Creamy Tomato Soup with Mini Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
After the elegance and extravagance of the holidays,
January is a good time for getting back to basics, especially in
the foods we eat. Here are some comfort food recipes your family
is sure to enjoy in the coming weeks. In the first recipe, mini
grilled cheese squares float atop a creamy tomato soup like dumplings
for a new take on this classic comfort food combo.
10 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise, seeds removed
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 slices of American cheese
12 slices of white bread
2 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Chopped chives or basil for garnish, optional
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place the plum tomatoes in a large baking dish.
Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Roast until the tomatoes
are soft, 25 to 30 minutes.
In a large stockpot set over medium heat, heat the
remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and
cook until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes.
Add the roasted tomatoes and their juices, the canned
tomatoes and their juices, and the stock to the stockpot, and bring
to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, stir in the cream, and season
with salt and pepper. Simmer the soup for 10 minutes; do not bring
Remove the pot from the heat and use a handheld
blender to puree the soup until its as smooth or as chunky
as you prefer (If you dont have a handheld blender, you can
use a potato masher to break up the tomatoes, or you can crush them
against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon.)
Make six sandwiches with 1 slice of cheese between
slices of the white bread. Cut off the crusts and cut each sandwich
into quarters. Crimp the edges of the bread together with a fork
to make little packets that enclose the cheese. You should have
24 cheese dumplings.
In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, melt
a tablespoon of the butter. Working in batches and adding more butter
as needed, grill the cheese dumplings until they are lightly browned
and toasted like little grilled-cheese sandwiches.
Ladle the soup into six bowls and top with four
dumplings each. Serve immediately. Garnish with chopped chives or
basil, if desired.
Lettuce Wedges with Blue Cheese Dressing
This wedge salad is a steakhouse classic, but you
can serve it up in your home at any time. The recipe below is for
2 heads of iceberg lettuce and 8 servings, but you can use only
half the dressing for one head of lettuce and store the remaining
dressing for up to a week in your refrigerator.
Juice of 1 large lemon
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
6 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 heads iceberg lettuce
10 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 tomatoes, finely diced
Freshly ground pepper
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the lemon juice,
mayonnaise, buttermilk, sour cream, garlic powder and onion powder.
Whisk the mixture together until smooth.
Add the cheese and mix just until blended. Chill in an airtight
container in the refrigerator at least 2 hours before serving.
Core and quarter each head of lettuce. Serve a generous
dollop of dressing over each lettuce wedge and top with the bacon
and tomato. Season with pepper.
Classic Pot Roast
Pot roast usually calls for a lower-cost cut of
meat like chuck, which makes this a good value as well a tasty choice
for a family dinner. Cooking the meat long and slow in red wine
and beef stock, along with lots of vegetables, makes the roast very
tender and flavorful. Serve with the horseradish-chive mashed potatoes
3 pound boneless beef chuck roast
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
3 tablespoons canola oil
4 tablespoons butter
2 medium red onions, cut into quarters
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
3 stalks celery, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 rutabaga, peeled and cut into 12 to 16 pieces, about a pound
8 cremini mushrooms, halved
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 head garlic, top cut off to expose cloves
3/4 cup tomato paste
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs rosemary
2 cups red wine, preferably cabernet
4 cups beef broth
Preheat oven to 340 degrees. Season meat generously with salt and
pepper. On the stove top, heat oil in a large Dutch oven, or other
heavy roasting pan with a lid, over medium-high heat. Sear the meat
until a dark crust forms, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove meat to
Reduce heat to medium and add butter to the pan.
Melt the butter and add the whole head of garlic and vegetables,
stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of the pot, until the
vegetables start to color, 8 to 10 minutes.
Add tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently,
until it darkens slightly, about 5 minutes.
Add bay leaves, rosemary, and wine and cook, stirring
occasionally, until liquid is reduced to a thick gravy consistency,
5 to 7 minutes.
Return meat to the pot. Add broth, then cover the
pot and transfer to the oven. Cook for 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Let roast sit at room temperature for at least 10
minutes. Remove meat to a cutting board to slice. Discard bay leaves
and rosemary stems. Squeeze any garlic cloves remaining in their
skins into the stew and discard the skins. Serve slices of meat
in shallow bowls along with the vegetables and a generous amount
of cooking liquid ladled over top.
Horseradish-Chive Mashed Potatoes
Nothing is more comforting than creamy mashed potatoes,
especially if served with a meat dish that has lots of gravy or
sauce, like the pot roast recipe above. This recipe adds horseradish
and chives to the potatoes for extra layers of flavor.
2 pounds whole russet or Yukon gold potatoes
1/2 to 1 stick butter
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup horseradish
1/3 cup chopped chives
Cover the potatoes with cold salted water; simmer
45 minutes. Drain, peel, and mash with 1/2 to 1 stick butter. Add
sour cream, horseradish, chives, and salt and pepper; mash until
smooth and fluffy.
Lemon Poppyseed Muffins
Everyone loves muffins! They are ideal for breakfast,
lunch, or served with your afternoon tea or coffee. Lemon and poppyseed
muffins are a classic combo and we offer the recipe below as the
final entry in our list of January comfort foods. Enjoy!
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup granulated sugar, plus up to 1 tablespoon for topping the
muffins, if desired
2 large eggs, at room temperature
4 tablespoons poppy seeds
1/2 cup milk
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly brush
a 12-cup muffin tin with butter and set aside. Sift the flour, baking
powder, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.
In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment,
or with an electric hand-held mixer in a large bowl, cream the butter,
zest, lemon juice, and 2/3 cup sugar until light and fluffy, about
2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Remove
the bowl from the mixer. Stir in the poppy seeds.
Fold the flour in 3 parts into the butter mixture,
alternating with the milk in 2 parts, until just combined. Take
care not to overmix the batter. Divide the batter evenly into the
muffin tin and sprinkle the tops with sugar. Bake until golden brown,
about 25 minutes. Cool muffins in the pan on a rack. Serve warm.
Cheeseball with Pecans
In February we present three recipes that are perfect
for a special Valentines meal, and also a paczki recipe for
Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. Enjoy the last few
weeks before Lent with these rich and satisfying dishes! We start
with a cheese ball appetizer, which is both classic and decadent
a perfect start to a romantic meal or any party. Enjoy!
4 tablespoons salted butter
1 cup shredded sharp, flavorful cheese, in any combination that
might include Gruyère, Cheddar or blue cheese
3 ounces fresh goat cheese
4 ounces cream cheese
2 heaping tablespoons finely chopped scallions
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped, salted roasted pecans
2 heaping tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
Allow the butter and cheeses to come to room temperature. They should
sit out of the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Put everything except the pecans and parsley in
the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat
until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice.
It should take about 4 minutes.
Plop the mixture onto a piece of waxed paper and
gently form into a ball. Place in the refrigerator for at least
15 minutes or until firm enough to work with.
Mix the pecans and parsley together on a large plate
or a cutting board, then roll the cheese ball in the mixture. Cover
any surfaces with a sprinkling of the pecan and parsley mixture
and pat into the sides until you have an evenly coated ball.
Wrap well in plastic and refrigerate. When ready
to serve, let the ball sit out for at least a half hour to soften.
Serve with good plain crackers or small toasts.
Steak Diane for Two
Filet mignon is the perfect dish for Valentines
Day for you and your sweetheart. This recipe calls for quick
pan-fried steaks topped with a Worcestshire and mustard sauce which
makes these steaks so flavorful. They only take a few minutes to
make! Serve with the roasted asparagus dish below.
2 6-ounce beef fillets, cut from the tenderloin
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon minced shallot or onion
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, more to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
Lemon juice to taste, optional
Chopped fresh chives or parsley leaves for garnish
Flatten fillets a bit with the palm of your hand,
the back of a skillet or a small mallet; they should be about 1
inch thick. Sprinkle with salt and a lot of pepper. In small skillet,
preferably one just large enough to hold fillets, combine oil and
tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat. When butter foam melts,
sear steaks on both sides, just until browned, no more than 2 minutes
a side. Remove to platter.
Wipe pan clean with moist towel; add remaining butter
over medium heat, with shallot or onion. Cook, stirring occasionally,
until tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in mustard, Worcestershire,
and cream. Add some salt and a fair amount of pepper. Stir once
or twice, then taste and adjust seasoning.
Keeping mixture at a steady simmer, return meat
and accumulated juices to pan. Cook, turning two or three times,
for 1-2 minutes more, until meat is done to your liking (125 degrees
internal temperature for medium-rare).
Remove to a plate, and add lemon juice, if using,
salt and pepper to the sauce as needed. Spoon sauce over meat, garnish
with chives or parsley, and serve along with roasted asparagus (recipe
below) and crusty white bread. A zesty red wine (like Pinot Noir)
would be perfect with this meal.
Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan
Roasted asparagus is the perfect accompaniment to
steak. This recipe is quick and easy to make and topping
the asparagus with Parmesan cheese gives it an added layer of flavor.
Serve with lemon wedges.
1 bunch of fresh asparagus
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 lemon cut in wedges, for serving
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. If the stalks of the asparagus
are thick, peel the bottom 1/2 of each. Lay them in a single layer
on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and
pepper. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender. Sprinkle with
the Parmesan cheese and return to the oven for another minute. Serve
with lemon wedges.
Paczki - Polish Jelly Rolls
In Poland, paczki (jelly rolls) are traditionally deep-fried and
served during the week leading up to Ash Wednesday. Millions and
millions of these light and fluffydelicacies are consumed in Poland
in that one week! In the US, you can buy paczki at many bakeries,
both Polish and American usually on Shrove Tuesday or Ash
Wednesday but you can also try making them yourself at home.
It takes a while to prepare them, but the effort is certainly worth
2 cups whole milk, warmed to a simmer, but not boiling
4 1/2teaspoons active dry yeast (2 packages)
3/4 cup + 1 pinch granulated sugar, divided
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour, divided
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Peanut oil, canola oil or lard, for frying
Fruit preserves, for filling (raspberry, strawberry, apricot, or
Powdered and granulated sugars, for coating
Pour warm milk into bowl of a stand mixer. Stir in the yeast and
a pinch of granulated sugar. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes, or until
it has become bubbly.
Add 2 cups of flour to the mixture and stir with a wooden spoon
until a smooth batter forms. Cover with plastic wrap and set in
a warm spot for 30 minutes. The mixture should have risen and be
In a medium bowl, whisk the egg and egg yolks until pale yellow
and frothy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar, vanilla extract and
salt, and whisk until combined and smooth.
Attach the dough hook to the mixer, add the egg mixture to the dough
and mix on medium-low speed until mostly combined. Add the melted
butter and mix to combine.
Gradually add 3 more cups of flour to the mixture
and continue to knead until a very soft dough comes together. (It
will not clean the sides of the bowl or form a ball; it will be
rather slack and a bit sticky.) If necessary, add up to another
1 cup of flour, a spoonful at a time, until the dough forms.
Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic
wrap, and set in a warm spot until it has doubled in size.
Remove the dough from the bowl and turn out onto a floured work
surface. With your fingers, push down the dough into an even layer.
Sprinkle flour on the dough and roll it out to 1/2-inch thickness.
If the dough doesnt hold its shape and springs back, cover
with a damp towel and let rest for a few minutes and try again.
Use a 3-inch biscuit cutter to cut out rounds of dough. Transfer
the dough rounds to parchment-lined baking sheets. Gather scraps
of dough and again roll out and cut until you have used up all of
the dough. Cover the baking sheets loosely with plastic wrap and
place in a warm, draft-free spot until almost doubled in size, about
Meanwhile, heat at least 1½ inches of oil in a heavy-bottomed
pot, Dutch oven, or deep skillet over medium heat to 350 degrees
F. Carefully lower about six paczki into the oil at a time (be sure
not to over-crowd the pan) and fry until the bottom is golden brown.
Carefully turn them over and continue to fry until the other side
is golden brown. Use a spider strainer or slotted spoon to remove
them to a paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain. Allow the oil
to come back to temperature, then repeat until all of the paczki
have been fried.
Allow the paczki to cool until you are able to handle them easily.
Using a filling tip, pipe fruit preserves into the sides of the
paczki, then roll in powdered or granulated sugar. The paczki are
best the same day they are made, but can be stored in an airtight
container at room temperature for up to 2 days.
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