Tomatoes and Basil and Cheese and Bread

It’s rare that we have a meal that is literally just one component. Pizza night? We’ll have it with a salad. Roasted vegetables are usually served with rice or quinoa. And a roast beast is accompanied by vegetables, potatoes, and sometimes a loaf of bread. Most of the time, this isn’t a difficult task to navigate: we add “with (insert side dish here),” to the plan, and cook it with the main dish. Hazelnut and Almond Crusted Chicken? We’ll serve it with green beans. Or roasted potatoes. Or a Grape and Walnut salad.

But what about those recipes that always have two parts? Take, for example, tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. They’re kind of like peanut butter and jelly: one without the other just doesn’t make much sense to me. To make this useful in the Meal Planning Board, though, that would mean entering two recipes in the system to then pull all the ingredients into our shopping list. It’s not efficient. What’s worse, including both components of the meal as one recipe doesn’t represent what we’re doing. Enter composite recipes, or one recipe with multiple components.

Here’s the composite Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese in action on the Meal Planning Board Alpha Test.

Composite Meals

Here it is: our favorite tomato soup and grilled cheese.

tomato soup and grilled cheese

Tomato Soup

Ingredients

  • 1.0 pound tomatos
  • 1.0 onion
  • 2.0 cloves garlic
  • 1.0 cup basil
  • 2.0 tbsp olive oil
  • 1.0 tsp salt
  • 0.5 tsp pepper

Make It!

Heat a 2 quart pot on medium high heat and drizzle in enough olive oil to lightly coat the pot. You may want a bit more or less than oil. When you’re sure it’s hot, toss in the onions, a pinch of salt, and some pepper. When the onions are soft, add the garlic briefly. If you like a smoother, calmer garlic flavor, add the garlic sooner.

When the onions are soft and the garlic cooked to your liking, add the tomatoes and 1/2 of the basil. Season to taste, and allow to cook. If you’re starting with fresh tomatoes, you’ll want to soften thoroughly. If you start with canned tomatoes, just warm the tomatoes thoroughly. Add stock, water, or other liquid (beer, wine, or cider would work well; vinegar is too acidic) as needed.

Blend the soup. Stir in the remaining basil.

Serve with grilled cheese sandwiches.

Grilled Cheese

Ingredients

  • 8.0 slices bread
  • 0.5 lb Muenster sliced or shredded
  • Butter

Make It!

Heat two large cast iron skillets on medium high while you assemble the sandwiches.

Assemble sandwiches with cheese, a bit of arugula, and two slices of bacon each. Cheddar is the classic with tomato soup, but, other cheeses such as gouda, pecorino romano, and jack work as well. We used Munster the other night when we had this. You could also use a blend of cheesy goodness.

Butter one side of four slices of bread and use to top the sandwiches, butter side up.

If you’re using two different sized skillets, place the sandwiches in the larger of the two. Top with the second skillet and cook until the bread is golden and crispy, about 2 minutes.

Serve with tomato soup for dipping.

Ingredient Mayhem: Romanesco Cauliflower

Planning is the name of the game for most of the meals in our house. Sometimes though, the plan comes after the ingredients are selected and brought home. Most of the time, this ingredient selection is a result of grocery shopping with a three year old. Something nearly always catches his eye. This week, it was cauliflower. Specifically, Romanesco or fractal cauliflower.

What to do with it? I’m undecided for now, though Pinterest  has a few suggestions. Whatever we do, I intend to somehow show off the beautiful shape of the unique vegetable.

Follow {insert meal here}’s board Ingredient Mayhem 10/20/2014 on Pinterest.

Potatoes and Onions and Bacon

Potatoes are an incredibly versatile food. The tuber has a range of varieties to offer, all of which have different levels of starch which create different textures. Some even offer colors. Have you ever eaten a purple potato? They’re similar to my personal favorite, the Yukon Gold Potato. This lovely potato tends to be a bit smaller and more uniform in shape than the classic russet. It also has a slightly lower starch content, which translates to a potato that holds its shape a bit better and that slices into discs that are closer to the same size.

Why is all of this so important? For me, it matters mostly because my personal favorite potato dishes involve discs of potatoes creating a structure that goes in the oven: gratins and cakes. Really, you could argue that a gratin is a cake, though there are some subtle differences. For a gratin to be a gratin, it has to be browned in the oven somehow. This requires the presence of fat and starch in the form of sugar, and is often achieved with butter, eggs, and/or milk. A potato cake, however, is just items layered in a pan that will form something cake-like upon cooking. Yes, my particular potato cake is browned on the top, and thus is technically a gratin.

The most recent potato cake we made involved a ridiculous amount of onions, a couple of pieces of bacon, a bit of butter and garlic, and, of course, potatoes.

What’s your favorite way to eat this starchy tuber?

onion potato cake

Onion Potato Cake

Ingredients

  • 3 – 4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, preferrably of the same size, sliced into 1/4 inch discs
  • 3 – 4 medium yellow onions, sliced thin
  • 3 – 4 cloves garlic minced or sliced
  • 2 – 3 slices bacon chopped
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons butter
  • salt, pepper, & herbs to taste

Make It!

Cook the bacon to your liking (I like it chewer while my husband prefers crunch bacon; we often end up compromising), pull out of the pan, and save the grease. Add the onions, a bit of salt, and saute until caramelized You may need butter to extend the bacon grease, depending on how much fat your bacon has. Add the garlic (minced for a spicier flavor, sliced or crushed for a milder, smoother flavor) and herbs just before the onions finish so they cook as well. Too soon though and you’ll burn the garlic and turn it bitter.

Spread the onions in an oven-proof pan (I like to do everything in my 8″ cast iron skillet – one dish goes from stove top to oven). Layer the potatoes on top in concentric circles. You could get really fancy and do a layer of potatoes first, then the onions, then another layer of potatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. For a crispier top, drizzle with olive oil (you’ll end up effectively frying the top of the potatoes – yum!). This goes in to a 350 degree F oven for 30 – 45 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Serve with a side salad and a homemade dressing.

Chicken and Bacon and Cream and Pancakes

Remember these? Pancakes inspired by Welsh Crumpets. I made these fluffy, yeast risen pancakes with mashed bananas, then sprinkled in chocolate chips and coconut flakes for a bit of smooth, toasty goodness. Then I topped them with a bit of honey in place of maple syrup and some coconut flakes. The raw coconut on top adds more texture and presents a different flavor than the toasted coconut inside the pancake.

But, what if you’re not a big fan of sweet, especially in the morning?

My husband isn’t a big fan of breakfast, especially at an hour that’s reasonable for breakfast. If he had his way, we’d skip breakfast and have an early lunch at 11 or 11:30 everyday. But, I can always count on gravy to wake him up in the morning. Crumbled breakfast sausage and a roux and stock and cream smothering biscuits will almost always drag my husband to the breakfast table, even if he did just wake up.

So what’s a girl who’s not from the South, and who doesn’t love breakfast sausage, to do? Bacon gravy to the rescue! This morning, I added a bit of leftover chicken to the mix as well. And, instead of waffles or biscuits, I opted for my favorite pancakes, sans banana, coconut, and chocolate chips. I also reduced the flour content, since there wasn’t as much wet ingredient without the banana. Not so fond of pancakes? This would be just as delicious on top of potatoes, a bit of broccoli, or any other vegetable.

Bacon and Chicken Gravy

gravy doused pancake

Ingredients

  • 3 strips bacon, chopped into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup cooked chicken broken into small pieces
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced, sliced, or crushed to your liking
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup cream
  • 2 tbsp flour (tapioca flour will work as well)
  • salt, pepper, and herbs to taste

Make It!

Cook the bacon on medium high eat until the grease releases. Add the onion and saute until soft. Add the garlic and herbs and saute another minute or so. Add the chicken and stir well (if the chicken is cold, allow it to heat through before moving on to the next step; you can add the chicken earlier in the process instead). Sprinkle the flour over the whole pan, and stir well. You want the flour to absorb all the beautiful fat from the bacon so it will gelatin and thicken the gravy. Give the flour a minute or so to cook, and add in the chicken stock and cream.  Stir everything well, and cook until the gravy thickens. Serve over the upgraded pancakes (or waffles, or biscuits, or broccoli, or eat it with a spoon).

bacon and chicken gravy

Coconut Flakes and Eggs and Milk

I’ve long been eluded by crepes. They’re massive, thin, delicate pancakes that, for the longest time, I’ve left to others to make for me. Pulling out a blender or a food processor to whip up a batch of the batter, and then spreading the batter out in a pan paper thin, and finally attempting to flip the monstrosity without the crepe folding in on itself has long been just too much of a disaster.

Then a friend of mine told me I should make crepes for breakfast.

He shared a recipe with me that based the crepes on coconut flour. I followed it, and I wasn’t very impressed. The crepes were dried out, muddled in flavor, and just overall not quite right.

I thought about crepes, what they are, and what they should be. They should be mildly sweet, thought suitable for savory applications as well. Crepes are thin, but not so thin as to be brittle. The mouth feel should be smooth, and not cakey or thick. Most importantly, for me, they should be just as good with nothing on them as they are fully dressed or wrapped around all sorts of good things.

And I came up with ingredients. I really do think that coconut flour is a great start. It’s slightly sweet already, so I wouldn’t need to add sugar. The lack of sugar would also let me use the crepes in a savory application more easily. But, coconut flour can be dry since it doesn’t absorb liquid so much as hold a good suspension, which makes for a dry crepe. So, extra eggs and a bit more butter than may be necessary it was. My end result was beautifully thin, pliable, and delicious, if a bit browner than ideal.

IngredientsCrepe

  • 1/2 stick butter, melted
  • 2 cups coconut flakes
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk plus more as needed
  • 1 tsp vanilla (yes, vanilla, even though I wanted this to be appropriate for savory applications as well. Think vanilla only works with sweet? That lovely orchid has so many different applications, sweet or savory – there are very few limits to this ingredient).
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp vinegar – to activate the baking soda
  • more butter for cooking

Make It!

Pour the coconut flakes into a food processor, and blend to a powder. A complete powder will produce a finer texture crepe. Leaving some of the flakes flakey will be just as tasty, though a bit chewier. Pour in the melted butter, 1/4 cup of milk, baking soda, and the vanilla to cool off the butter and mix. Add the eggs and mix again. At this point, you may need to add more milk, I kept my food processor on, and drizzled in about another 1/4 cup of milk until my batter was smooth. Keep in mind, crepe batter should be about half as thick as pancake batter.

Put a skillet on medium high heat. Melt a pat of butter, and pour 1/3 of a cup of the batter into the pan. Spread out the batter in the pan, and cook until the top of the batter starts to bubble. Flip, cook for another 30 seconds or so, and serve.

I like my crepes topped with fruit, nuts, and a bit of honey. What do you like to put on top?