Ultimate Tomato Soup

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So I decided to start to embrace the fall weather.  This whole week has been grey, with highs in the 60s and lows in the 50s.  Its officially colder now, and my craving for warm food is kicking in.  As I have said before, I love everything tomato! Remember my brother and I ate them like apples.

I have had a lot of tomato soups in my life, and it really is amazing how many disappoint. What a lot of people don’t take into account is the acidity of the tomato, or the ones that do, try to cut it using sugar leaving you with an odd and slightly sweet tomato soup. I also love soup that has a little bite to it.  Broths have their place when your sick, but if you are making a meal out of soup, I like it to feel like I am actually eating something.

On this particular evening we took it old school and enjoyed a nice truffle grilled cheese with our soup, but for the blog today, I am sticking with just the soup.  I will save the grilled cheese for another day. Just as an FYI, this recipe makes A LOT of soup, so freeze it in small portions so you can enjoy it all winter!

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  • 4 ounces unsalted butter
  • 4 large carrots diced
  • 2 medium yellow onions diced
  • 2 large (28 oz) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 large (28 oz) cans crushed tomatoes with basil
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 4-8 ounces heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne, or more to taste
  • fresh basil to slice thinly and garnish your soup

In a large pot, melt your stick of butter and add in your diced carrots and onion over medium heat.  You will cook these for 15 minutes until the butter starts to brown and your veggies are soft. Stir frequently.

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Add your tomatoes and chicken stock and simmer for 1 1/2 hours stirring periodically. Your soup will thicken and the flavors will merge. Note: the carrots add a natural sweetness cutting the acidity of the tomato without having to add any sugar or any other flavor.

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After the 1.5 hrs of simmering puree the soup with a hand blender or let it cool and use a counter top blender.

Once the soup is smooth add in your salt, pepper, cayenne, and heavy cream.  Add the cream in slowly while stirring, and gauge for yourself if you want the full 8 oz or less.

The pureeing actually makes the soup very creamy already, so I ended up only using 4 oz of cream for about 12 cups of soup.

Serve what you will eat that evening and store the rest in containers to freeze for the season. This soup is so rich and delicious without actually being heavy or highly caloric.

Enjoy friends and stay warm!

BBQ Style Kalbi

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Kalbi is a thin cut short rib.  This cut of meat is beyond tender and flavorful, and its perfect for a variety of flavors and marinades. This cut is most often used in Korean BBQ, but being the Texas girl that I am, I made them in a traditional BBQ fashion.

Aside from loving me, I truly think James married me for the food. I think it is possible the love stemmed from several food coma’s that came as a result of meals we shared. He has been my culinary guinea pig for the better part of a decade now, and I am so grateful he is so open to trying new things.

Our local butcher had these kalbi cuts, and when they told me they were thin cut short ribs, I was convinced! To get truly delicious short ribs, you have to slow cook them in lots of yummy sauce and seasoning, and it can take a long time! They are a great winter crockpot dish, but before I break that baby out, I wanted to try these.

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  • 1 1/2 lbs Kalbi or thin cut short ribs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp ancho chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder

In Texas, we believe in the dry rub. So mix your spices together and rub them all over your ribs.

Let them sit in the fridge for about an hour before you cook them to absorb the flavor a bit.

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Cook them on medium-high on your grill or inside on a grill pan for about 5-7min total. You want to get a good sear on each side, but not over cook them.  These are very thin cuts so they don’t require too long on the grill.

As you flip them, rub some of your favorite bbq sauce on them.

Remove from the grill, and serve with bbq sauce and any side you like! We did it with some baked beans and potato salad just like you might get at a bbq joint in Texas.  I may have been feeling a little nostalgic and home sick with the cooler weather rolling in…

Enjoy these any way you like, but just for the fun of it, maybe play a little George Strait in the background.

Y’all come back now!

Otsu and Shrimp

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I love doing research on recipes.  I look at other food blogs and through cookbooks several times a week to get inspiration and broaden my horizons.  As I’ve said before, I grew up in a Mexican American household.  We ate a lot of delicious food, but there are so many cuisines out there, I know I have so much more to learn.

Asian foods are some of our favorites.  From Thai to Japanese, Chinese, Indian, etc, we love it all! One challenge is that Asian foods are not always the healthiest. This is a generalization, I know, but like Latin cuisine the focus is on flavor and not necessarily the health benefits.

I came across this recipe on another food blog, and tweaked it ever so slightly to fit our own tastes.  The original recipe calls for tofu, and aside from not loving its spongy texture, I also don’t like to eat a lot of soy. This recipe is made with soba noodles, and with some slight tweaks could be made gluten free and vegetarian. It has a delicious spiciness to it balanced by the cool cucumber and sharp rice vinegar. Otsu is delicious hot or cold, and is the perfect dish for a filling yet light weeknight dinner.

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  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Fresh ginger, cut into a 1-inch cube, peeled, and grated
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3/4 teaspoon cayenne (use less if you don’t like spice)
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce (can use a gluten free soy sauce if necessary)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 12 ounces dried soba noodles
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, seeded, and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds, for garnish
  • 1 lb peeled and deveined shrimp
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Sambal Oelek (Asian ground chili paste)

Make the dressing by combining the zest, ginger, honey, cayenne, lemon juice, rice vinegar, and soy sauce, and whisk to combine. While whisking, slowly add in the oils.

Cook the soba in boiling salted water just until tender, then drain and rinse under cold running water. Soba tends to stick to itself, so rinsing in cold water helps prevent it.

While your pasta is cooking, heat up a pan on medium with a small amount of olive oil. Add in some of the whites of the green onion and the minced garlic and cook for a minute.

Add the Sambal Oelek and the shrimp and stir well.  Cook for about 5 minutes until your shrimp is cooked through.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the soba, the balance of the green onions, cucumber, and most of the dressing. Toss until well combined. Add the shrimp and toss again gently. Garnish with the sesame seeds when you serve it. You can also garnish with cilantro, but its not our favorite herb.

Enjoy!

Chorizo Torta

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James and I were lucky enough to get last minute tickets to see Adele with some friends last week. This was in NYC at Madison Square Garden, and let me tell you, she is incredible! She is only of those rare talents that is honestly even better in person than recorded. She told stories the whole time, and really seemed to have a lot of fun with her performance.

Anyway, the reason this is relevant is because we needed to catch the train into the city and go straight to the concert.  Instead of finding some junk fast food or eating whatever they had at the arena, I thought we could have a nice dinner on the train.  It’s 45min to just sit and enjoy a meal, and they let you drink on Metro North, so we had a good cold beer to wash it down.

Obviously it would have been harder to have something requiring utensils, so I made some delicious chorizo tortas.  These are basically just the hispanic version of a panini.  It’s a warm sandwich with meat, cheese, and whatever toppings you want. Often people put beans on them, but honestly you can do anything with it.

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For the chorizo torta:

  • Cooked Chorizo Sausages
  • 2 nice buns (aside from your own of course)
  • avocado
  • arugula
  • tomato
  • manchego cheese

Cut your chorizo sausages in half and grill them on both sides for a few minutes until warmed through.

Slice your buns in half, slice your tomato, and slice up the manchego cheese.

Smash your avocado and season with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lime juice if you have it.

Layer your buns with cheese, chorizo, avocado, lettuce and tomato.

Grill the torta whole using a spatula or pan to smash the sandwich together a bit. You could use a panini press if you have it, but as I don’t using a pan is a great solution.

Grill on each side for a few minutes until toasted and cheese is melted.

Enjoy!

Orzo Salad

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As a little continuation on our crispy skin fish, I made this awesome orzo salad as the perfect compliment.  It is so easy and light, and its the ideal accompaniment for a delicate fish. It would also be really tasty with chicken or shrimp if you have particularly picky eaters at home.

An overarching theme for The Gourmet Cocina is that I like to keep things simple.  Delicious and healthy food should be simple.  I want to cook food that anyone can make at home.  The ingredients are easy to find, and I make sure not to over complicate things.  The goal is to teach the “average American” how to eat well without sacrificing flavor or breaking the bank.

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For this salad you need:

  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup of lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 1 packed cup arugula
  • 1/4 cup goats cheese or feta
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl or jar mix your lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, and minced garlic clove and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook your orzo according to package directions.

Chop your cherry tomatoes in half and break apart your cheese.

When the orzo is cooked, while it is still warm, mix in the dressing and toss. Season with salt and pepper if needed.  It will better absorb the flavor if it is tossed while still warm.

Add in your arugula and tomatoes and cheese and give it another good toss.

Its so simple, and the lemon gives it a nice bright flavor.

Perfect Crispy Skin Fish

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Have you ever wondered, when you go to a restaurant, how they get the fish skin so perfectly seared and crispy without burning the fish? Well it turns out there is a special trick, that chefs like Julia Child and Eric Ripert have used for ages… (drum roll please…) Wondra flour! It is that easy!

There was a palm to face moment there, when I realized how simple it was, I mean honestly, its almost embarrassing.  Wondra flour is kind of a vintage ingredient, but there is good reason it is still around.

Anyway, this fish is light and tasty and so easy to make! I have done it with an orzo salad, but you could do it with rice, a salad, quinoa, anything!

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What you need for perfectly seared fish:

  • skin on fish filets like salmon, halibut, etc… I used halibut
  • 2-3 tbsp of Wondra flour for dusting
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp canola oil

Pre-heat your oven to 400F and heat your oil in an oven safe pan over medium high heat until very hot, but not smoking.

Pat your fish dry and season with salt and pepper, and dust with Wondra flour on both sides, shaking off any excess.

Put the fish, skin side down, in the pan of hot oil and press down with a spatula.  This will prevent the skin from buckling or curling. Sear for about 3 minutes until the skin is crispy and brown.

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Turn the fish over and put the pan in the oven for about 2-3minutes.

Serve immediately. This is so delicious, and will really impress your family or guests.

Pepperoni Supreme Pizza

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As I have said many times before, life is about balance.  We eat lots of salads, veggies, and lean proteins most of the time, but man do we love pizza! James and I firmly believe more is more when it comes to pizza, and I love adding lots of veggies.

You might notice, I have yet to post a dessert on here.  The truth is, we don’t really eat sweets in the Burke house. Neither of us has a big sweet tooth, so part of our balance is avoiding desserts. Plus, I really don’t like to bake.  Baking is more measured and scientific, and I have always felt cooking is an unrestricted expression of creativity.

When making homemade pizza, you don’t need to be a hero.  Almost all grocery stores sell pre-made pizza dough either made by the grocery or made by a local Italian restaurant.  You can even get pizza dough from a lot of Italian restaurants or pizzerias.  The point is, it doesn’t need to take your hours to kneed dough and let it rise. The pre-made dough I bought just needed to sit out for 1-2 hours in a bowl, and then I could spread it out by hand.

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What you need for this pizza:

  • 1 ball of pizza dough
  • 2 cups pizza sauce (you can make or buy, put to you)
  • 2 balls burrata or mozzarella
  • 1/4 lb pepperoni
  • 1-2 jalapeños thinly sliced
  • 1-2 portobello mushrooms cubed
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil for drizzle
  • salt and pepper to taste

Follow the instructions on your pizza dough.  Mine said allow to rise for 1-2 hours in an oiled bowl covered by a towel.

Pre-heat the oven to 450F.

Spread your pizza dough by hand or with a rolling pin on a lightly oiled baking sheet.

Cover the dough with as much sauce as you like, and then begin layering your toppings. Break up the burrata with your hands, and then layer on your meat and veggies. It is up to you how much or how little you want on your pizza.

Finally season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.

Bake in the oven for 10-12minutes on the bottom rack (keeping an eye on your pizza the whole time).

Remove from the oven and enjoy! The best part about using all fresh, high quality ingredients is that you don’t get the greasiness of delivery pizza, and you get to put any ingredients you like on it.

This is such a easy and affordable way to customize your pizza and save on some calories you would normally eat when ordering pizza. Plus you can get your kids involved, and it is a fun family activity!

Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

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Though many of you are still fighting the heat, here in CT we’ve started cooling off. In order to “beet” the end of summer blues (see what I did there… moving on…), I am making an effort to eat colorful foods. And honestly, minus the current rainy conditions, we have had spectacular weather here! It has been mid 70s and crystal clear sunny skies, if that is fall in CT, I am all about it!

As we get into fall, root vegetables will become more and more of a weekly staple. I am not yet mentally prepared for this, but this pretty salad is a great introduction to fall veggies. I used red and golden beets, and they do actually each have their own flavor.  Golden beets are sweeter while red beets have that rich earthiness you come to expect.

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What you need for this salad:

  • 2-3 of each golden beets and red beets
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup good olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • arugula
  • goat cheese (you can add as much or as little as you like)

When working with raw beets, you want to make sure to give them a good wash before boiling them.  Then, depending on the size of your beets, boil them whole for 45min to an hour. Like with potatoes, you will use a fork to see if they are soft, at which point they are done.

Meanwhile, mix your vinegar, olive oil, mustard, and salt and pepper in a large bowl.

When your beets are done, run them under some cold water to cool them off before you peel them.  The skin should essentially fall off, it will be very easy to peel them when they are done.

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Cut your beets into quarters, and while still warm toss them in the dressing and let them sit for 10-15minutes to absorb the flavor.

Place a bed of arugula on a plate and break apart your goats cheese.

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Pour the beet mixture of the salad and enjoy this very tasty and light introduction into fall foods!

Squid Ink Risotto

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This is a dish that will truly impress you guests, and its pretty easy to make! Risottos are the perfect fall and winter dishes.  They are hearty, rice based meals usually with a protein, and make you nice and warm inside 🙂

Rice is essentially a blank canvas and takes on the flavor of anything you add to it.  It’s perfect for saffron, chicken stock, tomato, onion, lime, coconut, basil, and just about anything else you can think of. What is great about this recipe, is that it is very affordable to make, but very impressive.

James sadly didn’t get to partake in this dinner, he has been flying around the country for work, so I have had to entertain myself with friends instead.  However, the night I enjoyed this dinner, not long after the meal’s end our power went out! I mean the meal was black, but I had no intention of enjoying it in the dark! This night in question was also particularly balmy at around 85 degrees and 90% humidity, so risotto felt like a horrific choice without air conditioning! Several bottles of wine later, we all felt squid ink risotto was actually even better over candlelight in a warm room!…

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What you need:

  • 1lb fresh squid
  • 5 cups fish stock
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp sofrito
  • 2 cups of paella or aborio or risotto rice (they’re all the same)
  • 1/2 oz of squid ink
  • 4 tsp picada

Chop up your squid so the tubes are all about 1″ or so thick.

Bring a medium saucepan up to medium high heat and add the olive oil.  Once hot add the squid and fry for 2 minutes.

Add the sofrito to the pan of squid and cook a further 10 minutes on medium heat.

Add the rice stirring into the squid and cook for 10 minutes before adding too much liquid. Stir it frequently.

Keep your fish stock warm in a small sauce pan, and begin adding it to your pot of risotto about a cup at a time.  Stirring frequently the whole time, repeat this step for about 5 minutes.

Mix your squid ink into a small bowl of fish stock and dissolve it into the mixture.  Add this to the pot of risotto along with another cup of stock and cook stirring frequently another 10 minutes or so adding stock as necessary.

Add the picada into the pot and stir it again.  Cook for a further 2 minutes, season with sea salt and serve.

The dish should look thick and a little saucey still and the rice should be slightly al dente.

Risotto is a bit labor intensive because you have to keep stirring it regularly, but it really is delicious and worth it!

Bruschetta

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Bruschetta is a delicious tomato salad eaten on toasted baguette or ciabatta bread. It is not only a gorgeous looking appetizer, but its so tasty too! As I mentioned in the gazpacho post, a great way to use the pulp left over from making this dish is to create a bruschetta.

However, if you didn’t recently make gazpacho, then you can make a fresh bruschetta. This little snack on toast is the perfect appetizer for guests, or a great afternoon snack for you.

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For a fresh bruschetta you need:

  • 3 vine tomatoes chopped finely
  • 1-2 garlic cloves minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup of chopped basil
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Chop all of your ingredients and put into a bowl.

Season with salt and pepper and pour over the olive oil.

Let this sit in the fridge for 15 minutes before serving, this way the flavors really intermingle.

Toast your sliced baguette or ciabatta and top each piece with a generous portion of the tomato mixture.

If you have left over gazpacho pulp, you would toast your bread, then put the mixture on top.  Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle on basil, and drizzle with olive oil.

Et Voila, a delicious, healthy appetizer or snack!