Chilled Yellow Tomato Soup with Savoura Mini-Cucumbers


Giant, yellow tomatoes are splitting their sides with juice in my little kitchen garden because I’ve been too busy to pick them. There is this little side project going on around here called “Moving House” and it’s taking up every ounce of energy and attention. It was with mixed excitement and trepidation when we placed our home on the market, but the real work is keeping the place presentable with two little monkeys tearing around all day long!

I’ve got my kitchen so clean, I don’t want to cook in it–a feeling I don’t expect to last for long, especially with all the gorgeous autumn produce that is showing up at the markets. Pretty soon there will be swash soup splattered on the walls and pumpkin seeds stuck to the floor as we embrace the season, but for now I’m trying to keep things spit-polished.

This quick tomato soup requires just a bowl and a blender and can be kept in the fridge for no-fuss light lunches all week long. No stove to clean and minimal dishes? I like that.


This soup was inspired by Chef Normand Laprise of Toqué! His version was always a popular item on the summer menu back when I was garde-manger girl. Hey, I bet he would have loved these new mini cucumbers from Savoura; fine dining establishments are all about the micro-vegetables. These cucumbers are harvested when they are four inches long–making them ideal for lunches or adorning a crudité platter.
Snack food has never looked so cute, thanks to this Québec-based company!

I couldn’t resist garnishing my chilled tomato soup with a stylish mini-cucumber wedge and sprinkling it with a little Maldon salt. Fall may be just around the corner, but this favorite soup of mine will remind you that summer is still hanging on.


Chilled Yellow Tomato Soup with Mini-Cucumbers

6 large, ripe yellow tomatoes
2 Tablespoons sugar

3 Tablespoons rice vinegar

salt
& pepper

garnish options:
mini-cucumbers

chives, chopped

cherry tomatoes

crutons

diced avocado

crumbled feta

Quarter tomatoes and toss in a bowl with sugar and vinegar. Cover and marinade 1-3 hours. Puree in a blender and pass through a fine sieve. Season well with salt and pepper. Serve chilled with your choice of garnish. That’s it!

The soup can keep up to three days in the fridge. Be sure to shake, whisk or blend well before serving as it will separate when it sits.

WFD? Chorizo & Black Bean Soup with Corn Bread


Lately I’ve been reminding myself of what I probably will be like as an 85 year-old woman.
I shuffle around the place dressed in a faded jogging suit, its pockets and sleeves stuffed with Kleenex, and smelling like Vic’s Vapor Rub. I’m perpetually cold, and wear two pairs of socks, even when I go to bed (which is around 8:30).
I can’t concentrate for two minutes on anything; guaranteed time-wasters like Twitter or Facebook hold no interest for me and I find myself wishing I had a good knitting project.
The kicker, though, amid all this depressing evidence, is that I re-used a teabag today. Ugh.

In my defense, our household has been sick for almost two weeks with colds & the flu and it tends to suck the life right out of you after a while. Not to be down or anything, but you should know it’s not always all rainbows and sunshine around here. There are Kleenex boxes stashed at one meter intervals around the house and my stomach muscles ache from coughing. I’m at the point where I have to complain to someone and it may as well be you! Sorry.


It’s strange to not have an appetite, especially for me, still the family has to eat and so we’ve been enjoying our fair share of comfort food.
Take this hearty soup and batter bread, for example. The chorizo give off enough heat to clear the sinuses a bit and the bold flavors of cilantro, lime and garlic can awaken even the most desensitized taste buds. There’s no doubt a good soup does wonders for the soul; I’m even cheering up just writing about it.
Oh, and it’s high time I shared my favorite corn bread recipe. Moist and rich, it’s a cinch to make and always comes out like a dream. We eat ours drenched in honey.

Chorizo & Black Bean Soup
Serves 2

1 chorizo sausage (about 150g)

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 green onions
1 clove garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon whole cumin

2 cups cooked black beans

1 large fresh tomato, chopped

2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup corn

garnish: fresh cilantro, lime wedges, sour cream

In a small, heavy skillet set over medium heat, gently toast the cumin until the aromas begin to be released and seeds are lightly colored. Set aside to cool, then grind to a powder in a mortar and pestle.

Slice chorizo lengthwise and lay the flat, cut side down on your cutting board. Slice entire sausage in 1/4 inch pieces. Heat a heavy, medium sized pot and add chorizo. Cook for about five minutes, until the pieces start to color a bit. Remove from pan and reserve.

Slice white parts of onions, reserving the green for later, and add to the pot along with olive oil, garlic, and cumin. Saute gently, combining everything well together. Add black beans, tomato, stock, and corn to the pot and mix well.

Simmer on low for about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Ladle into bowls, add chorizo pieces, and squeeze some lime over. Slice green onions and toss over the soup. Top with fresh cilantro and serve with sour cream.

Corn Bread
Serves 6

1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

3 teaspoon baking powder

3 eggs, well beaten

1 cup milk

1/4 cup cream

1/3 cup butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Butter an 8-1/2 x 11-inch baking pan. Sift the flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, and baking powder into a large bowl. Mix thoroughly. Beat eggs and milk together until well mixed, add to cornmeal mixture and combine well. Beat in the cream, and lastly, the butter.

Pour batter into the buttered pan and bake for 18-20 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean. Slice into triangles and serve warm.

Carrot , Leek & Apple Soup with Garlic Croutons


The challenge of creating a spectacular-or at least edible-dish out of fridge odds and ends is one that I have always relished. I believe it to be a sign of a good cook: creative, resourceful and an independent thinker rather than just open a cookbook. I have to say I’m pretty good at visualizing how ingredients can come together for a potential meal-probably thanks to all the practice I got making ‘staff meal’ when I worked in a professional kitchen. No, we didn’t tuck into a lamb chop from the menu when we were hungry or munch on foie gras pâté and croutons, we ate a family-style meal together every night just before service that was prepared by one of the chef de parties.
I should have kept a log of the random items that were held on the shelf designated for staff eating. It was not uncommon to have to put together a meal for fourteen using some or all of the following:

several litres of razor clam juice
60 or so scrawny quail legs
reject fresh pasta dough (presumably tough as nails)
soft/slimy cucumbers (tomatoes, peppers, spinach)
a jar of picked quail eggs
giant tub of dijon
mounds and mounds of venison scraps
a litre or more of beet purée

and so on and so fourth.
What I made was generally decided for me; it depended on how much time I could take away from my usual lengthy list of prep work. One has to think “is it really in my best interest to clean all the venison, grind it, make a bolognaise and a spinach béchamel, and roll the pasta for a lasagna?”
As popular as I would have been with my fellow chefs had I done so (comfort food rocks when night after night all you plate is ultra-finicky fine cuisine) the more realistic scenario was probably me tossing the quail legs in a speedy marinade before roasting them and serving with a pot of rice.


All that said, I recently made a memorable soup from my fridge scraps after a vigorous clean turned up some withering vegetables. There’s hardly a better time to clean out the refrigerator than after the holidays (after a power outage is pretty ideal, too) and it’s a New Year to boot, so if you haven’t done it yet, get in there and toss those mouldy brussel sprouts and stale fruitcake. Be sure to wear gloves, though, it may be worse than you think; as it was in my case.

As I was making the soup, I took the time to scribble down what I was doing in loose recipe form in case I wanted to blog about it. Of course, I have no idea where that piece of paper/napkin/envelope is now, so I’m going to try and remember what I did because it’s worth repeating.

Carrot, leek and apple: not a new combination by any means, but a trio that I had wasting away in my vegetable drawer; add a liter of homemade chicken stock in the freezer that needed to give way to three vital incoming pints of Hagen Daaz (good things come in threes), and voilà, soup! For fun, toss in some whole-wheat garlic croutons for crunch and bacon because–well, bacon needs no explanation, really.


Carrot, Leek and Apple Soup
(All measurements are estimates. Feel free to change up the recipe to suit yourself)

Peel four large carrots and chop into 1-inch rounds. Remove outer leaves from a large leek and discard. Wash the leek well and chop roughly. In a large pot, melt 3 tablespoons butter and add carrots and leek. Cook over medium heat until the vegetables start to soften and their color brightens.
Peel two apples (I used Granny Smith), core, chop and add to the pot. Add about 4 cups of chicken stock or water (enough to cover the carrot mixture by an inch or so), a bay leaf and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover pot and simmer until carrots are tender. Remove pot from heat and discard bay leaf.
In a blender, puree soup until silky smooth. Season with salt and pepper and thin with a little cream to desired consistency.

For Croutons:
Cube several slices of bread into 1 centimeter cubes. Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan. When it is very hot, add the cubed bread and a clove of peeled, smashed garlic. Toss gently to coat bread with oil and cook until brown and crispy. The oil will be all absorbed. Salt generously, remove from pan and cool on a paper towel. Discard garlic.

WFD? French Onion Soup Canadian Style

January should be dubbed the Month of Soups. I mean is there anything you are craving more after the blitz of holiday feasting? What else could be more ideal to beat the January blahs when the weather is snowy and blowy and the daylight sparse? Dig deep into a piping hot bowl of onion soup and it will be like your very own sunbeam, defying those gray wintery skies out the window. We’re enjoying the post-holiday peacefulness and the dismal weather outdoors makes it even easier to cozy up inside and read the baby names book. Since we don’t know if we are having a boy or a girl, there is even more discussion of names than usual. It’s so hard to pick! French onion soup should not be rushed. Well, the onion chopping part, yes. Blitz through that as fast as you can while still maintaining five digits on each hand, then once they are in the pot, pour yourself a little white wine and read a cookbook or food blog while they slowly caramelize and take on that dark brown color.
In this version, the sweetness of the onions is enhanced slightly by a tad of maple syrup and the soup is given an extra Canadian touch with the addition of our own aged cheddar cheese.
French Onion Soup Canadian Style 2 tbsp canola oil
2 lbs sweet onions, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 cups chicken stock
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
½ cup white wine
Salt and pepper
6 slices baguette, toasted
2 cups aged Canadian cheddar such as Perron, or Gruyere, shredded Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pot set over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, for 30 minutes or until caramelized. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in maple syrup. Add the broth, wine and thyme; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Preheat broiler.
Divide soup between 6 ovenproof bowls. Top with toast slices and equal amounts of cheese. Broil for 2 to 3 minutes or until cheese melts and lightly browns. Garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme and serve.