Pineapple Gazpacho

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The first time I had pineapple gazpacho was in St. Lucia in the Caribbean. We stayed at Sugar Beach resort, which was beautiful. One day my husband and I signed up for a farm-to-table adventure, which ended with a five-course meal provided by the hotel’s chef.

The whole meal was stunning, but the gazpacho was especially memorable. Maybe because we participated in picking the pineapple in the field.

Or maybe because I got to play chef in the “cold” room of the hotel’s kitchen where prep work is done. I actually put the gazpacho together without knowing any ratios. But I must have done well because the chef approved.

After I placed all of the ingredients in a large bowl, the Chef put everything in a vitamix, and puréed it. Using a very large chinois, the soup was then strained.

At that point we left the prep kitchen and moved into the main kitchen where the chef prepared some sashimi for us, as we watched him cut up the kingfish, which was to be our main.

Eventually we were seated on the outside deck with a view of the ocean, crisp white wine in hand. Then here came the pineapple gazpacho. Isn’t it beautiful!

IMG_5544

It was topped with chopped baby shrimp, cucumber, tomato and a few cilantro leaves, then drizzled with a little oil. So today I’m going to duplicate this gazpacho, if I can, although the tropical ambiance won’t be the same.

Pineapple Gazpacho

3 slices white bread with the crusts
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 medium-sized pineapple, peeled
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded
1/3 cup crème fraiche
Small bunch of cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon salt

Soak the bread in the cream in a bowl.

Chop up the pineapple and place in a heavy-duty blender. Add the cucumber, crème fraiche, cilantro, and all of the remaining ingredients. Add the cream-soaked bread and blend until very smooth. Let sit for a few hours or overnight for the flavors to mingle.

Pour the mixture into a sieve like a chinois and strain well.

Taste for seasoning. It should taste like a fabulous blend of pineapple and cucumber, with a little zing from the hot sauce. It shouldn’t be salty or sweet.

Serve chilled.

The gazpacho is thin, but not watery. It’s very satisfying, and perfect for lunch, or like in St. Lucia, a first course for dinner.

Chocolate Mousse

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In my lifelong experience with chocolate mousse, thanks to my mother, two versions come to mind. One is thick and dense, almost like soft fudge. The other is like the first, but aerated with whipped cream or egg whites, or both.

My preferred version is the dense one. I mean, if you’re going to eat chocolate, eat chocolate!

This is so easy to make, and the individual servings are pretty.

Chocolate Mousse
About 8 servings
Printable recipe below

6 eggs, at room temperature
12 ounces dark chocolate
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
Splash of cognac
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
Whipped cream to top
Chocolate curls, optional

Separate eggs, placing whites in a large bowl and the yolks in a small bowl. I go the extra mile and separate one egg at a time in a small bowl, and then continue with the remaining eggs. I still have the memory from a million years ago of accidentally having a bit of yolk in my whites, and of course the whites couldn’t be whipped. You never forget these things!

In the top of a double boiler, over hot water (not boiling), melt the chocolate and butter together, stirring constantly. Remember you are melting, not cooking.

Remove the top pan, and gradually pour the melted chocolate and butter into the egg yolks, whisking the whole time. Alternately, add one egg yolk at a time to the pan with the melted chocolate, but it needs to be off of the hot water.

Let the chocolate egg yolk mixture cool for 10-15 minutes, then stir in the cognac and coffee.

The coffee was always my mother’s trick. If you’re ever enjoying something chocolate, but it has some je ne said quoi… it’s probably coffee. It makes chocolate even more magical than it already is.

Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until almost stiff; you don’t want them too dry. Use a whisk or spatula to combine the whipped egg whites with the chocolate mixture. Make sure no white streaks remain.

You don’t have to be too gentle doing the folding. The mousse needs to end up dense, not fluffy. However, the egg whites prevent this mousse from being fudge!

Pour the mousse into a serving bowl, cover tightly and refrigerate for several hours or overnight before serving.

Alternatively, place the mousse in individual serving dishes, which I prefer.

To serve, add some whipped cream, if desired, as well as chocolate curls, if you’re that artsy! If you don’t want to buy Ready Whip in a can, try one of these! They work great!

I served this mousse with cookies a friend’s daughter gifted me, and they were so good with the mousse, even though they ended up looking like tortilla chips!

The mousse can be made ahead of time, but cover tightly because chocolate can absorb refrigerator odors.

I also served the mousse with sherry. Just because. The cookies went really well with the sherry, too!

Smoked Salmon and Tomato Quiche

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I follow an Instagram account called Stephen Cooks French, all one word, of course, which always messes with my brain. A recent photo of his that he posted was a tarte au saumon fumé, or a smoked salmon tart, pictured here.

According to Stephen, the crust is puff pastry, topped with a seasoned fromage blanc with chives, baked, cooled, then smoked salmon is layered on top.

Loving all things salmon, I immediately searched for recipes. There were many similar, but the one that jumped out to me was a smoked salmon quiche with tomatoes.

What I like about this recipe is that it isn’t too quiche-y, so the tomatoes and smoked salmon really shine. The cheese element is crème fraiche, which is perfect because it’s not salty.

One day I will make the tarte au saumon fumé, and serve it as a first course. Or as Stephen, whoever the heck he is, suggested, cut it into squares and serve as an hors d’oeuvre.

Smoked Salmon and Tomato Quiche

1 pie crust for 9 1/2” pie pan, not deep-dish
Smoked salmon, about 5 ounces, cut up
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
8 ounces crème fraiche
5 or so small-medium ripe tomatoes
Salt and pepper
Chopped chives, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the pie crust in the pie pan and keep chilled in the refrigerator.

Cut up the smoked salmon in small pieces and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, egg yolk, and crème fraiche.

Slice the tomatoes evenly and use the most uniform slices only, not the ends. Lay on paper towels to dry for at least 15 minutes, also laying paper towels on top.

When ready to prepare the quiche, place the smoked salmon inside the pie crust.

Give the egg-crème fraiche mixture a whisk and pour over the top gently.

Then top the quiche with the tomato slices, and season them with salt and pepper.

Bake for 30 minutes, then lower the temperature to 325 degrees and cook for ten more minutes.

Let the quiche set for at least 15 minutes, then slice and serve.

This quiche was fantastic. The smoked salmon cooked slightly but no too much to alter its lox texture.

And the creme fraiche was perfect with the salmon and seasoned tomatoes.

Olive-Brined Chicken Thighs

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My girlfriend recently told me about her tried-and-true recipe for fried chicken, which begins with marinating chicken in pickle juice. I have been so intrigued by that and curious about the flavor the juice imparts. She’s promised me to make it when I visit next time, and I can’t wait.

I started thinking about pickle juice when I was perusing my jarred items in my refrigerator the other day (doesn’t everyone do that?!!) and I saw a jar of brine saved from olives. I do this for my son-in-law, who is the dirty martini drinker of the family.

My mind went from olive juice to chicken, as in, marinate chicken in the brine, and then follow my friend’s second step which is to marinate with buttermilk.

I have 3 friends who swear by marinating chicken in buttermilk, and it’s a popular Samin Nosrat recipe as well. There’s something about the acid in the buttermilk that tenderizes the chicken, whether you’re planning on frying or roasting or whatever.

So, this is what happened with my olive brine and buttermilk experiment.

Olive Brine, and Buttermilk Marinated Chicken Thighs

8 boneless skinless chicken thighs, about 2 1/2 pounds total
Salt and pepper
12 ounces olive brine
12 ounces buttermilk
Garlic pepper
Olive oil

Place the thighs in a baking dish or ziploc bag. Season with salt and pepper. Pour in the olive brine and marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Remove from the brine and pat dry on paper towels. Place in another baking dish or ziploc bag, and fill with buttermilk. Refrigerate for another 24 hours.

Remove the chicken thighs to paper towels to drain.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F while the thighs warm up a bit.

Drizzle a little olive oil in a baking dish that will comfortably fit the thighs. Season them with garlic pepper. Right before baking, drizzle some olive oil over the chicken thighs.

Bake until the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees F. This took my oven approximately 25 minutes. If you want more browning, use the broiler for a few minutes.

Remove the baking dish from the oven, and place the chicken on a serving platter. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic pepper, if desired.

I made some carrot and pea fritters to pair with the chicken, mostly for some color and texture.

I mixed together 75% crème fraiche and 25% Kewpie mayonnaise for a creamy condiment. A little Sriracha was tempting, but I decided to keep everything mild in order to highlight the chicken.

Have you ever tried Remoulade in a tube? It is excellent.

No condiment is really necessary. I just like condiments.

The chicken was super moist, and tasted just like olives. It doesn’t look like much, but wow.

I didn’t realize the olive brine would impart so much flavor!

The marinated chicken could have also been grilled.

I’m certainly convinced about what buttermilk does for chicken as a marinade. But I also like olive brine’s part in this chicken. Next time? Pickle juice!

Liptauer

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I should have been a skier. And not only a skier, but a skier who lives in Chamonix, France, or in the beautiful Dolomites of northern Italy. I love ski suits, (although on other women), I love hot toddies, and mostly, I’m always ready for après ski spreads.

I recently discovered a book called Alpine Cooking, by Meredith Erickson. In it she shares “recipes and stories from Europe’s grand mountaintops.”

Look at these stunning photos from the book.

The recipes are from France, Italy, Austria, and Switzerland. The one I chose to make out of all of the tantalizingly cheesy recipes in the book is Liptauer, a spiced cheese spread, because I’ve never had it before!

The recipe uses quark, but I substituted fromage blanc. I’ve even seen cottage cheese in liptauer recipes, so I don’t think quark is a strict ingredient.


The author recommends that this spread is served with whole-wheat bread.

She also recommends a glass (or two) of crisp Gruner Veltliner as an accompaniment. I’m happy to oblige.

All I know, is that Liptauer is really really good.

Liptauer
Spiced Cheese Spread

145 g or 5 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
200 g or 7 ounces quark
3 tablespoons crème fraiche
1/4 yellow onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon drained brined capers
3 anchovies, minced
10 gherkins, diced
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

In a medium bowl, using a fork or a small whisk, ship the butter until smooth, then add the quark and creme fraiche, stirring until smooth again.

Stir in the onion, capers, anchovies and pickles.

 

Finally, adjusting amounts as desired, add in the sour cream, mustard, caraway seeds, paprika, salt, pepper, chives, and parsley.

I am personally not terribly fond of caraway seeds, so my addition was more like 1/2 teaspoon. Plus I chopped the seeds a bit.

Transfer the mixture to a crock or glass jar for serving.

Serve at room temperature.

Oddly enough, the caraway seeds fit perfectly into this spread. That surprised me!

For interest, I used half sweet paprika and half smoked paprika, and it was perfect.

Chorizo and Red Cabbage Salad

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This lovely book was gifted to me by my mother. She knows what I love, and I love all forms of charcuterie.

The book was published in 2014, and written by Amanda Ballard. It is a guide to make your own cured meats, smoked sausages, salamis, and so forth.

I have since realized that much of the home-made charcuterie I’d love to make by hand, I cannot, due to the fact that I live in a very humid region. So no hanging whole jamons in my basement. (insert sad face.)

However, there are so many fun recipes in this book, utilizing purchased charcuterie and meat varieties. Like, coppa and spring onion frittata, and dried cranberry and brandy Christmas pâté. But I zeroed in on a chorizo and red cabbage salad.

From the book, “This salad is stunning due to its vibrant red color. It’s a lovely way to make cabbage exciting, as just a small amount of chorizo lends superb depth of flavor.”

Where I live, I can only find Mexican chorizo, which is soft and greasy. It’s important to find real Spanish chorizo for this salad. There are two basic kinds of Spanish chorizo, and I’m generalizing here.

There are sausages in links that need to be cooked; they look similar to Italian sausages, below left. And there is chorizo that is more similar to salami or pepperoni, that you’d see on a charcuterie platter. They come in a variety of shapes and made of different meats, depending on the origin in Spain, lower right.

This recipe utilizes the latter variety of chorizo, which is another reason I was so intrigued by this recipe.

Chorizo and Red Cabbage Salad
Serves 2 for a light lunch

Salad:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 red cabbage, cored, sliced or shredded
5 ounces chorizo, peeled, diced

Dressing:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon garlic purée or crushed garlic
Big pinch freshly chopped parsley
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice

For the salad, heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat, then add the red cabbage and fry until soft, stirring regularly.

Add the chorizo and keep stirring for 2-3 minutes, so that the chorizo starts to cook and release its oils.

Remove from the heat and let cool.

Meanwhile, put all the ingredients for the dressing into a bowl and mix together well. Once the cabbage and chorizo mixture has cooled, pour over the dressing.

Toss to mix well.

Serve. I personally liked serving the salad still warm.

I loved the dressing, but I’d change the ratio to a 50-50 mixture of olive oil and red wine vinegar. The chorizo does let off a lot of greasiness, so I prefer a bit more vinegar.

I’d definitely not serve this salad cold.

I can also see a dollop of crème fraiche served on this salad! Plus, I could also throw in a few golden raisins for a touch more sweetness, but that’s just me!

Fancy Deviled Eggs

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My daughters always loved deviled eggs, so I used to make them often at Easter and other holidays. Now that they’re grown and gone, I realized I haven’t made them in years!

I typically made them with mayonnaise and sour cream, and sometimes a smidgen of Dijon mustard. But deviled egg filling is something with which you can get really creative. You can add herbs like basil or parsley, or chives, chopped pickles or sun-dried tomato bits, and so forth.

Today I’m making deviled eggs with smoked salmon. And, I’m adding some capers. For this recipe, make sure to buy small, unsalted capers.

To make these eggs, I’m also testing out a gadget I bought after seeing it on Instagram.

These are silicone egg cookers. Because I purchase the freshest eggs available, the shells are sometimes nearly impossible to remove, and that makes me crazy.

Here are the directions for the egg cookers: Crack, Boil, Pop. You can make eggs hard- or soft-boiled, or even create egg-shaped omelets. Why I’m not sure, but maybe kiddos would like them.

No directions came in the box. I started water on the stove. I wiped a few drops of olive oil in the cookers, then cracked an egg in each of them. The cookers don’t remove the shells for you, there just aren’t any shells.

When the water was at a full boil I added all 6 of the egg cookers.

I have no idea if they’re supposed to stay upright or fill up with water.

After 15 minutes I removed one and it seemed firm, but it wasn’t. I ate it like the soft-boiled egg that it was.

And then I gave up, threw everything away, and made eggs the old-fashioned way. I can’t tell you how I cook my eggs, and I hadn’t been prepared to write it down because I had these “fabulously innovative” egg cookers.

But I bring eggs to a boil, let them boil a bit, turn off the heat, wait a while, then submerge them in ice water. My head tells me when they’re ready.

So make hard-boil eggs your way. And do not buy this product. Fortunately it was only $8.99.

Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon and Capers
printable recipe below

8 large high-quality eggs, hard-boiled, chilled
1 heaping tablespoon mayonnaise
1 heaping tablespoon sour cream
2 ounces smoked salmon, or to taste
1 ounce drained capers
Finely chopped shallots, optional
Sweet paprika, optional

Peel the hard-boiled eggs. There seems to always be one bastard in the bunch that won’t peel, which is why if I want them to look pretty, I typically boil a couple of extra eggs.

Slice eggs in half lengthwise, using a Sharp knife. Keep the knife clean between eggs by wiping it with a paper towel.

The next step is to gently squeeze the egg half to loosen the yolk. Place the yolks in a medium bowl.

Once you’re done, use a fork to mash the yolks. Add the mayonnaise and sour cream and mash until smooth.

Finely chop the salmon and fold in gently.

Place the egg white halves on a serving platter. Using a small spoon, carefully place a teaspoon or so at a time into the center. Try not to make a mess, which I usually do because I’m hurrying.

Right before serving, sprinkle some capers on each egg. If you really like caper flavor, you can include some in the egg yolk mixture.

Finely diced shallots are another possible topping for these fancy deviled eggs. It usually depends on my company whether or not I use raw shallots.

Serve at room temperature. These are really good with champagne or rosé, and with a charcuterie platter.

Tasting the egg filling is important, because both smoked salmon and capers are salty.

This is a photo I happened upon online of Bobby Flay’s deviled eggs with smoked trout. I don’t think it’s as pretty as using smoked salmon, but it’s certainly an option, and I love options.

I promise I will never buy another product I see advertised on Instagram.

 

 

Avocado Pie

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Yes, you read it right. Avocado pie. And for once, I’m not talking savory. I came across my old friend’s hand-written recipe recently and had to make it this summer. Avocado pie is unique and simply delightful.

Way back in the 70’s I lived in Santa Barbara, California, where I attended college. I had friends who co-habitated in a large house, and I visited them quite often, probably because I was living in a mother-in-law cottage and enjoyed the space, and the music.

These folks were all wonderfully talented bohemian artists, writers, and musicians – a nice change from the nerdy geology majors with whom I attended classes. (Nothing against nerds, as I was one of them.)

One friend stood out for three reasons. First, he looked just like Jesus Christ. Second, he was a classical pianist who was as talented as Van Cliburn. Third, he made this pie, and it’s from him that I got this recipe.


Above from the left: my sister, myself, and Jesus Christ, circa 1975?

So fast forward a million years and I have a cooking blog, and I’ll bet a small minority of you have ever had such a thing as an avocado pie. I only say that because, I’ve never come across one, and I follow hundreds of blogs. It’s a dessert – it has nothing to do with guacamole. And it’s so simple to make.

First you must make a graham cracker crust.

Graham Cracker Crust

5 ounces graham crackers
1/2 cup white sugar
1 stick or 4 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 375 Fahrenheit. Choose an 8 or 9″ shallow pie plate.

Place the graham crackers in the jar of a food processor along with the sugar. Process until smooth.

Place the crumbs in a medium bowl and place the stick of butter on the crumbs. Microwave gently until the butter melts.

Stir everything until evenly combined. Scrape the mixture into the pie plate.

Using a large spoon, begin spreading and flattening the crumbs into a firm crust, working it up the sides of the pie plate. Bake the crust for approximately 12 minutes – it will be firm and golden in color.

If it has puffed a little, smooth it down with the large spoon.

Cool the pie crust and meanwhile prepare the filling.

As the recipe states, blend together the avocado, sweetened condensed milk and lime juice until smooth, then pour the result green glop into the pie crust.

The pie must chill at least four hours or overnight before serving.

I served mine with a little squiggle of diluted crème fraiche.

The pie is so sweet that it really needs the crème fraiche.

It’s also quite soft. If I was a confident baker I would figure out how to incorporate a little gelatin into the avocado pie filling.

As I mentioned, this pie is sweet. Normally sweetened condensed milk is not a favorite ingredient to use, but I wanted to make the recipe as I remember it. Some lime zest and a little less lime juice to maybe help the filling be thicker, but it’s not a lime pie. Just don’t try and cut large pieces!

Smoked Salmon Scrambled Eggs

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Whenever I’m having breakfast or brunch at a restaurant, I often order scrambled eggs with smoked salmon. There are a few reasons for this. For one, the combination of eggs and smoked salmon to me is heavenly. Secondly, I rarely order omelets because they’re typically overcooked and rubbery. Thirdly I never order pancakes, waffles, or French toast because they’re just too carby and sugary for me.

This recipe can easily be turned into an omelet with mozzarella added, but when you cook eggs slowly in a buttered skillet, they are soft and creamy and cheese isn’t missed. And that’s a rare thing for me to say!

Make sure to use high-quality smoked salmon (lox) for this dish. Keep the salt to a minimum because the salmon will provide saltiness.

Smoked Salmon Scrambled Eggs
Generously serves 2

6 eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter
3-4 ounces smoked salmon, gently chopped
Creme fraiche, optional
Capers, optional

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the cream until smooth.

In a non-stick skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Pour in the egg mixture and turn down the heat slightly.

Cook the eggs while scraping them away from the bottom of the skillet using a rubber spatula continually but gently. Turn down the heat further if too much cooking occurs. Timing depends on the size of your skillet.

Take your time with the eggs. Right before the eggs are cooked according to your taste, sprinkle on the chopped salmon and fold into the eggs to heat through. Don’t add the smoked salmon any earlier or it will cook, and ruin the lox texture and flavor.

I only mention this because at home I prefer “wet” curds. These eggs are actually cooked more than I normally like, but I feel that many people would be put off by that!

For a heftier breakfast, have a warm slice of buttered and toasted bread or croissant half on the plate, and immediately top with the cooked eggs.

A little dollop of creme fraiche makes these eggs even more wonderful.

Plus you can sprinkle the eggs with capers, chives or chopped shallots if desired.


Just make sure to serve immediately so the softly cooked eggs don’t dry out or chill.


I love the addition of the toasted croissants, because they soften with the warm eggs, but maintain the buttery crust.

Tomato Basil Soup

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There was a little bistro here in my town – a sandwich, soup, and salad kind of place. It was successful, but the owners eventually retired and moved to Texas to be closer to their extended family.

The one thing I always ordered was their tomato basil soup. It was rich, tomatoey, and perfumed with sweet basil. And I don’t typically order soup at restaurants.

This is my attempt to recreate something hopefully similar, and definitely good, based on the following criteria.

1. I believe in using good quality canned tomatoes. Summer fresh tomatoes are lovely, but can lack in sweetness, or worse yet – can be tart.

2. I’m adding a carrot to provide a sweet boost, something I learned from making an Italian tomato tart.

3. I’m including a few sun-dried tomatoes for sweetness; they also help thicken.

4. Dried basil goes into this soup. I know that it seems unsophisticated, but I feel both fresh and dried herbs have their places in cooking.

Tomato Basil Soup
printable recipe below

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, halved
2 – 28 ounce cans San Marzano whole tomatoes, or other high quality brand
6 sun-dried tomato halves, jarred in oil
1 tablespoon (or more) dried sweet basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 ounces heavy cream

Melt the butter in a large enameled pot over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot and sauté for about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic halves and stir for about 30 seconds, then pour in the canned tomatoes and sun-dried tomatoes.

Simmer the tomato mixture for at least 30 minutes, uncovered. Cook longer if there’s still too much liquid; you’ll be adding cream later.

Stir in the sweet basil and salt, and season to taste.

Let the soup cool. Then pour the soup into a large blender jar, along with the cream.

Return the puréed soup to the pot and heat through before serving.

Even with the cream, the soup remains tomato-red, and definitely rich in flavor.

If more richness and creaminess are desired, you can always add a little sour cream or crème fraiche.

Alternatively, crumble a little goat cheese on top.

This soup is fairly quick and definitely easy. If you don’t have sun-dried tomatoes, just use a good quality tomato paste instead, about 3 tablespoons. I like tubular tomato paste for a small job.


Add more dried basil if the soup isn’t basil-y enough. You should definitely taste the tomato-basil combination!