April 24 – April 30, 2023
Monday: Spaghetti with Tomato-Pesto Sauce
Tuesday: Roast Tarragon-Cognac Chicken, Green Salad, Apps and Steamed Artichoke, Asparagus
Wednesday: Ground Chicken Soup
Thursday: Driftwood Oven Pizza / Salad
Fri -Sun: Seabrook Island, SC with Lindsey and Mauri
Tuesday (5/2): Quick Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese
Notes from Eden
The Garden of Eden would have been a nice place to vacation, except for the snake. But since we lost our privileges there, I’d argue for Naples, Florida and Seabrook Island, South Carolina as reasonable substitutes and in some ways – dishwashers, air conditioning, Wi-Fi, golf courses, and crunchy peanut butter – superior, in spite of the snakes and the alligators.
Wait – what?, you are probably saying or thinking if you’re a millennial or an older mimic of Millennials. We know about Naples, the subject of many old posts, but how did Seabrook Island come up? Well, Beez and I just spent a wonderful weekend at the home of our dear friends, Lindsey and Mauri, on Seabrook.
Seabrook is more laid back than Naples – shady roads beneath overarching live oaks wearing Spanish moss like Steven Tyler used to wear those fancy scarves when he performed, each house isolated by thick, semi-tropical vegetation, and the whole made quiet by the prevalence of LSVs (Low Speed Vehicles – electric carts known by the manufacturers intriguing name as Bintellis).
The golf courses of the Seabrook Island Club, its clubhouse, restaurants and bar are all admirable and because of our friends we got to know them firsthand. There is also a great restaurant called Hege’s on John’s Island – contiguous with Seabrook and Kiawah – where the fried green tomatoes are almost as good as the martinis.
And in case the relaxation begins to wear you down, Seabrook is only 30 minutes from Charleston, one of the more interesting cities in America, where we also spent some time, walking its parks and beautiful streets, looking through wrought-iron fences at hidden gardens and renovated mansions and, at the end of the day, dining with Larry and Lezlie and Lindsey and Mauri at Halls Chop House where you really have to try the Pepper Jack Creamed Corn Skillet and the Pancetta Roasted Brussels Sprouts in addition to the steaks and, if you’re a wimp, the fish. You will be treated like royalty – and, of course, appropriately charged a King’s ransom for your dinner. But it’s so good, you won’t mind.
Clearly, I can’t give you the recipe for the calf’s liver I had at Hege’s or the creamed corn skillet at Halls, so I’ll share with you the thrown-together dinner we had on the day after we returned – a quickly cooked simple tomato soup and grilled cheese. It was cold enough in Pittsburgh to build a fire – we did – and this comforting meal helped us forget our exile (temporary, we hope) from Seabrook Island.
Quick Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese
(adapted from NYT ‘Cooking’, January 29, 2023)
Note: You should always keep a few cans (28 oz.) of whole peeled tomatoes and a few quarts of chicken broth in the pantry. That will give you the ability to cook all sorts of good things without a trip to the grocery store. I know that most chefs say you should make your own chicken stock. But let’s be serious – those chefs have assistants to bag, freeze and thaw chicken bones and carcasses and then to spend hours simmering that with carrots, onions, celery and friends, and skimming whatever it is that rises to its surface. Unless time weighs heavy on your hands, buy your stock at the grocery store. Trader Joe’s has a dynamite stock and the College Inn brand will do just fine.
30 minutes (or, do what we did: make the soup first, then heat it as you cook the grilled cheese – maybe 45 minutes)
Ingredients: Serves 4
For the Soup:
1 (can whole peeled tomatoes (28 oz.)
¾ cup chicken broth (more as needed – we used maybe a 1 ¼ cups)
Large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons butter
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
Salt and pepper
For the Grilled Cheese:
8 slices brioche or milk bread, crusts removed – we used Trader Joe’s Sourdough and did not remove the crusts for fear that we would go bald
1 cup shredded mozzarella (4 oz) – shredded mozz is always low-moisture – do not substitute fresh mozz
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons or more butter – to fry the sandwiches
Put the canned tomatoes with their juices into a pot and tear or cut into coarse chunks. Swish the broth in the empty can to get more of the tomato juice and add to the pot.
Stir in the onion, butter, oregano and sugar and season well with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer, stirring from time to time for 15 minutes.
At this point you can set aside to reheat or, if you are already making the grilled cheese, keep the soup simmering until ready to serve. Either way, purée the soup with an immersion blender until smooth and creamy – adding more broth if you want a wetter soup. [No immersion blender? Carefully ladle the soup into a blender and purée, then return to the pot.] Taste and correct seasoning with salt and pepper.
Cook the Grilled Cheese:
Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on one side of each of 8 bread slices and evenly sprinkle the cheese and some dried oregano on top of the mayonnaise on 4 of those slices. Top these four with the other four, mayonnaise side down.
Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium (use more butter if you have a very large skillet). Add the sandwiches and cook until golden brown on the bottom (3-5 minutes). Melt another tablespoon of butter in the pan, then flip the sandwiches, moving them around to coat them with the butter and cook until the other side is golden brown and cheese is melted.
Cut the grilled cheese sandwiches in half, diagonally and serve alongside the soup. We like to sprinkle some cracked black pepper on top of the soup before serving.