Y’all, I had this whole thing figured out – I was going to make a dinner we ate a lot as a kid. But when Mike went to get eggless ribbon noodles from the one store we know for sure carries them, they… don’t anymore. Well, damn. So I thought about what I could do instead – pizza? No, I’m doing that tomorrow (spoiler!). Maybe breakfast for dinner? That was SO exciting to me and my siblings when we were kids, so maybe. And then, at like 4 in the afternoon, when my sockless feet were cold and I needed to grab a cardigan to chase away a chill, I got it – I remembered one of my all-time favorite childhood dinners: tomato soup and grilled cheese.
Growing up, of course, our tomato soup came out of a can. Mix with a can of milk, whisk, heat, and serve! My mother had objections to both white bread and American cheese, so our sandwiches were always cheddar and whole wheat. And while that’s where I was coming from, I wanted to fancy up that tomato soup a bit for my grown-up palate.
I started with local, farmers market tomatoes that we canned ourselves last September. Whole tomatoes, two pints:
Plus lots of farmers market garlic and elephant garlic (I have a lifelong onion aversion [I know, I know], so we usually substitute elephant garlic for onions in recipes).
Oregano, red pepper flakes, a bay leaf, and some sourdough bread…
Et voila! Creamy, flavorful, lovely tomato soup (with a grown-up ingredient – a splash of brandy!), drizzled with spicy olive oil and finished with freshly-ground black pepper.
I had intended to use sourdough bread for the sandwiches, but we had less than we thought, so I sliced up a loaf of whole wheat bread that Mike brought home from the farmers market. I grilled the inside of the bread in homemade butter before adding cheese (Follow Your Heart’s new American) and, on one of them, homemade refrigerator garlic dill pickle slices and grilling until toasted and melty. So, so good.
While I was at it, I made one of my favorite childhood desserts: tapioca pudding.
My mom loved to shave curls of Hershey’s Special Dark over it while it was still warm. I did better: Theo’s sea salt dark chocolate bar. The pudding was perfect – just as I remembered it – and the salty chocolate really elevated the flavors.
Not at all bad for a last minute, slightly desperate dinner!
Creamy Creamless Tomato Soup (adapted from a recipe by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt for Cook’s Illustrated)
- 4 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 clove elephant garlic, finely chopped
- 3 medium garlic cloves, grated (I used a Microplane)
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 pints whole tomatoes, home-canned or store-bought
- 3 large slices of white bread (I used sourdough)
- 2 cups vegetable broth (I used Better than Bouillon’s No Chicken)
- 2 tablespoons brandy (optional)
- salt and pepper
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add garlics, oregano, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf. Cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is fragrant, 2-3 minutes.
- Stir in tomatoes and their juice. Break tomatoes up into small pieces (I used a wooden spoon, but a potato masher will work, too). Stir in bread and bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until bread is completely saturated and starts to break down, about 5 minutes. Remove bay leaf and discard.
- Transfer half of soup to a blender, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and process until soup is smooth and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. (If your blender has variable speeds, start at the lowest speed and gradually increase to prevent getting scalded by escaping soup! Never fill the canister more than 2/3 full, and if your blender doesn’t have variable speeds, put a towel over the top of the blender to prevent splatters and burns.)
- Wipe out Dutch oven and return soup to pot. Stir in broth and brandy. Return soup to a boil and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Top each bowl with drizzles of olive oil (flavored oils are particularly nice here) and freshly ground pepper.
Julie Hasson’s Tapioca Pudding (which she adapted from Bryanna Clark Grogan)
- 3 cups plain or vanilla soymilk
- 3 tablespoons Bird’s Custard Powder
- 3 tablespoons Minute or instant tapioca
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extractIn a saucepan, whisk together the first 4 ingredients. Let mixture sit for 5-10 minutes to soften tapioca. Place saucepan over medium low heat and, whisking continuously, cook mixture until thickened. This will take about 10 minutes. Stir in vanilla. Scoop pudding into a bowl. Let pudding cool and refrigerate pudding until firm.
*If you can’t find Bird’s Custard Powder, I believe that you can substitute an equal amount of cornstarch. Look for Bird’s Custard Powder at grocery stores, specialty markets, & Cost Plus World Market. (Seattle, I got mine at Vegan Haven.)
This is the first dinner I’ve made since I had my gallbladder out 12 days ago. I’m still moving pretty slowly, thus the lateness of this post. It felt good to get back in the kitchen, though.