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So the farmers’ markets around Nashville are exploding with tomatoes. Every time I take a stroll through the market, all I find are tomatoes encroaching on all the other produce. They are pushing the peaches to the side, making the peas inconsequential, and shouldering aside the squash. And as I am faced with these displays of lycopenean bloat, I’m faced with with one hard, irrefutable fact. I hate tomatoes.

Well, let me qualify that. I hate raw tomatoes. Cooked tomatoes, whether they be in marinara sauce, pasta or even ketchup are another story. Cooked tomatoes don’t have that weird slimy texture that, in my mind, has always doomed the raw, ripe fruit. Cooked tomatoes are also the titular ingredient in that most perfect of soups: tomato soup.

I’ll admit it – I love Campbell’s tomato soup. There is usually a can in my cupboard that can be pulled down and made in five minutes when I need a comforting bowl of the stuff. But I also love the the non-canned variety – and I’ve made it at home before. It’s just that my tomato soup cravings usually come on a rainy, cold day in late fall – and I have to end up using canned tomatoes rather than fresh, ripe summer tomatoes. This year though, I was determined to correct this and make use of the current torrent of tomatoes.

I found a basic recipe from a cookbook appropriately titled The Soup Bible. I added in a few more tomatoes than the recipe suggested and cut down a bit on the broth. I also used a free hand with the spices as well – doubling the garlic, adding in a dash of hot red pepper flakes, and using copious amounts of black pepper. What came out was as smooth as Campbell’s soup, but with freshness of taste that just can not be replicated in a can. I’m tempted to buy bushels of tomatoes over the next few weeks, before the season inevitably comes to an end, and fill my freezer with enough tomato soup to last me through the dreariest of winter days. It’s almost enough to make me reconsider my loathing of the raw fruit – almost, but not quite!

Fresh Tomato Soup

Adapted from The Soup Bible

Ingredients:

2 1/2 to 3 pounds very ripe tomatoes

2 T. Olive oil

1 Onion, chopped

2 Garlic cloves, crushed

2 T. Sherry Vinegar

2 T. Tomato Paste

1 T. Cornstarch

1 Bay leaf

2 cups, Vegetable or chicken stock

Dash of Crushed red pepper

Salt and black pepper to taste

1 cup Creme fraiche or sour cream (optional)

Basil Leaves for garnish

Directions:

Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the seeds and pulp to a strainer set over a bowl. Press down on the pulp until all the liquid has been released. Set aside the liquid.

Heat the olive oil in a pan, and add the onion, garlic, sherry vinegar, tomato paste, and tomato halves. Stir and then cover the pan and cook over low heat for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. When done, process the soup in a blender or food processor until smooth and then pass through a sieve to remove pieces of skin. Return to pan.

Mix the cornstarch with the reserved tomato pulp liquid, then stir into the hot soup, along with the bay leaf and stock. Simmer for 30 minutes, seasoning with the red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper to taste. Stir in the sour cream (you can skip this step if you don’t like creamy tomato soup) and garnish with basil leaves. Serve hot.

Last week, E, S, and I talked about the lack of peaches on our blog.  How could we live in the South and not have yet posted anything about peaches?!  So in honor of the peach, we decided to declare this week, Kitchen Confit Peach Week. In my mind, eating a sweet juicy peach is one of the glories of summer.  Then there is the intoxicating peach smell.  It really is hard to imagine anything better. Rarely do I think of a peach as anything but a sweet treat at the end of a summer meal.  So when we all decided to find a peach dish to make for Peach Week, I decided to seek out something savory.  That’s when I found a recipe for Grilled Shrimp Satay with Bok Choy and Peaches in the July Bon Appetit.  It sounds like it would be a little sweet, a little spicy, and all around delcious.

The sauce was a mix of peanut butter, sugar, nectar, Chili sauce, rice vinegar, and soy sauce…really when you combine these ingredients does it get any better. Salty and Sweet.  The only thing I thought it might need was a little extra chili sauce, a thought I was glad I had. Everything was easily grilled and tasted good.  However, it just is not going to look good on a plate.  As a grilled summer salad, it was quite delicious and refreshing. I will say, the grilled bok choy was probably my favorite part of this entire meal.  I know I should be praising the peach, but I think I am just a tried and true Peach as dessert type eater.  If I do decide to try this recipe again, I think I will add a little more acid to the sauce…maybe a little fish sauce.  Also, while the heat came through in the bok choy and on the shrimp, it was barey noticable on the peaches.  Anyone ever have that happen?

Grilled Shrimp Satay with Bok Choy and Peaches
Adapted from Bon Appetit from July 2008 Serves 4

Sauce
6 Tbsp Smooth Natural Peanut Butter
1/3 Cup Brown Sugar (I only had light brown sugar on had, but Bon Appetit recommends Dark Brown Sugar)
3 Tbsp Seasoned Rice Vinegar
2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
2 Tbsp Hot Chili Sauce like sriracha
5 Tbsp Peach Nectar

3 Peaches, each cut into 6 wedges
16 raw large Shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 head Baby Bok Choy, halved lengthwise
4 Bamboo Skewers, soaked in water

Fire up your grill!

Combine the ingredients for the sauce and mix until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Skewer the Shrimp on bamboo skewers. Brush the peaches, bok choy, and shrimp first with nectar then with a little of the sauce. Season with salt and pepper.

We grilled each item individually, so first the peaches, then the bok choy, and finally the shrimp. The peaches should be charred, shrimp just opaque, and the bok choy tender.

Once removed from the grill, arrange the bok choy, peaches, and shrimp on a platter and drizzle with a little more sauce. Serve with remaining sauce.

When I think of my favorite cookies, I always fall back on the classics – chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies and even oatmeal cookies. And when I feel the need to bake for my colleagues at work, I often use a recipe for one of these cookies. But in flipping through my well-worn copy of Dorie Greenspan‘s Baking: From My Home to Yours, I discovered that my favorite baking goddess has a recipe that combines all three of those classic cookies. She calls it the Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipster. It’s like the holy trinity of classic cookies – clearly I had to make this recipe.

The recipe comes together like a normal drop cookie. The butters (both the peanut and the normal kind) are creamed with sugar and the rest of the wet ingredients. The oatmeal and the rest of the dry stuff is added in later along with the chocolate chunks. The dough will be a bit on the sticky side, so I agree with Dorie‘s recommendation to chill it for a few hours (if you have the time). The dough will set up quite nicely and be much easier to work with.

So here’s the part where I confess – I made a mistake with this cookie. I didn’t even realize it until the last of the cookies were in the oven and I was tasting the warm cookies for the first time. They were good – chewy and flavorful – but something was off. And as I looked at my countertop of ingredients, which I had not yet put away, I realized that salt was not among them. I left out an ingredient that I am fanatical about adding into baked goods – I left out the salt. Gasp.

If you are not a big baker, then leaving out a 1/4 t. of salt in a cookie may not seem like a big deal. But the salt helps complete the cookie. It makes the flavors of the cookie – the peanut butter, the chocolate, the spices and, most importantly, the sugars – all work in harmony. You don’t taste salt in the cookie – but you taste it if it isn’t there. So as I looked at the dozens of freshly baked warm cookies that I was going to surprise my co-workers with, I was disheartened. Until, that is, I decided to experiment. I grabbed some fine sea salt and lightly sprinkled a bit over the tops of the cookies. Because the cookies were still warm, the salt stuck, like little crystals on top of the cookie. And as for how it tasted – it tasted perfect. Because I used sea salt there wasn’t an overpowering saltiness, and just a tiny sprinkle allowed the salt to do its work. Now I would not advise anyone to make this mistake on purpose – best to add the salt right into the batter – but know that some baking mistakes are fixable. And my co-workers didn’t notice a thing – in fact the words “best cookies ever” were heard more than once. So I managed not to ruin the holy trinity of classic cookie – not to mention retaining my baking reputation with the ever important colleagues.

Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipster

From Baking: From my Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Ingredients:

3 cups old-fashioned oats

1 cup AP flour

1 t. baking soda

2 t. cinnamon

1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 t. salt

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter – soft

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup sugar

1 cup packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 t. vanilla

9 ounces bittersweet chocolate chopped into chunks or 1 1/2 cups of chocolate chips.

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together oats, flour, baking soda, spices and salt.

In a stand mixer beat butter, peanut butter, sugar and brown sugar on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating fully after each addition, then add the vanilla. Reduce the mixer to low and slowly add the dry ingredients, beating only till blended. Add in the chips. If you have time, chill the dough for 2 hours or up to 1 day.

Drop rounded tablespoon of dough 2 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment or silicone mats.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back after 7 minutes. Take out the cookies when they are gold and just firm around the edges

As far back as I can remember eating, I have been eating grits.  I know it sounds strange for a born and raised Californian to say she has been eating grits her entire life, but I take it as a sign that I was destined to spend a part of my life living in the South.  Grits in my house growing up were almost always prepared simply (just boiled in water) and then served with lots of butter.  Occasionally my grandmother would bake them, or fry them, but the majority of the time, I would just smother my grits in butter and devour them.  Of course, I never realized that I was missing out one of the more fabulous ways to eat grits…with Shrimp.


Had I known this when I was younger, I would have made a point of eating shrimp and grits at every meal.  I guess in the long run, it was a good thing I had to wait to learn of the glories of Shrimp and Grits.  You know, good things come to those who wait.  Boy did it last week when we had shrimp and grits with Crawfish and Pork Andouille Sausage!

One might call it excessive.  One might call it gratuitious.  I call it the perfect early Saturday morning breakfast.  A pound of leftover shrimp, a half pound of sausage, leftover diced onion from the previous nights dinner, a green pepper, a little shredded cheese, a sprinkle of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning, and of course GRITS!  Now if you are not sausage fan, you can always substitute a couple slices of bacon.  It was just what I needed to get the morning off to the right start.

Shrimp and Grits
Serves 6

1 Cup Stone Ground Grits
4 Cups Water
3 Tbsp Butter

2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/2 pound of Andouille Sausage split in half, then sliced
1 pound of Shrimp, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 of a large Vidalia Onion, diced
1 Green Pepper, diced
1 Tbsp Unsalted Butter

Salt and Pepper, to Taste

1. In a saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Once boiling, add the grits. Return the grits to a boil and then reduced the heat to simmer. Stir frequently until they reach your desired consistency. I usually cook them until the water is absorbed and they are thickened. Add 3 Tbsp of butter and stir to combine.

2. In a separate pan, melt 1 Tbsp butter and 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Add the onions and green peppers and saute for 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

3. In another pan add the remaining Tbsp of olive oil and saute the sausage for 10 minutes. Remove the sausage from the pan and set aside. Reserve some of the grease from the sausage

4. Using some of the reserved grease, saute the shrimp until pink.

5. To assemble, fill the bowls with Grits, then onions and peppers, shrimp, and sausage. If you so choose (and I always do) top with Tony’s and shredded cheese.

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