to serve.
Brian's Apricot Chili Smoked Salmon & Herbed Quinoa
1 cedar plank
1-1/2 to 2 lb filet salmon (get a piece from the thick side)
2-3 tbsp apricot preserves (I use Bonne Maman)
1/2-1" fresh ginger root, grated (use an amount that fits your taste. fresh ginger is very strong.)
a few shakes of red chili flakes
... and because I can’t leave a good thing well enough alone ...
1 tiny pinch of cayenne (this made it a bit too strong for me but if you like hot, go for it)
Now this recipe is meant for a grill but not having one, I thought "if you can cook it on a grill, you should be able to cook it in an oven" so away I blindly went…
1. Soak cedar plank for at least an hour submerged in water
2. Preheat oven to 350F
3. Mix apricot preserves, ginger, chili flakes
4. Place cedar plank in oven for 3 minutes
5. Take out the plank, place salmon on plank and slather with apricot mix
6. Cook for 15 minutes
7. Place plank on a serving platter and serve.
Note: the apricot mixture can be made ahead and chilled until ready to use.
Quinoa is another one I've never made, had it numerous times in restaurants but never made it. But I have on occasion been able to follow directions so off I went sending prayers to the quinoa gods that it didn't turn into a pile of glue.
1 cup dry quinoa, rinsed twice
1 tbsp butter
1 can vegetable broth
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
10 sprigs of thyme leaves
1 small handful of parley leaves, finely chopped
1/2 lemon, juiced
1. toast quinoa in butter
2. add vegetable broth and bring to a boil
3. lower to a simmer and cook until done
4. stir in shallot, garlic, and herbs
5. add lemon juice
6. add salt & pepper to taste
Plate a large serving spoon of quinoa on a plate, then top with a piece of the salmon and serve. Bon appetit!
Note: The quinoa can be made ahead but wait until you serve it to add the herbs as they should be fresh and just chopped to maximize freshness and look. Also the garlic gets much stronger the next day and can take over the dish.
Stuffed Brie with Mixed Greens
I first saw this dish at a small local bistro in Paris, La Beurre Noisette. There were no tourists, only local Parisians and the stray American expat (moi). The wedge of brie was so beautiful and it was plated with a small mixed green salad. Five years later, I can still picture it and remember how beautiful I thought I was.
1 small 8 oz wheel of brie (this is much easier to do with a round of brie as opposed to a wedge).
1/2 cup dried fruits (cherries, cranberries, blueberries, apricots. If using apricots, cut in half or quarters depending on size)
hot water and a little wine or liquour
Note: try to keep the container in tact that the brie came in. often they come in a thin wooden packaging. Keep this as it makes it much easier to work with.
1. place brie in freezer just until firm, about 15 minutes
2. placed dried fruits in a bowl and fill to just cover fruit with 1/2 hot water and 1/2 wine (or rum or other liquour), let soak for 15 minutes
3. take brie out of freezer, unwrap, keep container and cut brie in half across the equator
4. place the bottom half back in the container
5. drain the fruit, squeezing out excess water and spread across the brie to cover completely
6. plate top half of brie back over the fruit and press down gently
7. place in fridge to firm.
When you serve the first coarse, take the brie out of the fridge and set aside, letting it come to room temp.
When you clear the dinner plates, place the brie (in the container, on an oven proof plate) in a very low oven, 150F, for 5 minutes to make it a bit oozy.
Cut into 4 wedges and serve with a small mixed green salad tossed in a light vinaigrette
1/2 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2 small shallot, finely chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon
juice of 1/2 orange
pinch of sea salt
generous pinch fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup good olive oil
1. in a deep bowl, place all ingredients, except olive oil, and combine with a whish
2. slowly whisk in olive oil
3. place a tablespoon of dressing in the bottom of a clean bowl and add greens.
4. toss to coat adding dressing a little at a time until it's dressed to your liking but keep it light so you can enjoy the cheese, not overpower it.
Vanilla-Banana Grand Marnier Flambée
1 pint haagen dazs vanilla frozen yogurt
2 bananas, cut into 1/4" slices
1-2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp brown sugar
splash Grand Marnier
Optional: raspberries, chocolate shavings
1. melt butter in deep pan with sloped edges on medium high heat
2. add bananas and toss immediately
3. add brown sugar and toss immediately
4. let it begin to caramelize, 2-3 minutes
5. add splash of Grand Marnier and flambée. Flambéing is optional of course, if you aren't comfortable with flames shooting from your pan :) You can opt for the less flammable approach and let the alcohol cook off swirling the pan until it does.
6. Optional: when done caramelizing the bananas, take off the heat and stir in some raspberries and chocolate. It will melt right away so have the fro-yo already in the glass ready to go and serve immediately.
7. Scoop 2 small or one large scoop of fro-yo into a martini glass (or other dish) and spoon the bananas flambée over the top.
And there you have it! :) A delicious meal, easy to prepare, much that can be done ahead of time so you can spend time relaxing with your guests and not stressed out in the kitchen.
The musical notes of two of my favorite bands swirled around us all evening: PawnShop kings & Rocco DeLuca & the Burden. Both a combination of "stomping rock, swampy blues" and angelic gospel with vocals, music and lyrics that grab you by the lapels and reach down to the depths of your soul. From the PawnShop kings' loves songs inspired by their wives to Rocco's sliding Dobro guitar riffs, every song, every riff, leaves me in awe.
So gather your friends, share your life, your stories (cuz everyone has one!), your selves with those around you allowing good food and wine to draw you around a table and celebrate, if nothing else, that we all just keep on keepin' on.
Cheers and a resounding Julia Child rendition of Bon Appetit!