I never get tired of fresh, in-season tomatoes, and finding things to do with them. Raw, broiled, cooked into sauce, yum. One of my favorite tomato dishes of all time is a nice, creamy, tomato bisque. It’s hard to resisting it if it is the daily special at a restaurant. But I can also be cautious, because bad tomato soup is possible, and it’s…well, it’s bad. It turns you off of tomato soup for the foreseeable future. Best to avoid bad soups. This soup is not a bad soup – obviously, I suppose, otherwise it wouldn’t be making an appearance here. It is, however, a simple soup. About 45 minutes, start to finish, and you’ll get a velvety smooth soup that you can drink, or dip your grilled cheese sandwich in.
Creamy Tomato Soup (6 servings)
You can use anything for the fat that starts this soup. I used the drippings from pancetta, but you can also use bacon fat, butter, or olive oil.
- 1/4 c. fat of your choice
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 5 fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 1 c. chicken broth
- 1/4 – 1/2 c. heavy cream
- salt and pepper to taste
- Heat your chosen fat in a large pot – tall if you plan to use an immersion blender as I did – over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook for two minutes, or until fragrant. Add tomatoes and cook until they have lost their shape, about ten minutes.
- Add chicken broth and cook a further 15 minutes to let the flavors develop. Remove from heat and blend with an immersion blender until smooth, or in a blender.
- Strain through a fine mesh sieve or chinois into a pot. Stir in heavy cream, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Potato salad is probably one of my all-time favorite foods. Though I usually like to stick with the somewhat heavier mayonnaise, yellow mustard, and hard-boiled egg variety – probably due to the first time I ever made it, out of an old cookbook, which was the best recipe I’ve ever found – I have also taken a liking to the warm bacon-dressing and cider vinegar potato salads. When I came across a recipe that used fat-free yogurt as a dressing base and added cucumber to the mix, it inspired me to try a lighter touch as a nice change of pace.
Turns out it really is a very refreshing, clean-tasting take on a summer classic. We had it with grilled sausages and carrots, and I recommend going that route, though I’m sure this would go with any variety of summer dishes. One of the best parts about this recipe – a trick I’m sure I’ll use in the future – was to freeze the potatoes after cooking for about ten minutes, which really cuts the need to chill the finished dish, so dinner is on the table much faster.
Cucumber Potato Salad (serves 2-3)
- 4 small red potatoes, diced
- 1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1/2 c. Greek yogurt
- 1/4 c. mayonnaise OR olive oil
- 2 tbsp. pickling liquid from a jar of pickles OR a healthy squirt of lemon juice and some chopped fresh dill
- Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add potatoes and cook 8-10 minutes, or until tender.
- Drain and spread out on a baking sheet. Freeze about ten minutes, or until cool to the touch.
- In a medium bowl, whisk yogurt with mayonnaise and pickling liquid. Fold in cucumber, shallot, and potatoes.
- Chill a further 5-10 minutes if needed.
Just a word of warning – this is not for the faint of tongue. Sure, it looks mild-mannered enough, with its flaky, buttery puff pastry and its perfectly ripe cherry tomatoes. But lurking underneath the tiny fruits is a spread of viciously tart intensity. Actually, this particular batch of cherry tomatoes was pretty intense itself, so it was a very strongly flavor-packed tart. Like so many other simple recipes, I would be sure that you like the flavor of each ingredient, because they will all shine.
I brought home this particular pint of cherry tomatoes quite without an idea of what to do with them. As I was checking out of the market, one of the tomatoes dropped out of the basket, and I popped it into my mouth. As it burst, it was just the very essence of a mid-summer tomato, and I knew that whatever the preparation, it would have to be simple. I’m not even sure what inspired this – probably some half-glimpsed recipe on the internet somewhere – but it turned out better than I imagined.
Tomato Goat Cheese Tart (serves 4-6 as an appetizer, or 1 rather hungry person for dinner)
The mustard and goat cheese, as mentioned above, are really quite intense. You may choose to either reduce the amount of mustard in the spread, or beat in some mitigating ingredient, like creme fraiche.
- 1/2 lb. puff pastry
- dry pint cherry tomatoes, rinsed and halved
- 4 oz. goat cheese
- 2 tbsp. dijon mustard
- olive oil
- Preheat oven to 375. Allow puff pastry to thaw. Unfold and roll, if necessary, to a rectangle of approximately 11″x14″. With a paring knife, lightly score a line all the way around the rectangle, about 1/2″ from the edges. Fold each edge in at the line and lightly press the edges into the pastry, to form an edge. Pinch out the corners.
- Place the goat cheese in a small bowl and microwave for approximately 30 seconds, until it has softened to spreadable consistency. Whisk in the mustard, and then spread this mixture onto the pastry rectangle, almost up to the folded-in edges.
- Rinse and halve the cherry tomatoes. Place cut-side-up in rows on the goat cheese mixture. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Bake 15-30 minutes, or until pastry has risen and is browned, and tomatoes have shrunken a bit in their skins.