Sunday, January 31, 2010

A taste of summer in January

Oh my fellow food lovers! I apologize for my absence for a few days. Oh that’s right, you didn’t notice. Okay, well not that you asked, but I have Plantar warts (never get them, always wear flip flops in strange showers) from one summer working the grill on Block Island and unfortunately for me, living in squalor with boys who had questionable hygiene. I got their warts (note: warts on my feet, from nasty shower conditions, not any other kind, you know. Just thought I would add that).
As they are not responding to conventional treatment, my doctor decided to be more aggressive last Monday and I have been in pain ever since. I have been staying off my feet, and am unable to do the two things I love: running and cooking. You can imagine, after a week of knitting and AM radio, I have had it! I am cranky. And as is my down fall, I look to food for some kind of pleasure (hence my weight gains over the years, but a story for another time). My favorite time of year to cook is summer. I love being outside grilling steaks or smoking a pork shoulder. I decided I needed a little summer to cheer me up. To me, nothing says summer like grilled veggies. The flavors are so intense, you don’t need to add much for them to be delicious. Eggplant, portobellos, zucchinis, sweet onions, red peppers, yum, and relatively healthy. They are easy because you can just drizzle them with olive oil, (or add a little thyme and minced garlic to the oil) and grill.
Well, as with every meal I prepare, I make enough for an army. So the next day, leftover grilled vegetables are delicious, but the day after that? Hmmm, not so much. I have had my fill and I hate to say it, but a lot goes to waste. UNTIL I remembered one of the basics lessons of the kitchen: the best way to utilize leftovers and scraps is SOUP! This soup is like a roasted gazpacho. It is hearty, satisfying, very flavorful, low calorie, vegetarian, vegan and Celiac disease (an allergy to gluten)-friendly…who wants some!? Now, depending on the veggies you use, the final product will vary, but I promise it will be a keeper!

Previously I gave a list of vegetables I use but here are a few other options: asparagus, cherry tomatoes or tomato slices, tomatillos or parboiled potatoes. Rough chop your grilled veggies, place in pot with tomato juice and/or chicken/vegetable broth, just to cover and heat over high until simmering. Reduce heat and slowly simmer for 20 minutes, stirring every once and a while so it doesn’t scorch on the bottom. Set up a blender and in batches, puree soup (carefully, it’s hot). Or if you have one, use an immersion blender and puree it all at once. If it’s too thick add more tomato juice or broth. And season as you go. In the end you will have a thick, robust, pureed soup. You can always add a bit of heat with some hot sauce or a bit of lemon juice or sherry vinegar to brighten the flavors. What about some lovely garnishes? I love diced avocado, caramelized shallots, croutons, sour cream or yogurt, basil infused olive oil, diced tomato, chopped cilantro or sliced scallions. And what would be better with this soup than a grilled cheese sandwich! Yes I totally think so! Hey, like it hot? Why not try it on a hot summery day as a cold soup? (Remember cold foods need more salt. So salt to taste!) Bon Appétit! Let me know how it goes. And I am taking requests. Please post any of your questions or comments!

P.S. If you aren't watching you weight, why not top your soup with parmesan, Gruyere, goat, really any cheese would be delightful!

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