Summer Tomato Soup In Teacups
When tomatoes are so ripe that they barely need anything besides salt, we cook them in a pot with a few herbs and work them through a food mill. What results is the most glorious summer soup. Ladle it into teacups for guests to sip hot. We often make this soup in large quantities and freeze it for winter.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil 3 1/24 pounds (6 large) ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into 2-inch pieces 1 teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste Large handful fresh herbs on their sprigs (thyme, basil, rosemary) Pinch of crushed red pepper Pinch of sugar
In a large, flameproof casserole, heat the oil and add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, for 2 minutes, or until the tomatoes begin to release their juices.
Add the herbs and red pepper. Bring to a boil. (If the tomatoes are not very ripe, add 1/2 cup water and a pinch of sugar to the pan.) Turn the heat to low and cook the tomatoes for 15 minutes, or until they collapse completely.
Transfer the mixture, a little at a time, to a food mill set over a large bowl. Puree the tomatoes. Return the puree to the pan and heat it just until boiling. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and black pepper, if you like. Ladle it into teacups and serve at once.
Corn and Pasta Salad
For years this has been Sheryl’s potluck offering. Fresh corn and tiny pasta shells are tossed with red bell pepper and red onion, lots of fresh herbs, and a cider vinaigrette. Make it with the smallest pasta shells you can find because as you stir the salad, something miraculous happens: the corn kernels manage to tuck themselves inside the shells. People will think that you’ve placed each one there yourself.
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste 2 cups tiny pasta shells 8 ears fresh corn, kernels removed from the cobs (see page 113) 1/4 cup cider vinegar, plus more to taste 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste 1/2 cup canola oil 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and finely chopped 1/2 red onion, finely chopped 4 scallions, finely chopped 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley 3 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil, and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Add the pasta shells, and when the water returns to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-high and simmer for 6 minutes. Add the corn and cook for 2 minutes more, or until the pasta is tender but still has some bite.
Drain in a colander, shaking it to remove the excess moisture. Transfer the shells and corn to a large bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Gradually whisk in the oil in a slow, steady stream, until the dressing emulsifies. Pour the dressing over the warm pasta and stir gently to coat the shells.
Add the bell pepper, onion, scallions, parsley, and oregano. Add more salt and pepper and another splash of vinegar, if you like.
Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour for the flavors to mellow before serving.
To Remove Corn Kernels from the Cob
Shuck the corn and lay an ear on a cutting board. Hold it firmly in place with one hand. Using a small, sharp knife, cut off several rows of kernels, pulling the knife from the pointed end of the corn to the stalk end. Keep turning the cob until all the kernels have been cut from it. Use the cut kernels within several hours.
Herb-Roasted Flattened Chicken
A whole bird that has been split and flattened cooks almost as quickly as parts but retains the irresistible juiciness of good roast chicken. Unfortunately, supermarket butchers won’t split it for you, but you can do so yourself at home (see page 193). You can brine the chicken (see page 167), if you like. Otherwise, roast it with a mustard and herb paste slipped between the skin and flesh. Serve with Roasted Onion Wedges (page 266), Crusty Smashed Potatoes (page 260), or Winter Squashes Roasted in Chunks (page 270).
2 garlic cloves, crushed 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste 1 33 1/2-pound chicken, backbone removed and flattened (see page 193)
Juice of 1 lemon
In a small bowl, combine the garlic, mustard, oil, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper.
Place the chicken in a roasting pan, skin side up. Create a space between the skin and flesh of the chicken by gently inserting your finger under the skin at the neck end and working it awway from the flesh. Spoon half of the mustard mixture between the skin and flesh, beginning at the neck and moving along the breast and thigh, then rub the remaining mixture onto the skin. (Ifffff preparing in advance, cover the chicken loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 4 hours or up to overnight.) Set the oven at 400 degrees. Place the chicken, skin side up, in a roasting pan. Tuck the ends of the wings under the bird. Bend the legs up so the thighs sit high on the breast and protect the bottom of the breast from drying out.
Roast the chicken for 50 to 60 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 170 degrees. Set in a warm place for 5 minutes.
With poultry shears, cut the chicken into 10 pieces (see page 194). Arrange them on a platter, sprinkle with lemon juice and serve.
To Flatten Chicken for Quick Roasting
Have on hand several sheets of paper towels, a paring knife, and poultry or kitchen shears. Place a broiling or frying chicken (3 to 3 1/2 pounds) on a cutting board, breast side down. With the shears, cut along either side of the backbone and lift it out (top left). (Freeze it for making stock.) With paper towels, wipe out the cavity, removing any soft pieces clinging to the edge where the backbone was cut away. Trim off and discard the excess fat.
Place a hand on either side of the back where the backbone was, then press down on the chicken so it opens and you can see the breastbone (middle left). With the paring knife, make a 1/4-inch incision through the cartilage just above the breastbone until you reach a deep red diamond-shaped bone. Using your hands, fold the breasts toward each other (you’ll fold the skin, too), so the reddish bone pops out. Lift the bone out with your fingers (just keep wiggling if it’s stubborn; bottom left).
Blue Cheese Popovers
A little crumbled blue cheese folded into a popover batter becomes mellow and gives the popovers a nice tang. If you have an extra muffin tin, use two pans and fill every other indentation so each one has plenty of room to puff up. But they work well in one pan, too. Serve them quickly. They go well with Tenderloin of Beef with Red Wine Sauce (page 172).
4 large eggs 1 3/4 cups milk 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup crumbled Danish blue, Maytag, or other blue cheese
Set the oven at 425 degrees. Butter a standard 12-muffin tin (or use two, if you have them).
Whisk the eggs in a large bowl with an electric mixer or by hand for 2 minutes, until they are light and fluffy. Add the milk, flour, and salt and beat for 30 seconds. Stir in the cheese. Spoon or ladle the batter into the muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and continue to bake for 15 to 20 minutes more, or until the popovers are golden brown and toasted. Do not open the oven until the last few minutes, or you risk deflating the popovers.
Remove the popovers from the oven. Use a blunt knife to gently ease them out of the tin. Serve at once.
Chocolate Sour Cream Cake
The trick to a fudgy cake is to bake it just until the top is firm to the touch, but not hard. It will still be moist inside if tested with a cake tester. As the cake cools, the chocolate hardens again. This batter is enriched with sour cream and flavored with light brown sugar.
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped 1 1/4 cups water 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature 2 cups packed light brown sugar 1 cup sugar 3 large eggs 1 tablespoon vanilla extract 1 cup sour cream 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
Set the oven at 350 degrees, with a rack in the center. Butter a 10-inch Bundt pan thoroughly. Dust it with flour. Turn the pan upside down on the counter and rap it hard once to remove the excess flour.
In a medium saucepan, melt the chocolate in the water until the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and let sit until cool but still liquid.
Cream the butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until it is soft and light. Add the sugars and beat until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla, then the chocolate.
In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, baking soda, and salt. The mixture will begin to froth and bubble; work quickly.
With the mixer set on its lowest speed, add the flour to the batter alternately with the sour cream mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. Pour the batter into the pan.
Bake for 55 minutes in the center of the oven, or until the cake springs back when pressed gently with a fingertip and pulls away from the sides. The cake will still be moist inside.
Remove from the oven and set the cake on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Turn it out of the pan onto the rack, set it right side up, and cool completely before serving.
Copyright © 2003 by Sheryl Julian and Julie Riven. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.