Sunday, November 4, 2012

Creamy Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

Creamy Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

It's November, the leaves of the trees are starting to turn red in my neighborhood, we set the clocks back an hour today, it's dark early, and it feels like Fall is finally here (well, except I rode around with the top down on my convertible today).  

Perfect night to make Creamy Tomato Soup with yes, wait for it....grilled cheese croutons! The soup is pretty darn good, just an easy combination of onions, garlic, crushed tomatoes, orzo, saffron, and some cream, but the croutons...are AMAZING.  White crusty bread, spread with butter, with fresh Swiss Cheese grilled to toasty brown perfection on my Panini press.

I used a recipe from Ina Garten, which was featured on the cover of a Food Network magazine.  I followed the recipe basically as it is written (with Ina, you really don't have to improvise much).

Here's the recipe:

Just a few changes:

* For the croutons, I used a fresh baked white sourdough bread from Publix and grated a block of regular Swiss cheese (Gruyere is nice, but Swiss will do just me) - but, grate it yourself, it will taste better.
* For the saffron, I used a big pinch - I used a brand called Badia in the Mexican spices section - usually a little more cost effective section of the store.
* I used Cento crushed tomatoes - after my sauce had simmered, I tasted a little of the "tin can" taste - so I added a tsp of sugar to balance it out.  Perhaps there are different crushed tomatoes that would taste better...but just add a little sugar if that happens.

OK, happy soup eating. Think I'll go "turn on" my fireplace (yes, flip the switch). Tis the season.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

OMG Good: Thai Chicken Coconut Soup

Thai Chicken Coconut Soup garnished with Lime and Basil

Ok, this is simply one of the best things I have EVER made.  At my friend Stephanie's annual "Top Chef" party each person is given a country to make a dish from, and then the dishes are voted on by everyone at the dinner party.  This won #1!!!  I'm now a second time winner at this annual event! This is also super easy to make!

Here are the ingredients I used:

  • 2 Tablespoons of Green Thai Curry Paste (use heaping tablespoons if you like it a little spicier, and use Red Curry Paste if you are really feeling dangerous)
  • 2 Tablespoons of Lemongrass Puree (You can find tubes of this in the refrigerated vegetable section in the grocery store, near the fresh herbs, and using this is much easier than looking for fresh lemongrass). Again, use a little more or less depending on taste.
  • 1-2 tablespoons of fresh ginger (I buy the kind in the bottle at the grocery store)
  • 1 diced yellow onion (I just bought one container of the pre-chopped onions in the vegetable section)
  • Hokan Coconut Milk2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 2 cans of coconut milk (note: do NOT use the "lite" kind - use the full fat version - I think the Asian brand "Hokan" (or something like that) is the best one. The richer varieties are best.

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups of chopped chicken (I purchased 1 lemon pepper flavored rotisserie chicken at Publix and pulled all the meat off.
  • About 4-6 cups of chicken broth/stock
  • 1 package of a mushroom blend (I found an 8 oz pack which had shitake, oyster and other assorted mushrooms)
  • 1 package of dried Thai rice noodles (8oz). I found this at Publix in the Asian section - but note, one store didn't have them, so I had to buy rice noodles that you stir fried first - this is not preferred...try to find the right ones
  • 2 Limes
  • Fish Sauce (4 to 8 Tablespoons depending on how salty you like it)

  • In a large pot, pour in the oil and let it heat up over medium-high heat
  • Add in the curry paste, fresh ginger, and lemon grass puree and let it cook for a minute
  • Add the onions to the flavorings and let it saute over medium heat until they are soft (maybe 5 mins or so) and then stir in the brown sugar
  • Add in the chicken, coconut milk and mushrooms, chicken stock (less for a creamier soup and more if you need to loosen it up) and bring up to a boil and reduce to simmer
  • Add in about half the fish sauce (2-4 Tablespoons)
  • Let it simmer on low for about 15-20 mins
  • Squeeze the juice of 1-2 limes into the soup and add more fish sauce if needed. If it tastes like something might be missing, fish sauce is it!
  • Boil the Thai Rice Noodles in a separate pot (if you put in with the soup, the noodles absorb more liquid than needed)
  • When ready to serve, put some noodles in each bowl
  • Ladle in the soup and garnish with limes and basil
Note: If you let is simmer on low for a little longer, the flavors just get better. Also, nothing here is super exact, add more or less as you see fit.

Also, if you want to be super fancy, you can serve it with this homemade Thai Cocktail.  I served the soup with the cocktail recipe below and it was fabulous.

Here's the recipe: