Cream of Fresh & Sun-Dried Tomato Soup

Homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese is a new thing for me – in particular, the homemade part. I’ve typically been an open a can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup, add milk, and heat it up on the stove kind of person. But this homemade version is one million light years ahead of the canned stuff.

I can’t get enough of cheese crisps. In Caesar salads. Or as a snack. I have Ina Garten to thank for this cheese discovery.

She’ll serve parm reg cheese crisps as hors d’oeurves with drinks. I can’t think of anything more perfect. She’ll take shards of parm reg, too, and serve those on their own with sea-salted Marcona almonds, citrus-marinated olives, or other ridiculously tasty snackables.

Make them tonight with that hunk you have in your fridge right now. You can find the recipe here.

Some of my other favorites of hers – Soppressata and Cheese in Puff Pastry, Blini with Smoked Salmon and Herbed Ricotta Bruschettas.

Cheddar cheese, like parm reg, is perfect for crisp-izing. Take a tablespoon or so of the shredded cheese, throw spoonfuls on parchment paper in a hot oven, and you have cheddar cheesy chips to snack on.

This recipe was inspired by Ina Garten’s Easy Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons.

Here, I wanted to find a way to incorporate sun-dried tomatoes. I could eat one after another, especially the tomatoes marinated in oil and herbs. This soup, with the sun-dried tomato flavor, is a welcome tomato punch to the mouth.

Cream-of soups are so versatile. You’re taking an ingredient you love – and really, it could be anything – and enveloping it in heavy cream, butter, and giving the flavors time to deepen on the stove top. Hankerings has posted a few of its favorite cream-of soups, including Cream of Chicken Soup with Crispy Chicken Skin and Mushroom Forager’s Soup.

Next cream-of soup on deck? A cream of bell pepper soup, which I have very high expectations for. Check back soon!

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 1 28 oz. can San Marzano tomatoes
  • 8 sun-dried tomatoes in oil and herbs, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 / 2 white onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons sherry
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 / 4 cup basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • Olive oil, as needed
  • 1 / 2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 350*.
  2. Add the butter and olive oil to a medium-sized saucepan. Heat until the butter is melted, and add the onion. Saute for 3 to 4 minutes until the onion becomes translucent. Add the garlic, and saute for an additional 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Open the can of tomatoes, and crush each tomato with your hand into the onion & garlic mixture. Be mindful of the tomato juices – they are likely to spray as you crush them. Add the remaining tomato sauce from the can into the pan as well.
  4. Add the chopped sun-dried tomatoes, heavy cream, salt, pepper, basil, sherry, red wine vinegar and sugar. Heat until just-simmering, then turn off the heat.
  5. In a food processor, pour the soup until just below the liquid line. Pulse until nearly smooth. Puree the soup in batches, adding the soup back into the pot as you go along.
  6. Once the whole batch has been pureed, bring the soup to a near-boil, and simmer for 15 minutes or so, until the soup is reduced slightly.
  7. To make the cheese crisps, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place tablespoon-sized piles of the cheddar cheese 2 inches apart. Bake for 8 minutes or so, until the crisps have seized and are slightly browned. Remove the crisps from the oven an allow to cool.
  8. Plate the soup, topping each bowl with 2 of the cheddar cheese crisps. Enjoy hot.

Grits Carbonara

Hankerings publishes its fair share of butter-, cheese-, and animal fat- laden dishes. No surprise then that we’ve shared an inordinately high number of wow-factor, carbonara-inspired dishes.

If the general concept of carbonara tickles your fancy, I urge you to check out our Red Hot Pasta Carbonara Nests, Pizza Carbonara or Linguini with Clams Carbonara.

There’s a reason for this.  I’ve been known to crave some combination of cheese, egg yolks, garlic and meat when my hungry monster rears its head. All in one dish.

In theory, you could “carbonara-ize” any starchy comfort food – and you’ll end up with something salty, porky, cheesy, eggy, and garlicky.  Check, check, check… & check.

grits_carbonara_closeup

Garlic delivers the heat, pungency and baseline flavor for the dish. Parm reg, the king of cheese, brings the dairy fat. Then you have the egg yolk, which is a nature-made sauce in and of itself – a miracle bestowed on us from the food gods and goddesses.

And then there’s bacon. One of the most readily available, scrumptious hunks animal fat you can get your hands on. Speaking of, if you want to give a killer gift, Zingerman’s offers the best bacon of the month club you will find online.

Because let’s face it, grits could use a pick me up.

I’ve never gone wrong with buttered grits. I’ll typically reserved my grits consumption for my rare trips to the Waffle House, usually while I’m on the road to southern Virginia. They’re incredibly good cooked simply, but as with most ubiquitously-loved and adaptable foods, I can’t help myself. I add all sorts of stuff to grits when I make them at home. Whatever I have in the fridge on any given day – herbs, tomato sauce, blue cheese, you name it – is likely to end up there.

There are two kinds of grits – instant grits and real-deal, stone-ground grits. I used instant grits here for hunger-pang related reasons, however, you’re going to have a much more toothsome outcome with the low and slow stone-ground variety. If you are lucky enough to have the time to go that route. Just substitute the same volume of grits, substituting the recommended liquid with milk, and cook according to package instructions.

What are some of your favorite grits additions? And more importantly, what dish should I carbonara-ize next!? 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 4 oz. bacon, of your choosing, medium diced
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 / 3 cup instant grits
  • 1 / 3 cup parm reg, plus additional for garnish
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 / 4 cup scallions, for garnish
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper, plus additional for garnish

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Brown the bacon in a medium-sized saucepan. When the bacon is almost done cooking, add the garlic. Cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  2. Add the grits, stirring for a minute or two. Add the milk, pinch of salt, pinch of pepper, cover, and simmer on low heat for 5 to 7 minutes, until the grits are al dente.
  3. Add 3 of the egg yolks off the heat to the grits, and stir vigorously to cool. Add the parm reg and stir until melted. Plate the grits. Top each plate with one egg yolk, sprinkling with pepper, parm reg, and chopped scallions for garnish, if desired. Serve immediately.

 

 

White Pizza with Clam, Garlic & Parsley Oil

What’s white pizza in a few words? Indulgent and sinful – and it’s super in my face about it. When I’m looking at that by-the-slice menu board or ravenously scrolling through UberEats at 11:30 PM, white pizza always ends up a final contender.

I still love a classic cheese pie. Tomato sauce tastes delicious – but sometimes, I just want cheese, carbs, and nothing even remotely vegetable-derived to spoil my good time.

White pizza comes from Italy, obviously. But the recipe here, with clams and herbs, more closely mirrors a version of white pizza which has its roots in the American Northeast – where they developed what they call a white clam pizza. We have the brilliant Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana in New Haven, Connecticut to thank for that.

Their clam pie toppings involve more ingredients than I have here – there are vegetables, seasonings and starch fillers that are mixed with the clams to create a filling, that is then baked onto the dough.

I elected for a simple, flavor-packed drizzling of olive oil infused with chopped clams, parsley and a &$^%-load of minced garlic. The way that oil settles into the pockets on the pizza makes me swoon. I don’t know about you, but I love a substantial slathering of grease on my pizzas.

How much does humanity love pizza? I’ll tell you.

My brother doesn’t like cheese and hasn’t for a very long time. When we probe him, I completely understand where he’s coming from. It smells bad – that is indisputable. It’s fresh dairy product that has been aged, often with mold added to it.

But, he still eats pizza. On multiple occasions, his orders for a meat-lover’s pizza, no cheese, have been met with hang ups from Dominos and Pizza Huts. Because that has to be a prank call, right?

That’s just how damn good pizza is. He orders pizza, without the cheese. Here I am, on my fifth or eight slice of pizza, thinking the cheese was the whole point. Nope. It turns out, pizza is just plain good. No matter what you put, or don’t put on it.

I N G R E D I E N T S

F o r  t h e  P i z z a  D o u g h  ( A d a p t e d  c / o  t h e  B a r e f o o t  C o n t e s s a )

  • 2 / 3 cups warm water
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1 / 2 tablespoon honey
  • 1 1 / 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups flour, plus extra for kneading
  • 1 teaspoons salt

F o r  t h e  T o p p i n g s

  • 1 / 2 lb. fresh mozzarella, sliced into 1 / 4 inch thick discs
  • 2 / 3 cup parm reg, grated
  • 2 / 3 cup gruyere, grated
  • Olive oil, as needed
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed

F o r  t h e  O i l

  • 1 / 2 cup olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 / 4 cup clams, minced (fresh or high-quality canned clams with do)
  • 1 / 3 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 500*.
  2. Combine the water, yeast, honey, and olive oil in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add 1 1 / 2 cups flour, then the salt, and mix.
  3. While mixing, add 1/ 2 more cup of flour.
  4. Knead the dough on low speed for 10 minutes until smooth, sprinkling it with flour, if necessary, to keep it from sticking to the bowl.
  5. Remove the dough and put on a floured board or stone countertop, and knead by hand a dozen times.
  6. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and turn it several times to cover it lightly with oil.
  7. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  8. Roll and stretch the ball into a rough 16-inch circle using a rolling pin, and place it on a floured pizza baking sheet.
  9. In the meantime, heat the oil in a small skillet. Add the garlic, clams, salt and pepper, and allow to heat through and simmer on low for five minutes. Off the heat, add the parsley, set aside and allow to cool.
  10. Use a brush to spread the olive oil evenly over the pizza. Do not oil the crust. Sprinkle the pie liberally with salt and pepper.
  11. Layer the cheese. First sprinkle the parm reg, then the gruyere, then the mozzarella cheese evenly across the pizza.
  12. Bake the pizza for 13 to 15 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling, and the dough is lightly browned.
  13. Allow the pizza to cool for 5 minutes. Drizzle the clam, garlic & parsley oil over the pizza, keeping extra on hand for additional garnish, if desired. Use a knife or a pizza roller to divide the pie into 8 slices, and serve hot.

 

Lox Fixins Frittata

I’ve been riding out an insatiable salmon-craving phase. At this moment, any salmon would do.

I know these food craving spells very well – they come and will eventually pass. Like my sushi over-consumption phase in the fall of 2009, or the pho mania of 2011.

While in the midst of another food-related binge, I was a regular customer of Bruegger’s Bagels on E Street by the Capital One Arena here in D.C. a few years ago. It’s gone now, but it was easily my most regularly visited takeout joint. My order consisted of a lox bagel with extra jalapeno cream cheese, all on a jalapeno-cheese bagel. At checkout, I’d add a large, fat black iced coffee.

I could eat as much spicy cream cheese and lox as I wanted with that unwieldy, monster of a bagel sandwich. And it was expensive as far as bagels go because of that pile of lox. I craved that sandwich like nothing else.

Instead of doing a quick egg scramble with lox, I wanted to throw all the ingredients that go on your typical lox bagel sandwich into a fritatta bake. The addition of dill elevates the flavor profile to something more elegant and brunch-y enough for guests. You’re getting that pretty presentation with the dill scattered on top. And who would I be to veer from the ubiquitous salmon and dill power combo?

frittata_slice

I was on the fence about adding cream cheese. But it tastes great, melts into the eggy mixture, and you need it to get the full lox bagel experience. This is another recipe you can count on to taste exactly like the food you’re drawing inspiration from. All the lox bagel flavors are there.

If you’re a big breakfast casserole fan – I’d absolutely get behind putting some torn bagel pieces into the batter. How could that be anything but amazing?

I’m going to continue letting this food craze run its course. In the meantime, it’s fun thinking up dishes like these, all in an attempt to get my salmon fix.

Here’s to indulging in those wackiest, out-of-nowhere of food cravings. I hope you enjoy! 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

  • 6 oz. high-quality lox, torn into 1 inch pieces
  • 4 oz. cold cream cheese, crumbled into 1 inch pieces
  • 4 tablespoons fresh dill, minced
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 / 2 cup red onion, small diced
  • 1 / 4 cup ripe tomato, small diced
  • 4 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • 7 eggs
  • 1 / 3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 350*.
  2. Heat the butter in a medium-sized oven-safe skillet or cast iron pan. Sautee the red onion for 5 to 7 minutes or so, until translucent. Remove from heat.
  3. In the meantime, whisk the eggs, heavy cream, salt pepper and dill until combined.
  4. Add the lox, cream cheese, capers and tomato, and gently combine until the mixture is even throughout.
  5. Pour the egg mixture into the pan with the onions, and place in the oven. Bake for 50 minutes to an hour, until golden brown and set.
  6. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

Cheesy Skillet Gnocchi

Gnocchi is essentially mashed potato-based pasta dough. It’s no wonder I’m obsessed with it.

Can I claim expert execution every time I roll that dough out? Nope! Not by a long shot. But it still tastes, and looks, like gnocchi every time.

My secret? This general rule of thumb – 1 medium-sized potato to 1 / 3 cup flour. It leaves ample room for error, all while helping avoid the consequences of dumplings that fall apart in the boiling water, or too-rigid dough.

And once you’ve made it a few times, you’ll have a better feel for the potato to flour to egg to water ratio. Or at least you’ll know when you completely botched the whole thing. Hopefully.

Of the dishes I cook, I make macaroni and cheese most often. In all shapes, sizes, and colors. If there ever was an expert – and I’d be hesitant to make this claim if it weren’t true – I might be it. Besides professional chefs. They actually know what they’re doing.

Here are some tips & tricks I’ve teased out –

  • Too much flour in the roux leads to a cakey sauce, and poor texture if you’re reheating leftovers.
  • More moisture is key – including pasta water, milk, cream, or half and half.
  • For better or for worse, pricey, aged Gruyere and cheddar cheeses are the best cheeses to use as a base. Ina Garten is all about this combo, and for good reason. It’s because she’s right. Use goat, blue, or other cheeses as accent cheeses. If you’re going with a homier stovetop mac, it’s not a bad idea to throw Velveeta in the mix. If you’re wondering how restaurants manage to serve you mac & cheese in that impossibly gooey & silky sauce, I’d bet my life that Velveeta had something to do with it.
  • If you’re baking your mac, you need to undercook the pasta by at least 2 to 3 minutes, beyond just the time it takes to boil the pasta to al dente consistency. A hard-biting noodle should be a feature of every macaroni and cheese you serve.
  • Add a splash of neutral cooking oil into your cheese mixture. Trust me.

I wanted this gnocchi to encapsulate the culmination of these mac & cheese lessons learned. The sauce came out as saucy as sauces get – rich, thick, over-the-top.

Reheated in a microwave, it tasted like the first bite out of the oven. I’m far from having my macaroni and cheese deemed perfect by the gods, but these pointers have well along the way.

What are some of your go-to tricks for the perfect mac? Any mac & cheese recipes you swear by?

I N G R E D I E N T S

F o r  t h e  G n o c c h i

  • 6 medium-sized Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled & quartered (approximately 2 pounds)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 large egg, whisked
  • Large pinch of salt
  • Flour, as needed
  • Water, as needed

F o r  t h e  C h e e s e  S a u c e

  • 3 cups sharp, aged cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 cups gruyere cheese, grated
  • 1 quart whole milk
  • 3 / 4 stick butter, salted or unsalted
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil

F o r  t h e  T o p p i n g

  • 2 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 350*.
  2. Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter in the microwave. Combine with the panko breadcrumbs and garlic powder in a bowl. Set aside.
  3. Boil a large pot of salted water. Add the potatoes, and cook until fork tender. Strain. Turn the potatoes into a mashed consistency using either a hand mill or a hand mixer (a hand mill is better).
  4. On a floured, hard surface, lightly combine the mashed potatoes, flour, salt until uniform throughout. Create a well in the middle of the dough and add the egg. Continue to fold the dough until the egg is fully incorporated, and the dough is a light yellow color. The dough should be sticky, but should not stick to your hands. If it is too dry to combine, or too sticky to handle, add small amounts or water or flour until it reaches the right consistency.
  5. Form the dough into a small disk, cover in plastic wrap, and allow to sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  6. In the meantime, melt the 3 / 4 stick of butter in a large saucepan. Once melted, add the flour. Whisk for a couple minutes, until the flour mixture is bubbling. Add the milk, the salt, pepper, nutmeg and vegetable oil. Allow to thicken on medium-high heat for 5 to 7 minutes. The mixture should coat a wooden spoon at this phase. Once thickened, add the cheeses. Stir to combine. Remove from the heat until ready to add the gnocchi.
  7. After 30 minutes, remove the dough from the fridge. Roll out the dough to 1 inch thickness. Cut the dough into long strips. Form a long tubular piece of dough from each strip, using your hands to stretch and roll the dough back and forth. Once the dough reaches about 1 inch in diameter, cut the strips into 1 inch pieces. Place the gnocchi on a plate, and sprinkle with flour.
  8. Boil a pot of salted water. Put the gnocchi in the water a dozen or so pieces at a time. Once the gnocchi rise to the surface, they are done. Remove the gnocchi with a slotted spoon and place into the cheese mixture. It’s encouraged for some of the cooking liquid to make its way into the cheese sauce as you’re transferring the gnocchi. Stir until the gnocchi are incorporated into the cheese sauce.
  9. Pour the gnocchi into a baking pan or cast iron skillet, and top evenly with the panko mixture.
  10. Bake for 20 minutes or so, until the panko is browned and the cheese is bubbling. Serve hot.