Monday, December 29, 2008

181: tomatoes, asparagus, book club

Two recipes for you today--part of what I made for book club tonight, along with asiago cheese bread and brown rice; we finished things off with Orangette's peppermint bark:

Asparagus Soup

• 3 cups (½ inch) sliced asparagus (about 1 pound)

• 2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth (I used vegetable broth)

• ¾ teaspoon fresh thyme, divided

• 1 bay leaf

• 1 garlic clove, crushed

• 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

• 2 cups 1% low-fat milk (I used skim)

• dash of ground nutmeg

• 2 teaspoons butter

• ¾ teaspoon salt

• ¼ teaspoon grated lemon rind


Combine asparagus, broth, ½ teaspoon thyme, bay leaf, and garlic in a large saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 10 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Place asparagus mixture in a blender; process until smooth. (Pictured above.)

Place flour in pan. Gradually add the milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Add pureed asparagus and ground nutmeg; stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and stir in ¼ teaspoon thyme, butter, salt, and lemon rind.

Cream of Carrot Soup: Substitute 2 cups baby carrots for asparag
us. Omit bay leaf.

Cream of Leak Soup: Substitute 3 cups sliced leek for asparagus. Substitute ¾ teaspoon rosemary for thyme. Omit bay leaf.

Note: the first time I made this, the soup was greener and I had too much garlic. This time it was frothier, and I think that's because I left it boiling a bit longer in the last step. It was much better this time.

Tomatoes in Spicy Yogurt Sauce

The tomatoes are warmed, not fully cooked, in the sauce, leaving their softly solid texture intact. Serve them alongside broiled, grilled, or steamed fish and be sure to have plenty of rice to soak up the sauce. Prep and Cook Time: 30 minutes. Notes: For this recipe, use tomatoes that are still firm when ripe, such as Early Girl.


  • 8 ripe but firm tomatoes (about 2 lbs. total)
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 serrano chiles, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plain whole milk yogurt
  • Cilantro sprigs (optional)


1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with cold water and a few ice cubes and set near the pot. Put tomatoes in boiling water for 10 seconds each, then use a slotted spoon to transfer them to ice water. Drain tomatoes and pat dry. Core and peel tomatoes (leave them whole). Set aside.

Note: For this portion, especially if you've never blanched tomatoes, you may want to give yourself some extra time. Here's a little blanching tutorial with pictures, if needed. I found the peeling a bit tricky, but I think it's simply a matter of timing.

2. In a large frying pan, heat oil over high heat. When hot, add cumin seeds and mustard seeds and reduce heat to medium-high. Cover and cook until seeds start to pop, about 2 minutes. Remove cover and add butter. When butter is melted, add turmeric and cayenne and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add garlic, chiles, and salt. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to low. Add yogurt and stir in one direction until smooth. Add tomatoes. Gently stir to coat with sauce. Cook until tomatoes are just warm, about 5 minutes. Garnish with cilantro if you like and serve warm, with plenty of sauce.

Note: As my book club girls observed, you need to be awfully aware and smooth with this last step--Chris caught me burning things when I was distracted by the soup. I saved it, and the sauce was actually pretty decent; all I have left is the sauce and some brown rice, but I think that will do for lunch tomorrow quite well.

Also, I couldn't find brown mustard seeds, so I used yellow, and I couldn't find cumin seeds, so I used powder.

Over the holiday, Ryan and I went to Festival Foods in Green B ay to stock up on goods for the parent dinners we cooked, and I swear, my jaw absolutely dropped. They have a side organic market that's bigger than our co-op! And the cheese counter... the sushi counter... the meat! I know, too, if we lived in the Twin Cities, I'd be at Whole Foods and the Wedge often, but we're here, and we make do. I'm daydreaming about summer gardens and farmer's markets in the meantime.

Our book club selection: Good Poems edited by Garrison Keillor. We read to each other our favorite poems, and I have more I want to share here. I did bring up Lisel Mueller's "Late Hours," which I fell in love with.

Next up: The History of Love by Nicola Krauss. That's been on my must-read list for a while, so I'm glad it's what Angie picked.

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