Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Smoked Tomato Soup

My brother-in-law Jim was the executive chef in a restaurant in California for many years, Slocum House, and one of his specialties was Smoked Tomato Soup. I never had the pleasure of tasting it at the restaurant, but my interest was piqued when he told me about it. This isn't his recipe, I wanted to see how I could do on my own. I didn't write down things as I went (duhhh...) but this is pretty close to how I did it.

4-5 pounds fresh beefsteak tomatoes(or any large variety for that matter)
Olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onions
Salt and pepper
Pinch of cayenne
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 gallon chicken stock
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1 cup heavy cream
Fresh basil sprigs

First I washed the tomatoes then sliced in half. Then I removed most of the seeds by squeezing gently and scraping seeds off

This is an easy way of seeding tomatoes

Next I put the tomatoes in a bowl and poured a tablespoon or two of olive oil over the tomatoes and mixed them well. I fired up the smoker and kept it on a low temperature but a good amount of smoke. Most recipes that I saw online called for smoking for about 30 minutes. I'm a guy, so I think that if 30 minutes of smoking is good, then 2-3 hours must be even better. I was NOT disappointed.

I'm sure if you like smoking foods, I am sure that this is a lovely sight to you also:

After smoking it's back to the kitchen with the 'maters'.
In a pot I added the garlic, smoked tomatoes, some salt and pepper to taste, and the onions. I added 2 quarts of chicken broth, brought it to a boil, then reduced the heat to a simmer and cook for 1 hour or so. Using a blender (a hand-held blender would have been perfect in this situation) I pureed the soup, leaving it slightly chunky. Then I stirred in the parsley, then the heavy cream. If needed you can re-season with salt and pepper. Right before serving you can add a sprig of fresh basil to the bowl if you would like.

This turned out so good; thick, smokey, rich. You can bet that I will be making this again soon.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

April Garden Work

Things are starting to come alive here in central Ohio finally! The big snow melted a few weeks ago, the days started warming and I got to work.

With a grass rake I scratched in the mud and roughed up the surface, and planted a little spinach and lettuce. This normally works just fine, but I was disappointed in how little came up this time. I don't think that I covered it enough this time. Oh well, it was a start anyway. Here's the 'baby spinach' as it looks today:

And the rhubarb is shooting up:

And the asparagus:

After a couple weeks of warmer temps and sunshine, things started to dry out some and I fired up Ol' Bessie:

I got the whole garden tilled, this is unusual in early April. Unfortunately it rained right after this and I wasn't able to do much more. If we get another couple of dry days I can start some more planting. I want to plant more greens this year; more spinach, will try kale and also collards.
I want to plant a lot more spinach and try freezing it. I figure that if you can buy it frozen, then you can freeze it yourself. It appears from what I have read that it is just a quick blanch-and-freeze process.

So I am chomping at the bit, waiting for things to dry out a bit more.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Smoked Beef Tenderloin

This is another idea sparked by a meat sale at a local grocery. I found some whole beef tenderloins marked down 40%. I wanted to buy all 7 of them, but that would have been about $300.00, so I settled for one. I've been using my new smoker a lot lately and figured 'why not smoke it?'.

It was about 5.5 lbs, so I cut it in half (there are only 2 of us here now.) The seasoning that I placed on the outside of it was only freshly-cracked pepper and salt. Then into a low-heat, heavy smoke for a few hours.

Just for kicks and giggles I smoked some jalapeno peppers while I had the smoker going. I smoked those for a lot longer time, then finished drying those in the oven on a very low setting. Then I ran them through my food processor for smoked jalapeno powder.

After the tenderloin smoked for about 3 hours, I placed it on a very hot grill and charred it for about 5 minutes or so on each side

It came out a perfect medium-rare. It looked so good it seemed like a crime to eat it!

I risked imprisonment and ate it anyway. Oh my goodness gracious, it was one of the best pieces of meat I had ever eaten! It was so tender I could have cut it with a dull butter knife. The outside was charred perfectly and gave it a fantastic flavor.

I had some left over, so after it cooled in the fridge overnight I ran it through my meat slicer. I have plans to flash fry it quickly with some portabellas that I just bought, unless I come up with a better idea.

I am going to keep my eyes peeled for another whole beef tenderloin!