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Saturday, February 25, 2023

Tomato Rice Soup with Caramelized Onions

I have a quite a collection of tomato soup recipes, considering how I detested it as a child. Of course, I was served only canned soup, so I don't blame my younger self. Here's the latest addition. The caramelized onions add texture and sweetness, while the rice makes it heartier than some.  


Tomato Rice Soup with Caramelized Onions

Source: Milk Street
Serves 4-6

1 T olive oil
1 large yellow onion, halved and sliced thinly
1 teas white sugar
kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 teas dried thyme
1/2 c long-grain white rice, rinsed and drained (see note below if you prefer brown rice)
1 14-1/2 oz can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
1 quart chicken broth or vegetable broth
1/2 c parsley or basil leaves, chopped
optional basil pesto or grated Parmesan cheese, or both

Over medium flame, heat oil in a large saucepan or medium Dutch oven until it shimmers. Stir in the onion, sugar and half a teaspoon salt and pepper. Cook until the onion is well browned and quite soft, stirring occasionally. Place half of the cooked onion in a small bowl and set aside.

Add the thyme to the onion in the pan and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Stir in the rice, tomatoes and juices and broth. Turn heat to medium high and bring the soup to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking, covered, until the rice is tender around 20 minutes. Stir from time to time. 

When the rice is cooked, take the soup off the heat and stir in the parsley. Taste it to check for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Top each serving with some of the onion and drizzle with oil. Or add either of the optional garnishes.


The magazine indicates you can use short grained rice if that's what you have although authors preferred long grain white. I made mine with brown rice and it needed twice the amount of cooking time. 

I think I'll caramelize 2 onions next time, particularly if I let them get quite brown. One isn't enough for all the servings of the soup and leftovers are easy to use.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Skillet Pumpkin Cornbread

Here's a good way to sneak in a bit of extra vegetables. Although the bread actually looks more orange than this photo, don't be surprised that the pumpkin doesn't make a marked change in flavor. I find this quite tasty but it doesn't have the same height as my usual cornbread. One benefit of the added pumpkin is that it keeps the bread moist for several days after baking.


Skillet Pumpkin Cornbread

Yields one 9" cornbread

1 c pumpkin canned pumpkin puree
1 c low-fat milk
2 T olive oil
1 T mild honey
2 eggs
1 1/2 c ground yellow cornmeal, ideally stone ground, but not necessarily
1/2 c AP flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 teas baking soda
3/4 teas salt
1 T unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 400F. Place inside a 9" cast iron skillet or a 2-qt baking pan or a 9" round cake pan.

Place the pumpkin puree, milk, olive oil, honey and eggs in a bowl or large liquid measuring cup and whisk until combined. 

Combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and soda and salt in a large bowl. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry and mix but don't overmix.

Remove the pan from the oven and drop the butter in. When it has melted, brush the sides with the melted butter and pour the excess into the batter. Mix it in quickly and scrape the batter into the hot pan. Return to the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean. 

The original recipe instructs bakers to let the bread cool for 20 minutes. I've not been able to wait that long.

Portuguese-style Sweet Potato Buns

I don't quite know what to call these because they look a little like English muffins (but their inner texture is quite different); they feel like they would make a sturdy burger bun (but the color is unconventional); and they aren't really a dinner roll. Nomenclature aside, these colorful breads were the favorite part of one family meal over the Christmas holiday, especially with the chive butter spread, which I'll include.


Portuguese-style Sweet Potato Buns

Yield: 8 

If you've got a scale, using it will result in greater accuracy. 

12 ounces orange sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
2/3 water
3 T salted butter, cut into 3 pieces
1 T honey
1 1/2 teas kosher salt
3 c bread flour (411 grams)
2 teas instant yeast

Cook the sweet potatoes, water, butter, honey, and salt in a small saucepan until the sweet potatoes do not resist when poked with a skewer. Pour all into the bowl of a stand mixer and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes to cool so the heat doesn't kill the yeast. When cool, use a paddle attachment to mix the potatoes until they are smooth. Or you can use a potato masher. 

Prepare a sheet pan by covering the surface with kitchen parchment.

Stir in the flour and yeast and replace the paddle with the dough hook. Run the mixer on low until the flour is mixed in. A dough should form in about 5 minutes. Increase the speed to medium high and run the mixer for another minute, for a total of 6-7 minutes.

Move the dough into a greased bowl with a cover to allow to rise until double (about an hour). I'm lazy about doing dishes and re-use my stand mixer bowl, after maneuvering the dough around in the bowl so I can mist the bottom of the bowl with vegetable oil spray.

When the dough has doubled, plop it out onto a very lightly floured counter and divide into 8 pieces of equal size. Tuck sides of each piece into the center and pinch, forming a small ball. Place one ball onto the counter where there is no flour and cupping your hand roll the ball until it is smooth. Place each ball onto the parchment, pinched side down, and press into a 4-inch disk, about a quarter inch thick. Cover and allow to rise for 30 minutes. 

At about the 15 minute point, start to preheat your oven to 350F (or sooner if your oven is slow to preheat). The oven rack should be in the middle. At about the 20-25 minute point, start to preheat a cast iron skillet, griddle, or a large non-stick skillet. It's ideal (but not imperative) to be able to cook 4 of these buns on the surface at the same time.  After the 30 minutes has passed, when your griddle is hot enough to sizzle drops of water, carefully place 4 buns on the surface, top-side down, and cook for 1-2 minutes until they are golden brown. Flip them over, using a wide spatula and cook for another 1-2 minutes until second side is browned. Place these par-cooked buns onto the sheet pan and repeat with the remaining four dough rounds. 

After all eight buns have been par-cooked, place the sheet pan into the preheated oven and bake until the rolls have reached an internal temperature of 200F or 12-14 minutes. Milk Street instructions indicate you should cook for the full 14 minutes if you don't have a thermometer. 

These can be served completely cooled and sliced in half, or somewhat warm from the oven. They are good sliced and toasted as well, especially after a day or two. They store well in the freezer, too. 

Note: The last time I made these, I didn't weigh the flour and I had to add 1/4 c extra water to get my dough to be the right texture. As the teachers of my Turkish cooking class taught me, roll doughs are best when they feel like your ear lobe when you pinch it. 

Garlic Chive Butter

Also from Milk Street. I think this is plenty for 8 buns so I half it. I've also melted the butter when I've been in a hurry, however, this does cause the liquid to separate from the solids, somewhat.

1 stick of butter
3 T finely chopped fresh chives (in a pinch I've used scallions as well as finely chopped light-green leek leaves)
1 small garlic clove, finely minced
1/4 teas freshly ground black pepper

Use a rubber spatula to stir the butter until it is no longer a stick but a creamy mass of smooth butter. Add the chives, garlic, and pepper and stir to combine.