Monday, November 2, 2009

Day 230 - Potato and Cauliflower Soup, Crostini, and Basil Oil and Mozzarella Crostini

Eek! Such a big gap -10 days since my last cooking venture. To be fair, I was working, first teaching in Virginia, then doing some writing here in NYC, so I wasn't avoiding... just busy.

But I'm back, and so is Marcy, for a vegetarian special. Can you say "comfort food?"

Potato and Cauliflower Soup (p. 69)

Again, here's another very simple, pureed vegetable soup which is deceivingly, dare I say, outrageously creamy. With no cream!

The only ingredients: butter, onion, garlic, chicken stock, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, potato, and cauliflower. But you'd swear there was a bucket of cream in there.

I know what you're saying... what about the butter? Well, it's just two tablespoons to get the onion softened.

This soup is strangely pure, almost too mild. It tastes like savory, no-flavor soup, but not in a bad way. It's just that the potato and cauliflower flavors are very subtle, the small amounts of cumin and coriander don't really pop, and aside from the background flavors of onion and garlic, there's no dominant taste guiding this soup. It'd be perfect for a kid who won't eat anything with a strong flavor. Or a pregnant woman who gets sick if she smells or tastes something intense.

I peppered it quite heavily, which was nice.

The consistency is amazingly dense. This is the first time that I reserved a cup of broth before pureeing, and ended up adding it all back in. And even so, the soup was super-thick.

Don't get me wrong - it's delicious. And it's fascinating to see the difference some potato in the mix will make re: texture. But if you're looking for a wow factor, I'd recommend the carrot ginger soup over this.

Jeff: A
Martha: A

Crostini (p. 75)

I have so many soup garnishes to get through, so I thought I'd take these on today. I was just going to make the mozzarella toasts below, but when I realized I had everything I needed to do these crostini too, I thought, "What the heck?"

This is basically fancy toast. You cut up a loaf of Italian bread, brush the slices with olive oil, sprinkle a little salt on, and then broil. It's a nice way to elevate bread. No one's going to lose any weight here, but that was never the point of cooking my way through this book, so enjoy!

Jeff: A
Martha: A

Basil Oil and Mozzarella Crostini (p. 75)

This recipe takes crostini to the next level...
i.e. cheese!!

I'm still not 100% sure I interpreted this recipe properly. Let me explain. The recipe reads: "Make crostini, leaving slices whole. Remove from broiler and immediately brush with a bit of basil oil..."

The part about leaving the slices whole is there because in the crostini recipe, she has you cut the slices in half, so that's not the confusing part.

For me, the confusing part is, does she want me to make the crostini with oil, i.e. brush bread with olive oil and broil it, and then put basil oil on it? Or does she want me to make crostini leaving out the oil, then put basil oil on this dry bread?

I chose the former interpretation and put on oil both times.
Err on the side of more oil, I always say. And I'm thinking I was probably "right."

This toast, with the first brushing of olive oil and salt, then a second brushing of basil oil, and finally a topping of mozzarella cheese, was delicious! It's like a cheesy garlic bread, only without the garlic.

And that basil oil is a cute little trick. It's not a recipe in the book, per se, but Martha describes techniques on page 23 for infusing oil with herb flavors. In this case, you put fresh basil and oil in a blender until finely chopped, let it steep overnight in the fridge, then strain out the pieces and voilà, basil oil!

The only warning I'd offer is: keep a close eye on the oven. This toast goes from perfectly browned to burnt in a hot minute, so you don't have a lot of time to play with here. Also, I'd err on the side of undercooking the bread in the first go-round, because in the second go-round, if the edges of the crusts are already browned, you don't have much time to melt the mozzarella before the browned edges start going black.

Still, even with charred edges, this is irresistible. A nice twist on grilled cheese.

Jeff: A
Martha: A

Until we eat again....

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