Thursday, October 13, 2011

Fresh Tomato Soup

Certain dishes are like going home. They're the ones that wrap you up in a big, warm hug after a long day. They're the ones that take you back to cooking alongside your grandmother, or whoever did the cooking in your house. They can be pick-me-ups, cool-me-downs, and maybe even take-me-backs. They're pure comfort masquerading as food.

I've been waiting on this post for several days now. I've been far removed from cooking, writing, and, in general, communing with the food world I so often refer to as my therapy. Two months ago, I started a fantastic and exciting journey. I took the reigns of a morning newscast, learned how to get up every morning at 1:15 a.m., and I learned a lot about myself in the process.

I discovered I had resolve. I uncovered a creativity I had forgotten I had. I learned that old dogs can learn new tricks, and more importantly, they definitely should. Change, for better or worse, in the end, makes us all a little more open to the world. I made new friends, learned from new colleagues, and encountered challenges I had not yet stumbled across. And yes, I learned I could live, and be happy on (a lot) less sleep.

I learned home is where you make it.

So, now I embark on another journey, back to where I started, but with new challenges. You see, I've been charged (promoted) with taking the reigns of my old friend, the night news. Instead of hearing the alarm at 1:15am, instead, that's when I'll be crawling into bed alongside a loving husband, and two snoring pugs once more.

It's a bit like going home, but missing the new and exciting adventure you've been living thus far. I'm excited to again be with old friends, but certainly will miss the new ones. This however, is a new adventure in an old place. I've learned an immense amount to bring back to the table at which I once sat. It also brings me back to food and my writing, something I hadn't quite been able to figure in as of late.

But again, home is where you make it, and no one said it has to be in only one place. If you miss it, make one of those dishes I was talking about, like this tomato soup, and you'll be right back there.

Fresh Tomato Soup
Adapted from: Ina Garten
Serves: 5-6

If you still have the last of your garden tomatoes, or if they're still all over your local market, this is a perfect use of them. I used black, beefsteak, heirloom, and orange tomatoes in this soup. It's forgiving, use whatever you'd like. Pair it with a grilled cheese, and smile from ear to ear. Note: if you don't have a food mill, simply peel and seed all the vegetables below before cooking, and puree in a blender or food processor in batches at the end.

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped sweet onions (about 2 onions)
  • 2 carrots, unpeeled, and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • 4 pounds ripe tomatoes, any variety, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup milk 
  • Parmesan cheese (for serving)

  1. Heat your olive oil in a large pot, I use a dutch oven, over medium-low heat. 
  2. Add your onions and carrots to the pot, and cook until tender.
  3. Next, add your garlic and cook for about a minute. 
  4. Now, dump in your tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste, basil, chicken stock, salt, and pepper and stir.
  5. Bring the soup to a boil, and then down to a simmer, and simmer, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes until tomatoes are tender. 
  6. Finally, add your milk to the soup and process it through a food mill into a bowl, throwing away the pulp left behind.
  7. Reheat the soup in your large pot and serve with plenty of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

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Monday, October 3, 2011

Peach and Rhubarb Crisp

The end of the summer and beginning of fall have brought a lot of changes to my life. I'm still going through a pretty crazy change in my professional life, and it's thrown a lot out of balance in my personal life. One of the biggest issues, as you've guessed, is keeping up with things here at Lighter and Local.

I miss it. I miss the writing, the photography, the cooking, the therapy that this little slice of the web brings me.

So I'm trying for a comeback here. I need this.

This past weekend, my husband and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. Five years ago, on a rainy cold October day, I married a man I knew I could grow with. I knew marriage wasn't magic ponies, rainbows, and forever after. Marriage is work, but the pay off is what makes it worth it.
Our wedding day, Salem, MA.
Dave and I have been through a lot in our five years. We've lost a lot of loved ones. We've had our ups and downs, but we're both fighters. We know what's worth fighting for.

We're simple. We're happiest with a fantastic home-cooked meal, nothing fancy, just soul-warming. We're happy cuddling up on the couch with the pugs, watching a good movie, and enjoying just hanging out together.

This crisp is modified from the one I always make. It's one of my favorites. It's simple, but it lacks the pretense of anything complicated and fancy. It's a lot like marriage in some cases. It's successful if you have good ingredients, a good base, a fantastic heart, and are willing to modify along the way.

 Peach and Rhubarb Crisp
Serves: 4-6
Adapted from: Cooks Illustrated

This is perfect for those end-of-summer and early fall peaches. They're still prevalent in New England even in early October. This is a perfect use for them before they're gone. 


  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 4 ripe peaches (I don't peel them, you can if you prefer that)
  • 1 cup sliced rhubarb
  • zest and juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar.


  1. Put the flour, sugars, spices, and salt in a food processor, fitted with a standard blade, and pulse twice to combine the dry ingredients.
  2. Add your butter to the dry ingredients and pulse until the mixture ends up like coarse cornmeal. Do not over mix.
  3. Put topping into the fridge for at least 15 minutes as you make your filling.
  4. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

  1. In a large bowl, combine fruit, lemon zest and juice, and sugar. 
  2. Toss until everything is well coated.

  1. Grease a pie dish or baking dish, pour fruit mixture into your baking dish and distribute the chilled topping over the fruit. 
  2. Put into the oven and bake 40 minutes, then increase oven temp to 400 degrees for the last 5 minutes until fruit mixture is bubbling and topping is brown.
  3. Remove from the oven, and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving with ice cream or whipped cream.

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