Tomato-Basil Soup

For the cooking classes I teach at the Mooreland Free Fair each summer, I always try to highlight some fresh, in-season produce since Indiana has such fantastic garden fare in August.  Even though our overall harvest has been a bit lackluster so far this season, our basil has been beautiful.  I am not sure how many times I’ve made this soup (or a version of it) this summer, but it’s been quite a few.  Today’s batch was generously garnished with some yummy queso fresco.  Mmmm!

2-3 T. oil or butter
1 sweet onion, diced
1 can diced or crushed tomatoes (or 2-ish cups fresh, diced)
1/2 c. fresh basil, sliced into thin ribbons
1 t. salt
1 t. sugar
1 (15-oz.) can chicken broth (about 2 cups or so)
1/2 t. freshly-ground pepper
1/2 c. half & half or whole milk

In oil, saute onion until translucent.

Add tomatoes, basil salt and pepper; bring to a simmer.

Add broth and pepper; stir.

Blend until smooth.  (Make sure to cool mixture adequately if pouring into a blender with a plastic pitcher.)

Stir in half & half; add more salt and pepper if needed.

Zucchini Pizza Pie

Since our summer months are usually inundated with zucchini, I try to prepare it in a wide variety of ways.  Most of my family agreed that this recipe is a keeper.  Once the crust in established, the rest of the dish is very flexible, so it’s a great option when trying to use what you already have on-hand.

4 c. grated zucchini
1/2 t. salt
2 eggs
1/2 c. grated Parmesan
2 c. grated mozzarella or provolone
1 c. grated cheddar
1 lb. ground beef or pork sausage or chorizo, or whatever
1 onion, chopped
2 c. marinara sauce of your choice
1 c. bell pepper, chopped (or mushrooms, black olives, more zucchini, tomatoes, etc.)

Preheat oven to 400.

Put grated zucchini in a colander and sprinkle with the salt.  Let stand 10 minutes, then squeeze out moisture.

Combine zucchini with eggs, Parmesan and half of mozzarella and cheddar cheeses.  Press into greased 3-qt. baking dish.  Bake 20 minutes.

In large saucepan, cook ground meat and onion over medium heat until done.  Add marinara sauce.

Spoon sauce/meat mixture over baked zucchini crust.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese and top with veggies of your choice.  Bake another 20 or so minutes, or until heated through.

NOTE:  This casserole freezes really well.

Green Tomato Bread

I don’t like green tomatoes.  I’ve tried.  Believe me, I’ve tried.  I’ve tried them friend, in chutneys, in salsas and in relishes.  I just can’t get into them.  I can eat them, but I don’t enjoy them.

Until this.

Thank you to my friend, Charlene, for sharing this tasty recipe.  It’s definite proof that if you add enough sugar to anything, it can be good.

This makes two standard loaves.

3 eggs
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. oil
1 t. salt
1 T. vanilla
2 c. grated green tomatoes, drained
3 c. flour
1 1/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
3/4 t. cinnamon
3/4 c. dried fruit of your choice, chopped to the size of raisins
1 c. chopped nuts, if desired

Beat eggs well and add sugar, oil, salt, vanilla and tomatoes.

Sift dry ingredients separately, then gradually add to tomato mixture.  Stir in raisins and nuts.

Pour into greased bread pans and bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

Easy Tomato Soup

Grilled cheese sounds good to me right now.  And, when I think of grilled cheese, I sometimes think of tomato soup.  This yummy version can be made with canned tomatoes or fresh, so it’s a great recipe to have on-hand in the year-round.  I’m even thinking of making enough of this to can this summer.  Soup always tastes best to me during the winter months.

2 cans (14.5 oz. ea.) diced Italian tomatoes, undrained (or about 4 c. of diced fresh tomatoes plus some basil, oregano and garlic to taste)
1/4 c. butter
1/2 c. chopped onion
2-3 garlic cloves, pressed
6 T. flour
4 1/2 c. chicken or vegetable broth
parmesan cheese

In a blender, process tomatoes until pureed; set aside.

In a large-ish saucepan, heat butter over medium-high heat.  Add onion and cook until tender, then add garlic and cook about 60 seconds.  Remove from heat.  Stir flour in until smooth.  Return pan to heat and cook about a minute or so.

Gradually whisk in broth.  Add pureed tomatoes; bring to boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes to allow flavors to become lovely.

Serve with grated parmesan cheese on top…and a grilled cheese sandwich on the side.

Tomato-Basil Salad

1heirloomtomatoesDuring the summer months when I have basil and tomatoes at their best, this is happy food for me.  I can eat this for any meal of the day and be satisfied.  As a “skeleton recipe”, there is a lot of wiggle room when it comes to measurements and ingredients, so relax and enjoy!
perfectly ripe tomatoes, diced
fresh basil, cut in ribbons
a clove or two of fresh garlic, minced
a handful or so of cubed mozzarella, fresh or cured
salt and pepper to taste
a drizzle of olive oil
a splash of vinegar (apple cider, balsamic or whatever you have is fine)

Mix and serve at room temperature for best flavor.  Then, enjoy the leftover later over toasted crusty bread.  Mmmmm!

Avocado Salad

There are a blue million ways you can make a tasty avocado salad, but this is one of my favorites.  It’s so incredibly flexible that you can put all manner of odds and ends in it and have a scrumptious result.  I call this a “skeleton recipe” because it can be followed so loosely and still turn out great.  The measurements are pretty much up to you, so grab an avocado or two and check what you’ve got in your “graveyard” (aka crisper drawer) and go to town!  If there’s anything on the list below that you don’t have or don’t like, skip it.

I eat this as a meal, but it also makes a nice side dish especially with grilled chicken, pork or fish.  You can also wrap it up in a homemade tortilla and be very happy about that decision.

avocado, diced
cucumber, diced
onion, diced
tomato, diced
bell pepper, diced
clove or two of garlic, minced
piece of jalapeno, minced
1-2 T. lemon juice
drizzle of olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Combine and eat immediately.

Unstuffed Pepper Soup

This is a great, low-cost recipe from my friend, Jamie.  It’s very versatile and quite tasty.

1 1/2 lbs. ground beef (I only used 1 lb. because I’m cheap.)
3 lg. green peppers, chopped (I chopped frozen pepper strips from last summer’s garden–about 3-4 c. total.)
1 lg. onion, chopped
2 cans (14 oz. each) beef broth (You could use chicken broth instead,  if you prefer.
2 cans (10 oz. each) condensed tomato soup, undiluted
1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes, undrained  (I used one quart whole tomatoes and kinda smooshed ’em up.)
1 can mushroom stems and pieces, drained (I didn’t use these b/c I didn’t have them.)
1 1/2 c. cooked rice
salt & pepper as needed (and maybe a little bit of sugar if you’re using home-canned tomatoes)

In Dutch oven, cook ground beef, peppers and onions over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain.  Stir in broth, soup, tomatoes and mushrooms.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add rice and heat through.  Yield:  10 servings