Archive for the ‘Tools & Gadgets’ Category

Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup & Crostini with Goat Cheese & Onion Marmalade   1 comment

Another Meatless Monday posted after the fact — ah well. This tomato soup is delicious and while it takes a while to roast the vegetables, it requires very little actual effort on the cook’s part. You will need either a stick blender or a food mill. I got one as a holiday gift from my in-laws.

Food mills are impressive devices.

And milling the soup is messy fun.

Strangely enough, I’ve never really cared much for tomato soup, being more familiar with the tinny Campbell’s variety than anything decent. This recipe changed all that, however.

Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup

2 28 oz. cans of whole tomatoes, drained with juices reserved or 2 lbs. of fresh Roma tomatoes
2 red onions, quartered
2 red bell peppers, quartered
4 cloves of garlic
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped
4 tbs. olive oil
2 tbs. dark brown sugar
4 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
1/4 cup half and half OR 2% milk
1 handful of roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
Salt & Pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Divide the vegetables between 2 9×12 inch glass baking pans. In each pan, toss the vegetables with 2 tbs. olive oil and 1 tbs. brown sugar. Roast vegetables for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Remove the vegetables from the oven and transfer to a large Dutch oven. Add the reserved tomato juice, stock, salt & pepper. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Purée vegetables and stock with a stick blender or food mill. Add half & half or milk and salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to warm soup bowls and top with pepitas.

Serve with Crostini topped with Goat Cheese, preferably Belle Chevre Brand, and Onion Marmalade.

Tools & Gadgets: The Stick Blender   5 comments

My stick blender died today and I miss it already. Here she lies.



I registered concern when it started sounding a little sluggish a few weeks ago, but not enough to do anything. I paid the price this evening when I went to puree some lentil soup.

Live and learn.

I don’t need to go on about how useful a tool it is. All cooks know the score. Its most valuable use — one that would make it worth the purchase price even if it did nothing else — is to puree hot soups right in the pot. This saves a cook from having to dirty the upright blender or food processor, both difficult to clean, but it also saves one from having to perform the frightening task of pureeing a hot liquid in those powerful machines. Horror stories abound: ruined ceilings, scalded faces, blindings. The stick blender is probaby just as dangerous, but using it is not such a production. And you get the same perfectly smooth, lovely soup.

Just not tonight. The lentil soup was pretty good anyway. Still, I’ll be purchasing a replacement blender immediately.

Tomato & Lentil Soup

Everyone should have at least one good recipe for lentil soup. This one is easy and delicious. It’s also vegan although it need not be so. You can use chicken stock if you prefer or even throw in some sausage. I use red lentils here because they’re so cheery.


2 onions, diced

5 cloves of garlic, chopped

1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated finely

2 medium carrots, grated

2 tbs. olive oil

One 28-ounce can of chopped tomatoes

1 cup of red lentils

6 cups of water

1/2 tsp. Marash pepper

1 tsp. tumeric

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. chili powder (I like Penzey’s)

1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

Salt & Pepper to taste

Tabasco sauce to taste

Sauté the onions in the olive oil over medium-high heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and carrots and continue to sauté for another 3 minutes. Add spices and stir for 1 minute. Throw in the chopped tomatoes, lentils, and water. Heat until soup reaches a simmer; lower heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes. Add more water if necessary. Once the lentils are soft and melting, a well-supplied cook would puree the soup with a stick blender. The less fortunate should just smash the largest pieces of tomato with a fork. It’s depressing stuff, but there you are. Add salt, pepper, cilantro, and tabasco. Serve with crusty bread (preferably Seedy-Salt bread from Salt of the Earth in Fennville, MI.).


Posted October 14, 2009 by Admin in Lentils, Main Dishes, Modern Conveniences, Soup, Tools & Gadgets

Tools & Gadgets: The Whisk   1 comment

This post will be the first installment in a regular series of posts about specific kitchen tools and gadgets. Given the title of the blog, it makes sense that I begin with the whisk.

Of all the tools that I use in my kitchen, the whisk is one that most makes me feel like a bona fide cook. It’s a damned serious item. Those who wield it comfortably exude a sort of culinary gravitas that implies years spent in cooking school.

Few other manually operated tools can match its transformative power. Spoons and spatulas don’t aerate or froth; forks don’t scrape pot bottoms and sides. Yes, a hand-held mixer can do those things, but not with the same elegance and sophistication.

Want to turn egg whites into meringue or mayonnaise? Want to emulsify oil and vinegar to make salad dressing? Want to rescue fond from the bottom of a roasting pan for gravy? Want to prevent custard or curd from seizing? Want to look like a classically-trained chef in the process?

The whisk is your tool.

I use three different whisks: one large French whisk and one small one (that’s the small one in the header photograph). My favorite whisk, however, is the flat whisk.

Here are two of my favorite “whisk-ey” recipes.

Olive Oil Lemon Curd

From Gourmet–so easy make and too perfect to alter.

3 large lemons
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 whole large eggs plus 2 large yolks
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons fruity olive oil (preferably French)

Grate enough zest from lemons to measure 1 tablespoon, then squeeze 3/4 cup juice from lemons.

Whisk together lemon zest and juice, sugar, cornstarch, whole eggs, and yolks in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Boil, whisking, 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and whisk in butter and oil until smooth. Makes about 1 cup of curd, enough for one nine-inch tart, like the chocolate drizzled lemon tart here.


Easy Vinaigrette

This dressing is the simplest thing in the world to whisk up, and it completely revolutionized my salad-making. I’ll never go back to bottled dressing.

3 tablespoons of good quality vinegar or citrus juice (I like a combination of balsamic and sherry vinegars)

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

About 1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil (or some other nice tasting oil–hazelnut, walnut, or pumpkin seed are all great)

In a large measuring cup (I use a four-cup sized Pyrex), whisk together the vinegar or juice, salt, and pepper. Briskly whisk in the mustard. Continuing to whisk, drizzle in the oil in a slow, steady stream. Whisk hard! Whisk like you mean it! The vinaigrette is ready when it becomes thick and sort of sludge-like. You can let this sit at room temperature until you’re ready to use it. It may need a quick whisk just before using.

You could prepare the vinaigrette by shaking it into an emulsion in a lidded cup, but then you’d deprive yourself of the pleasure of using the flat whisk, surely the most coolly elegant tool in the kitchen.