Sunday, November 29, 2009

Anne Willan's Home Canned Tomatoes and an Elegant, Easy Cream of Tomato Soup

This is one of the simplest methods for canning fresh tomatoes I have ever heard of. The method is the creation of Anne Willan, a respected chef who has written over a dozen internationally published cookbooks, and is the founder of one of the best cullinary schools in the world, La Varenne, in France. Once processed, the jars of fresh whole tomatoes will last for one year, and can be used for soups and sauces all winter long. Although you will probably use this method next summer at tomato harvesting time, I promised one of the blog followers to post the method over the weekend. (Sorry I am a day or two late.)
Pack whole, well washed, unpeeled tomatoes with stems and any leaves removed, into quart/litre jars with a few sprigs of thyme, a couple of bay leaves, and an onion slice or two. Close the sealer lids and set the jars on a rack in a deep canning pot. Add enough water to cover generously. Weight the jars down (with a brick or other weight) so they don't float. This can be tricky. My suggestion is to weight the jars down before adding all the water. One other tip: If you do not have, and can not find, a round rack to fit in the bottom of the deep pot, use a clean kitchen towell or two in the bottom of the pot. This worked well for me after I scoured my town for a round rack.
Bring the water to a boil, and then simmer for an hour and a half until the tomatoes begin to lose their shape and collapse. Let the jars cool in the water so the lids form a tight seal. When done, each jar will look only half full of tomatoes. See the photo.
Elegant, Easy Cream of Tomato Soup
Open one of the jars of canned tomatoes and remove the bay leaves and sprigs of thyme. Put the remainder of the contents into a blender and puree until smooth.
Add the puree to a soup or sauce pan, and add approximately 1/4 to 1/2 cup of organic heavy cream (or a combination of cream and unsweetened almond milk) to taste. Bring the soup to temperature, add just a touch of salt, and enjoy one of the freshest tomato soups you have ever tasted.
Note: I used about two tablespoons of cream and approximately 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk. Suit yourself. You won't believe how wonderful the soup tastes.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Chicken or Steak with Balsamic Mustard Sauce

The cover of GOOD FOOD is a photograph of one of my favorite "go-to" quick and delicious meals - free range, organic chicken thighs with Balsamic Mustard Sauce. The sauce is tangy and delectable, requires no effort, and gets raves every time I serve it. The recipe below uses grass-fed beef steaks for those who love a good steak, although any grilled chicken variation would be my personal favorite. Either way, the sauce is the real star of the show. Hmmmm. I wonder how it would taste on left-over Turkey. . . .

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 grass-fed, organic beef strip steaks, 6 to 8 ounces each, (approximately 3/4 inch thick) seasoned to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup Dijon mustard (No sugar – check the label)

Preparation:1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season steaks generously on both sides with salt and pepper; place in skillet. Cook, turning once, until browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium‐rare.
2. Transfer to a plate; cover with foil.
3. Add vinegar to skillet; boil until syrupy, 1 to 2 minutes.
4. Remove from heat; whisk in mustard and any accumulated juices from steaks.
5. Serve sauce with steaks.
See our notes about cookware.

Bar‐b‐que is a fair weather cooking option. If I were making the sauce only, I would begin with a dash of olive oil and one clove of minced garlic, and then work from step 3.

The organic grass-fed beef steaks recipe will serve 6 to 8 people. Most of us consume too much protein at one sitting. When the meat is from a grass fed animal, it is so nutrient dense that half of what we are accustomed to eating is quite filling.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cinnamon Strawberry Flax Muffins

These muffins will keep for a week in the refrigerator (if they last that long), or 3 months in the freezer.

1 cup fresh or frozen strawberries
1 1/4 cup flax seed meal
1/2 cup “Spoonable” brand Stevia (or equivalent - I use 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon KAL brand concentrated Stevia powder)
1 teaspoon aluminum free baking powder
3 tablespoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon pure vanilla (no sugar – check ingredients)
2 tablespoons grated orange peel (optional)
3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional for topping)

Preheat oven to 350 F
Line muffin tins with paper or silicone liners.
1. Chop strawberries into a medium sized dice.
2. Mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients (minus the strawberries) separately, then, mix them together.
3. Let mixture stand for 10 minutes to thicken.
4. Fold in strawberries.
5. Fill each muffin cup about half way, and sprinkle with nuts.
6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Variation: Substitute fresh or frozen blueberries for the strawberries.

Note: If you are going to freeze the muffins, I recommend beginning with fresh berries.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fresh Tomato Soup

When I grew up, Fridays always meant Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Tomato Soup for dinner. Over lunch this past week, at least a dozen of my co-workers admitted that one of their favourite food memories from their own childhood was the grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup combo.
Now that I am grown up, but don't want to grow out, I've made some changes. I rarely eat grains at all, so that generally eliminates the grilled cheese sandwich. Bummer. They really were delicious. Of course, if you do eat grains, stone ground whole grain bread with a slice of organic cheddar cheese can make one beauty of a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich. But the best way to ruin a Maximized gourmet style soup and sandwich combo is to open a can of condensed tomato soup containing very few tomatoes and very many additives, preservatives, bad fats, and sugars.
Try this tomato soup recipe. It is made with fresh tomatoes, and takes very little time to prepare.

Fresh Tomato Soup

4 peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped fresh tomatoes
1 roughly chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, grated or diced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 to 4 cups of organic chicken stock
2 to 3 tablespoons tomato paste (no sugar - check the ingredients on the label)
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup organic cream, milk, unsweetened almond milk, or a combination

1.) Remove the core and cut an "x" into the bottom side of each tomato. Drop them into boiling water for approximately 1 minute and then remove. The skins will literally fall off the tomatoes. Chop them into quarters and squeeze out the seeds.
2.) In a soup pot with 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, gently saute onion and garlic.
3.) Add the chicken stock and the tomato paste.
4.) Bring the soup to a boil; season to taste, and simmer for approximately 15 to 20 minutes.
5.) Puree the soup in a blender, in batches if necessary.
6.) Return soup to pot, add the cream, or milk, or almond milk, or a combination. (I used unsweetened almond milk only, and found the soup delicious. But then, I usually do impress myself, if no one else.)
7.) Bring the soup back up to heat and serve.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Home Made Chicken Stock

It is almost impossible to buy chicken stock that isn’t ruined by the food industry's additives, sugar, or bad fats. I have not found a single ready-to-use stock that I want to consume. Fortunately, homemade chicken stock is not difficult to make, and it is well worth the time and easy effort.
In the London area, we have an Organic chicken farm, McSmiths, which I have blogged about in the past. I cannot overstate the importance of a quality protein supplier. The chickens in the grocery stores are loaded with hormones and, in most cases, antibiotics, which do not make for healthy or delicious meals. Find an organic chicken farm in your area. It will mean the world to your family, and to the farmer who is working so hard every day to provide quality food for so many of us.
Once you make a big batch of this golden, hearty stock, you can freeze it in 1 quart containers. It will be the basis for so many beautiful soups all winter long. In fact, my next post will be an old family favorite - Cream of Fresh Tomato Soup. Wait for it. . . .


2 organic, free range chicken carcasses (locally available at McSmith's Organic Chicken Farm)
2 small carrots, peeled, trimmed
2 small onions, peeled, trimmed, and quartered
2 small celery stalks, trimmed
3 peeled, smashed, garlic cloves
Stems from 1 bunch parsley (optional)
3 to 4 green leek leaves, sliced (optional)
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
4 quarts water, approximately

In a stockpot, place the chicken bones, then add all of the remaining ingredients, except the water. Add water to cover by 2 inches, bring to a boil and reduce the heat. Simmer uncovered for 2 to 3 hours, skimming as necessary.
Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean bowl and cool. Refrigerate, covered, for up to 3 days, discarding the hardened layer of fat before using or freezing.

Note: for more about McSmith's Organic Chicken Farm, see August, 2009 blog.