Sunday, December 19, 2010

Welcome Back, Blogger. ;)



......Is this thing on?

Hello, Orange & Salt readers! I've missed you. Where have I been? Well, you can choose from a long, long list of excuses, including but not limited to: working at my job, working in the studio, enjoying the beautiful winter weather, hiking, biking, participating in an art show, knitting, walking my dog, frantically filling Christmas Etsy orders, blogging for my job, decorating my house for Christmas, and also somewhat frantically preparing for a cross-town move immediately post-Christmas. Whew. But they're all excuses, dear readers, what can I say? Eventually, I knew I'd have to return to the blog. I missed you all too much. :)

So here it is, in photos, a brief history of the last few weeks to get us up to speed:

There was ravioli, made with fresh, handmade pasta and a sausage filling with cheese and arugula. Served tossed lightly in brown butter and sprinkled with pecans. The recipe for this is, I assure you, coming soon.

There was fancy dinner at my parents' house, during which all manner of bizarre cooking and feeding rituals took place.

At fancy dinner, we fancily dined upon crispy paprika chickpeas, golden rolled spinach & feta phyllo cigars, pan-sauteed ribeyes with pommes dauphinois (a la Dad), and an amazing dark chocolate hazelnut tart. Because this family is fancy indeed.

Then, at some point, there was my first taste of gizzards. Gizzards: a true revelation......and almost as much fun to say as they are to eat! Try it: 'Honey, what's for dinner?' 'GIZZARDS. Gizzards are for dinner.' 'Gizzards??' 'GIZZARDS.' It's hours of fun, especially when you add funny accents.

Chewy, with strangely dark & hidden depths, gizzards are full of fatty flavor (especially when dredged in flour and fried until golden and crispy) and a faintly organlike whiff about them. I can't explain it, but they're truly addictive. Kind of like evil McNuggets. We took them to a friend's tapas party and ate them dipped in ketchup and sriracha sauce, a mixture I cannot recommend highly enough.

In November, Mike and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary (aawwwwwww!!) with an amazing dinner at The Mission in Scottsdale, a 'modern Latin' restaurant. Something else I can't recommend highly enough: dinner at The Mission. Seriously. I've been scheming excuses to go back ever since we left, it's that wonderful. Pictured above: my appetizer, roast corn gorditas loaded with squash, zucchini, corn, crema, and huitlacoche.........YES, you read that right, blackened corn fungus. Infected corn! It's not often that this pops up on menus, but I've always yearned to try it, and it didn't disappoint. It's earthy, as you'd expect, with a trufflelike identity. Those of us who love the fungus family (I'm definitely among that number) will adore this one.

Not pictured: Mike's appetizer, the succulent (yes, so succulent that I am actually forced to use that word to describe these) duck carnitas empanadas. I stole as much of this as he would allow before he began defending himself with his fork and steak knife. I tried. :)

Also shown above: my entree, the outrageously, plate-lickingly good (seriously, I'd had a fair amount of Argentinian red wine by this point, and may or may not have actually licked my plate when no one was looking, I'm not telling) chorizo porchetta with rosemary, served with white bean puree and sweet garlic crema. I howled with despair when the side order of puree and crema disappeared, it was that amazing. And Mike's entree of braised short ribs with chorizo, black beans and pureed plantain and sweet potato, plus the dessert of crispy chocolate and cinnamon churros, dipped in an espresso milkshake.........ohhhh. Well, I can't wait to go back. I just can't wait. Anyone up for dinner? Call me.

For Thanksgiving, there was pie. Sweet, caramel apple pie in homemade pastry, with festive autumn leaf designs. For that extra Martha touch.

And finally, more often than not, there was just simple food shared at a warm and loving table. Like soup, humble tomato soup with a touch of cream and a lively sprinkling of fresh basil. Although I admittedly love the big, fancy blowout 'event' dinners we've made and participated in along the way, this is ultimately my favorite kind of meal to share. A simple bowl of warm tomato soup.

It tastes like love. :)

Simple Tomato Soup

(serves 4-6 portions....add crusty bread for dipping and it's a full, hearty meal)

2 28 oz. cans of diced tomatoes in tomato juice (since it's winter. However, if tomatoes are in season, feel free to use fresh)
1 32 oz. box of chicken stock
extra virgin olive oil
1 cup diced yellow onion
1/2 tablespoon crushed garlic
1 tsp. dried oregano
splash of Worcestershire or soy sauce
half pint of heavy cream
pinch of sugar
salt & pepper
fresh basil

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in large skillet over medium heat, add onion and saute until soft and beginning to brown. Add half the garlic and saute quickly for 30 seconds. Add one can of tomatoes, including juice, increase heat to high and bring mixture to a boil while stirring constantly. Add oregano and a splash of either Worcestershire or soy sauce (sounds crazy, but it adds a hidden, deep dark note of savory umami that will be noticeable--though subtle--all the way through), reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing is sticking to the pan. The mixture should be visibly darker and reduced at this point.

Add mixture to large stockpot with chicken stock and remaining can of tomatoes. Puree with immersion blender (or process in batches in a standard blender; because you have cooled the mixture by adding the room temperature ingredients, this should be fairly easy at this point). Add the remaining garlic, bring back to a boil in stockpot, then reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 30 more minutes.

Remove from heat and add sugar (to balance the acidity of the tomatoes), salt and pepper to taste. Add cream to taste (this soup is wonderful in different ways both with cream and without; how much you add, anywhere from a tablespoon to the full half pint, is up to you. We won't tell if you add all the cream, though.).

Serve immediately, topped with fresh chopped basil. Spoon up the love!


  1. Impressive Laurel! Wow! I need cooking lessons!!!

  2. Thank you!! Hey, that's a good idea. Maybe once we get settled in our new place and used to our new kitchen, I ought to start giving cooking lessons! ;)