Sunday, September 2, 2012

Summer Kitchen MVPs

My kitchen has been good to me this summer.  There’s been a lot of tasty food on my table and a lot of new recipes settling into my repertoire.  Food and cooking have always been a source of pleasure and fun for me.  This year especially, they have kept me grounded and connected to something tangible and sustaining during a time when I needed to feel like something was solid and certain.  It seems that no matter how lost I feel, food is always the way back to myself.

This summer, there have been a few recipes I’ve reached for over and over again.  Three of them I’ve shared with you before, and the fourth I’ll share with you today.  These recipes are starting to feel like old friends to me, reliable favorites that never let me down.  So without further ado, my four summer kitchen MVPs, starting with the appetizer course.

Green Peach Salad

* Green peach salad.

Ciabatta with Cashew Cheese and Roasted Red Peppers

* Roasted red pepper strips (serve with bread and cheese, of course!).

Curried Tomato Soup

* Curried tomato soup with coconut milk (recipe below!).

Cookie Closeup

* Favorite small-batch peanut butter cookies.

Curried Tomato Soup with Coconut Milk

Adapted slightly from Cook This Now by Melissa Clark

Serves 4-6

This is a lovely, lovely soup.  It tastes exactly as you’d expect—creamy and spicy—and the balance of seasonings is just perfect.  I crave this soup regularly and make it every other week, it seems.  And what’s really great about this recipe is that all the ingredients are good keepers in the pantry, so you can always have the supplies on hand to whip up a batch! 

I bet this soup would also freeze well, but I haven’t tried that yet.

2 tbsp. butter or Earth Balance non-dairy butter*

1 large onion (white, red, or yellow), thinly sliced

1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste

1 1/2 tsp. curry powder

1/2 tsp. ground coriander

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

A pinch of chili powder

1 28-oz. can plum tomatoes (whole or diced—it doesn’t matter)

1 13.5-oz. can full-fat coconut milk

Chopped basil or cilantro for garnish, optional

1)  In a soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter or Earth Balance.  Add the onion, 1/2 tsp. salt, and cover the pot.  Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook for about 15 minutes, until the onion is very tender.  Stir occasionally.

2)  Add the curry powder, coriander, cumin, and chili powder.  Stir and cook for 1 minute.  Add the tomatoes (including their juice) and 4 cups of water.  Bring the pot to a bubble over medium-high heat, then simmer for 20 minutes, uncovered.

3)  Blend the soup to smoothness in a blender, working in batches as necessary.  Whisk in the coconut milk and the remaining 1 tsp. salt.  Serve hot or at room temperature as you like, garnished with chopped fresh herbs.

* I just have to mention that this soup is a delicious, creamy vegan soup when made with Earth Balance.  I made it several times during my month of veganism earlier this year, and it just hit the spot.

* * *

It’s been a very Melissa Clark-inspired summer around here, with three out of these four recipes coming from just one of her books, Cook This Now.  And I suppose that title describes what is really the essence of summer cooking.  Summer’s produce comes at us fast and furious; spring’s strawberries bump into summer’s blueberries which taper into late summer’s peaches and plums.  Apple season is coming soon, and hot on its heels will be pumpkins and the bounty of the fall harvest.  What I really like about the peach salad and roasted red pepper strips above is that they are very easy recipes, and the preparation really lets the natural flavors of the produce shine.  That’s all I really want from my cooking most of the time—that things taste like themselves.

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