Saturday, November 7, 2009

Pappa Al Pomodoro and A Childish Hatred Laid To Rest


For most of the years of my life (and that is getting to be a considerable number)
I have hated cooked tomatoes.
Pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, ketchup--I enjoyed all of those.
But whole or cut-up and cooked tomatoes, even tomato juice I couldn't choke down.
Wouldn't even eat Campbell's tomato soup.
Particularly anathema to me were tomatoes stewed.

When I look back and analyze this hatred, I think it was the
texture of the things that grossed me out.
They remind me of great big blood clots or something equally unpleasant.
(Sorry for that vivid image).
And those seeds floating around--yuck.

As an adult, though, I have to say that even though it's not exactly
the real thing, I can enjoy a can of Campbell's for a quick lunch.
Still can't stomach the stewed kind, which for some reason, my mother
felt she had to serve about once a month during my formative years.
I swore I'd never do that to my kids.
And I haven't.

Fortunately before I became too old a dog to learn new ways,
I found this recipe of Ina Garten's.
I have to admit, at first I thought it was a pasta dish (can you tell we're
not Italian?) but as I
examined the recipe and list of ingredients, I saw it was soup.
I decided to try it anyway.
Ms. Garten has never let me down before.

And she still hasn't. This soup is so creamy, so
perfectly seasoned and balanced, that the large potful the recipe made
was polished off in one meal.
You don't readily discern the ciabatta since it disintegrates
during the whisking, but it gives the soup its perfect smoothness (again with the texture).

I was really looking forward to leftovers, to see how it tasted
the second time after being reheated. Some things are actually better the second time around. Lasagna springs to mind. Guess I'll have to make this soup again soon in order
to find that out.

This recipe is not for those in a hurry. In addition to the prep time, it simmers for
forty-five minutes and then some.
But what makes this soup so outstanding is its slow melding of carrots, onions,
garlic and basil as it cooks.
The taste is much more satisfying for its slow cooking.

Who else but The Barefoot Contessa could make a tomato
soup lover out of me?

My mother will never believe it.

Pappa Al Pomodoro
(adapted from Ina Garten's recipe in The Barefoot Contessa's Back to Basics)


1/2 cup good olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onions
1 cup medium-diced carrots, unpeeled (3 carrots)
4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
3 cups diced ciabatta bread (1 inch cubes)
2 (28 oz. each) cans good Italian plum tomatoes (I used San Marzano)
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Fontina cheese

For the topping:

3 cups chopped ciabatta bread (1 inch cubes)
2 oz. sliced pancetta, chopped
24-30 whole fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons good olive oil, plus more for serving


Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and garlic and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until tender. Add the ciabatta cubes and cook for 5 more minutes. Place the tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process just until coarsely chopped. Add the tomatoes to the pot along with the chicken stock, red wine, basil, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper.

Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat and allow to simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

For the topping, place the ciabatta, pancetta, and basil on a sheet pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss well. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20-25 minutes or until all the ingredients are crisp. Reheat the soup if necessary; beat with a wire whisk until the bread is broken up. Season further according to individual taste.

Serve hot, sprinkling grated Fontina cheese and pancetta and toasted bread crumbs on each serving.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Borgle Scones-Or The Isabel Revolt

Isabel Weighs In

In an incident my family calls The Isabel Rebellion, our dog protested because
so far, all my culinary efforts have been for the benefit of the family and not her.

In case I haven't mentioned her before, she is a Borgle: half beagle and half Border collie.
Half of her wants to run into the woods looking for rabbits and the other half scouts
around for a flock of sheep she can round up.

It can be very annoying.

The one benefit is that whenever Isabel hears us yell at the cat to get down off the
dining table, she gallops to the scene and herds said cat down and out of the room.
Then they start wrestling and mayhem ensues.

Or maybe I should say 'the fur flies'.

She also treats my teen-aged sons' friends like cattle and tries to move them out of
my kitchen (thanks, dog) into the family room where she thinks they should be. (And of course they all humor her).

That'll do, pig.

I've been scouting around the interweb and found this book which I promptly ordered.

Here is the first recipe I tried. I'd like to think Izzy has a cultured palate and
discriminating taste, but the reality is that she'd scarf pretty much whatever I make her
sit up and beg for. She considers it demeaning to beg but is willing to do it for the sake
of these scones.

Scrumptious Scottie Scones, aka Borgle Scones
adapted from Three Dog Bakery Cookbook


2 cups whole wheat flour (you could use a cup of white and wheat)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon honey
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg

1/2 cup 2% milk*
1 clove garlic, minced


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine flour, baking powder and honey in a bowl. Add oil, egg, milk and garlic, then stir until mixed thoroughly.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead.
Roll out to 1/2 inch thickness and cut into 2 inch squares;** place on greased baking sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container.

Makes approx. 25 little squares.

* I used 2 % milk 'cause that's what we have on hand. Any strength milk will do.

**I love the traditional scone shape so I rolled the dough into two circles and cut them into pie-shaped wedges.

These scones stay soft; they're not crisp like some treats are.

These are great, according to my canine guinea pigs Isabel and Casey, but they do not keep well. In an airtight ziploc-type bag, the scones kept for about a week before growing fur of their own.

The cookbook also notes that garlic is a natural flea repellent so this is a good treat for summer months.

Penne' and Cheese

First of all, I know these pictures stink.
My photography skills are improving (really!) but these pics
certainly don't reflect it.
Trouble is, I was shooting at night when most of the light was---gasp!---

I didn't know. I can only claim ignorance. I didn't know the havoc
that fluorescent bulbs can do to your photos.
That ugly, mustard-yellow hue. Ye gods. And editing can only do so much.
One of the food blogger's biggest curses: Daylight Savings Time.

Every time you try to photograph something, you end up with absolutely
no natural light by suppertime. And my artificial light and light box attempts
have not proved exactly stellar so far.
But practice does make you, if not perfect, at least mediocre.
That's what I'm shooting for. (shooting-pun-hehe)

This dish was a crowd-pleaser and it was as easy to throw together
as the dreaded blue box that my kids were raised on.
Well, almost as easy. I exaggerate occasionally.

And the cheese. OMG, the cheese.
I can only imagine how good this would be with Red Leicester, but we don't
run to such exotic stuff around here.

Do not be dismayed by the amount of pasta and cheese in the pictures.
I had to double the recipe in order to feed my crew and have a bit
leftover for lunch the next day.

Another Recipe for Mac and Cheese
(adapted loosely from Nigella Lawson's Nigella Express)


8 oz. penne'*
2 cups shredded mixture of cheeses (Nigella uses mature Cheddar or Red Leicester cheese; I used a combo of Cheddar and Monterey Jack)
1 cup evaporated milk
2 eggs
grating of fresh nutmeg (I used ground 'cause that's what I had on hand)


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Cook the penne' according to package directions; drain, and then return it to the pan.

While the pasta's cooking, put the cheese, evaporated milk, eggs, and nutmeg into large bowl and mix well. If you have a very large whisk, as I do, that works wonderfully.

Pour over the penne'; stir well and season to taste.**

Pour pasta mixture into a medium-sized roaster pan or its equal; you want something wide and shallow. Bake for about 10-15 minutes, until surface is bubbly. Serves 4, or maybe 2 very needy people as this is great comfort food.

*Technically speaking, this would make it Penne' and Cheese, I suppose.

**I am a little shy about seasoning a dish before serving. I figure everyone can salt and pepper to their individual taste preference. That being said, this needs a LOT of salt, unless you're using mature Cheddar, in which case it might be just right.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Every Day with Janey Ray?

Yes, I am posting a Rachel Ray. It's one that I tried for the first time
this week, and it was easy, fast, and filling.
I usually try to avoid bacon, being the little strips of death that they are
(cardio-wise), but I figured in this case, it was permissible, and my
bacon fans agreed. Of course, they're the same people who think bacon is
a food group. I include dark chocolate in my nutritional pyramid, so I guess
I'm no better.

Anyway, for a fast and easy entree' on one of those hectic nights ahead,
I give you.....

Rigatoni with Bacon and Parmesan
(adapted from Every Day with Rachel Ray)


1 1/3 pound rigatoni pasta
1/4 cup EVOO
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
3/4 pound bacon, fried crisp and broken into bits*
salt and pepper


In a pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain.
At the same time, heat chicken broth in large frying pan with high (not sloping) sides. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and add the pasta and toss.
Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in 1 cup of Parmesan and the bacon.
Season with salt and pepper; toss again. Place remaining Parmesan in a bowl to
serve on the side.

*I'm not sure where I picked up this idea, but I've been using this method for months now and would never go back to the old way of frying bacon.
I used to avoid recipes that used bacon or omitted it because of all the mess of frying it. It always left the stovetop an immense mess.
Now I spray an old cookie sheet (the ones I no longer use for cookies but let the kids use it for baking oven french fries or pizza rolls-don't worry, I don't eat the horrendous things) with Pam and place the bacon strips on the pan and cook it in the oven until it looks crispy.

One caveat: do not forget to spray the cookie sheet with Pam or a reasonable
facsimile thereof. Once I fused the bacon to the pan and had a devil of a time getting it off.

I'll be damned, but I forgot to take a picture of this one, too. In all fairness to me, though, the Mongol hordes were so hungry that they swarmed the kitchen and there really wasn't time for me to grab my camera, let alone focus and snap a pic.