summer vegetable soup

summer-vegetable-minestrone-soup

Over the past few weeks, emails have been trickling into my inbox with urgent subjects like “End of Summer Sale!” and “Last Call Before Fall!” Target already has Halloween junk on display and Gap is trying to sell me turtleneck sweaters and flannel shirts.

My question is: What’s the big rush? Fall doesn’t start, officially, until September 22nd — weeks away from now. Not to mention that September is usually the finest month of  the year where I live in the Northeast – lots of sun, blue skies and low humidity, which in my opinion, make the best beach days of the entire season.

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creamy cauliflower and grana padano soup

With yet another snowstorm getting underway here, it seemed like a good day to make this simple and nourishing soup. Last week, I tasted it as prepared by Fabio Viviani, the charming Italian guy from Top Chef.

He was in New York City doing a demonstration for Legends from Europe, representing some pure, natural food products from Italy, including Proscuitto di Parma, Prosciutto di San Daniele, Montasio and Grana Padano cheeses.

Grana Padano is sometimes called “poor man’s Parmigiano Reggiano,” which seems a little unfair. I think it’s just as delicious. And possibly because it’s not as well known outside of Italy, I find it tends to have a more friendly price tag. It’s made in the Po Valley region in northeastern Italy from raw cow’s milk and aged between 9 and 24 months. The cheese develops a rich flavor and granular texture that I absolutely love, with a slightly milder and less salty taste than Parmigiano.  [Read more…]

fresh tomato, basil and bread soup

A tomato grown in New Jersey just tastes like a Jersey tomato. ~ tomato grower David Shepherd

What’s so special about a Jersey tomato? I’m not sure. I’m now on my second season of Jersey tomatoes, and I have to admit when I first tasted one late last summer, a memory revived with a tiny shock.

It reminded me of another lifetime ago; maybe the time I tasted my first garden tomato from my friend Jeanne’s grandfather’s backyard, or when I lived in the very southern part of Florida where tomatoes were abundant and at their prime in December, when I’d last cut into a heavy, ripe tomato that was still warm from the sun, deeply red all the way through. There was that taste of TOMATO that I can’t find the exact words to describe – somehow sweetly meaty and delicately tart, fruity and savory all at once. That flavor has nothing to do with the greenhouse-grown tomatoes I buy – we all do – all year round, that look red and perfect and lovely but taste like … not much.

Could be it’s marketing and hype at work  –  yes, the term  “The Jersey Tomato” has been trademarked – and also the fact that my attempts at growing tomatoes tend to end badly.

The cute and beautifully colored cherry tomatoes I cultivated by the back deck became snacks for hungry squirrels, and the fancy heirlooms I planted in a raised bed produced more sprawling foliage than fruit. It’s been a while since I’ve had a super-fresh, home grown tomato that actually made me pause. [Read more…]