Monday, November 7, 2011

Food Therapy

The first time Tana and I ever cooked together, we were huddled together in her small, hot as Hades, Brooklyn apartment at 3 in the morning, making the biggest batches of mac and cheese and spinach artichoke dip we'd ever seen in person. Sweaty, tired from working at our day jobs, we toiled over her demonic stove top that only had two working burners and an oven that was over-enthusiastic in its heating capabilities.  Little did we know that in between me falling asleep at the stove and her wilting into the dip, that we were fostering an even deeper level to our friendship.

We rarely have days off in tandem, so when we do, we try to fill them with as much food as possible. Tana had suggested two yummy recipes from the website Smitten Kitchen for us to make: Roasted Tomato Soup and Red Wine Chocolate Cake with Mascarpone Cream. Oh yes, this was happening. 

We started by slicing up some lovely Roma tomatoes for the soup. A little olive oil, salt/pepper, and crushed dried rosemary for good measure, all tossed around on a baking sheet.  We set it in the oven for about an hour at 400. 

Tana had also nestled a little aluminum foil packed of olive oil drizzled garlic cloves in the middle of the red melee so it could also roast and get delicious. 

I made sure to scrape the seeds from the tomatoes lest they get bitter on their roasty-toasty journey..but instead of throwing them away, I drained them of their clinging liquid, and reduced it in a small saucepan over a low flame. I stirred it constantly so it wouldn't burn. I let it reduce it by half, and it got thicker, and its smell got more...tomato-y and rich.

After an hour, look at these ruby beauts:

I will neither confirm nor deny that I sneaked a few bites. 

Take the tomatoes, the garlic (after you've separated and peeled the cloves of course) and your tomato juice reduction, and plop it in a food processor. Pulse until you get a mix of chunky and smooth (or you can make it all the way smooth if you like). 

Combine the puree with 4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock (we used water and half a veggie bullion cube - yay for substitutions) and crushed red pepper in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and then drop the heat to a nice simmer, and let it cook for 25 minutes. Of course, add salt and pepper to your liking.  

Now, in the recipe, a little cap of delicious bread and cheddar cheese is placed on top of the soup (which is in an oven safe mug), and broiled almost like a french onion soup. Tana chose to do hers up that way. 

But hell, I wanted a full sandwich! And I love savory and sweet, so I made a cheddar grilled sandwich on sourdough...with this spread on it. 

Caramelized apple preserves from Maiden Preserves. Apples and cheddar cheese are a really classic combo, and the tart, caramel sweetness from the apples go great with the sharp salty cheddar. This was bliss. 

And for dessert, a simple, but creative cake made with red wine and cocoa powder. It's just flour, brown/white sugar, cinnamon, salt, cocoa powder and some other requisite cake essentials...with the boozy, tannin-rich hit of red wine. I love that you can use which ever kind you have on hand (except for cooking wine of course...yuck) because it makes the dish super flexible. 

The batter goes into a lined & greased 9 inch round cake pan and bakes at 325 for 25-30 minutes.  To make it pretty, it got a dusting of powder sugar and a dollop of mascarpone cream. Mascarpone, vanilla, heavy cream and sugar...that's it! I really love simple recipes that come out this stunning. 

Tana and I cook together to experiment with new recipes, to play with our food, and to comfort each other. Is there a more tangible way to show your love for your friends than with a fine meal? I think not.