Classic Tomato Soup

Classic Tomato Soup
Easy, Delicious Homemade Tomato Soup

Recently I had one of those nights when I came home late and exhausted and all I wanted to do was flop down on the couch and watch something fun on TV (current obsessions: House of Cards, True Detective, Ripper Street, The Americans and don’t even call me on Sunday nights once Game of Thrones is back BECAUSE I WILL NOT ANSWER THE PHONE).

Those are the nights when I want to cook something fast and easy, and I don’t want to have to make a special trip to the store to get ingredients. I looked in the pantry and thought “Yes! You can do this, Clifton. Find something in there to make that doesn’t suck!” Well, I’ll tell you this. A warm bowl of homemade classic tomato soup does not suck.

Until tomato season comes round again (it’s hard to remember a time when the yard wasn’t basically permafrost), big cans of good tomatoes are a perfect pantry standby. You can make this classic tomato soup with either crushed or whole plum tomatoes, if you don’t mind crushing them with your hands. Some of you might quite enjoy doing that, I don’t know, that’s your business. Either way, you will want a stick blender to finish the job.

NOTE: If you’re feeling extra-fancy, make a little grilled cheese sandwich to go alongside your masterpiece. I, of course, was far too lazy even for that and just spread some goat cheese on a cracker and sprinkled some black pepper and scallions over it. Oh,  and some chopped radishes on the side because they’re also red.

Easy, Delicious Tomato Soup
Goat cheese, cracked pepper and scallions

Easy, Delicious Tomato Soup

Farro Salad with Roasted Grapes and Baby Kale

Farro Salad with Roasted Grapes and Baby Kale
Farro Salad with Roasted Grapes and Baby Kale

 

A long, long time ago, on my first “grown-up” trip, I was at a tiny little restaurant in Florence, Italy, when a waiter asked me if I was a fan of “Farrah”. “Um, huh?” I asked, eloquent as always. “Farrah, you like?”. “She’s… ok, I guess”. I was very confused as to what a 70’s sex symbol had to do with Italian food but was too embarrassed to ask. The waiter, befuddled by my response, wandered away, I’m sure annoyed that he ended up with the table of weird Americans.

Later I noticed a special on the menu, “Farro con Pomodori Arrostiti” (Farro with roasted tomatoes). Aha! Farro, not Farrah! Farro, of course. Farro … I had no idea what farro was. I didn’t order it.

Read more

The. Best. Mojito.

The Best Mojito

Does the world need another mojito recipe? Yes. Yes it does, because this one has a little something extra that, in my tipsy, slightly slurred opinion, takes it to the next level of yumminess. And no, I’m not suggesting you buy an expensive, impossible-to-find rum. Or scour the earth for special ice made from Himalayan mountain water. In fact it’s something really simple. Mint simple syrup…

imageIf you’re not familiar with it, simple syrup is just equal parts sugar and water, heated until the sugar melts. That’s it. It’s when you start infusing syrups that they get really interesting.

We’re growing all this mint on our deck and smelling it seriously put me in the mood for mojitos. I snipped a whole bunch but before I got to muddling, I thought about trying to make a syrup instead. I’m telling you, it’s a revelation. It’s not only intensely minty but you also don’t have to get a mouth full of squashed herbs every time you take a sip. I did still muddle a few leaves but not the massive handful that a good mojito usually needs.

image

image

Read more

Orange-Maple Glazed Chicken (inspired by Withnail and I)

Screen Shot 2013-08-26 at 3.10.18 PM

You’ve seen Withnail and I, right? Of course you have. It’s a classic fil…wait, WHAT? You haven’t? You must see it! Right this minute! Go on, we’ll wait. *Taps fingers on table sternly*. Cut to 5 hours later (because you had to watch it twice and have a nap because you were tipsy). Now… don’t you feel better? Something was missing, wasn’t it?

For years, every time I’d roast a chicken, I’d be tempted to stand it up in the oven, just for giggles.

chicken_upon_a_brickNow, I know cooking chicken on a beer can is a thing but I am way too accident prone to try to balance a large, slippery chicken on a tallboy . Then I saw this, noticed it was only $20 and decided that I must have it. I have to tell you, it actually works incredibly well and, more importantly, your chicken will look hilarious as it hangs out, sitting up, in your oven.

IMG_2553

I imagine this will be me, Matt and one of our chickens very soon.

withnail-and-i-1987-paul-mcgann-richard-e-grant-pic-6

 

Read more

Watermelon, Feta and Mint Salad with Honey Balsamic Glaze

IMG_2331 - Version 2
I’m kind of weird with mint. I think I associate it too closely with toothpaste so I’m super picky about when I use it. I really, really don’t like it anywhere near my ice cream, chocolate or potatoes. It’s perfect with watermelon and feta though. I decided to make a glaze with honey and balsamic vinegar to brighten the sweet and tart flavors. I left the shallots out this time (because I was tired and forgot them). It was still good but a touch of sharp shallot helps bring it over to the savory side. This is so summery and incredibly quick to make. 
 
I must be on a sweet/salty kick because when I bought this watermelon, I couldn’t wait to chop it up and throw some feta and mint on that bad boy (Sorry, not sure why I’m talking like Guy Fieri all of a sudden. Shudder.). This is a classic combination which just really works in a “greater than the sum of it’s parts” sort of way.
 
Don’t forget to buy a seedless watermelon. I got a seeded one by accident and it made it slightly annoying to eat. While I do enjoy spitting watermelon seeds like a trucker spitting dip, it’s less hilarious when it’s in my living room and I’ve got to clean it up. 
 

Sweet Corn Ice Cream

Sweet corn ice cream
Sweet corn ice cream

Like most fancy-pants wanna-be’s, I often read recipes in the New York Times dining section and think “Yes! I am SO going to make that!”. Then I get distracted by work or something sparkly out of the corner of my eye and forget all about it. Not this time! I saw Melissa Clark’s recipe for corn ice cream and knew I wanted to try it. I also knew that Matt would be totally game because A) he’s always up for a challenge and B) he loves both corn and ice cream.

We had a a few ears of (not that great) corn that we bought in Long Island, so we decided to give this a try. It’s really good! It’s a tiny little bit under-sweetened to my taste (unusual for me) but that could be because the corn we used was not that sweet to begin with. If I make it again (with under-whelming corn), I would add a touch more sugar. Maybe just a tablespoon or so. Or, even better, I’ll leave it as-is and pour a bit of this (elixir of the gods) Salted Caramel Sauce on top.

IMG_2215

Read more