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Friday, December 21, 2007

Roasted Tomato Soup

Here's another recipe using some of the heirloom tomato bounty that came out of our yard this past summer. We doubled the Roasted Tomato Soup recipe on Epicurious because we had so many tomatoes.

Roasted Tomato Soup


8 lb tomatoes, halved lengthwise
12 garlic cloves, left unpeeled
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano, crumbled
4 teaspoons sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1 cup heavy cream

Cut the heirloom tomatoes and whole garlic cloves in half, arrange them on a foiled sheet pan, then drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with s&p. Roasted for at hour at 350*F.

Cook the chopped onions, oregano and sugar with butter in a heavy stock pot. Add the roasted heirloom tomatoes and garlic, then 6 cups of chicken stock. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Buzz the soup with a hand blender until smooth. Then strain the soup through a sieve to remove all the remaining solids, skins and seeds. Stir in 1 cup heavy cream, then s&p to taste.

Ladle into bowls. You're supposed to top it with a Parmesan crisp but I just put on some grated Pecorino Romano cheese. Garnish with a pinch of chopped parsley if you have some.

This roasted tomato soup was another pretty easy and tasty dish, and a good way to use up a ton of homegrown heirloom tomatoes!


Other favorite tomato recipes: Gazpacho, Strawberry and Tomato Salad with Maple, World's Best Lasagna, and Lomi Lomi Salmon.

Continue Reading: "Roasted Tomato Soup"...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

World's Best Lasagna

When you're drowning in a crimson tide of homegrown, heirloom tomatoes like this:

one of the myriad things you can do with them is make sauce. The good thing about sauce is, you can freeze it for later. We usually keep them in quart-sized freezer bags and pull them out as needed.

To make the sauce, we boiled down 15 lbs of heirloom tomatoes plus chunks of bell peppers, diced onions, sugar and salt until the sauce was reduced by half. I buzzed it with the hand blender until smooth. This was the most amazing tomato sauce ever - so sweet and savory at the same time!

Annie made lasagna based off the "World's Best Lasagna" recipe from RecipeZaar



1 lb sweet Italian sausage links
3/4 lb lean ground beef
1/2 cup minced onions
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
2 (6 1/2 ounce) cans tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon italian seasoning
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
12 lasagna noodles
16 ounces ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 lb mozzarella cheese, sliced
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

In a Dutch oven, cook sausage, ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium heat until well browned.

  1. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water.
  2. Season with sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons parsley.

  3. Simmer, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

  4. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.

  5. Cook lasagna noodles in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes.

  6. Drain noodles, and rinse with cold water.

  7. In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese with egg, remaining parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

  8. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

  9. To assemble, spread 1 1/2 cups of meat sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish.

  10. Arrange 6 noodles lengthwise over meat sauce.

  11. Spread with one half of the ricotta cheese mixture.

  12. Top with a third of mozzarella cheese slices.

  13. Spoon 1 1/2 cups meat sauce over mozzarella, and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

  14. Repeat layers, and top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.

  15. Cover with foil: to prevent sticking, either spray foil with cooking spray, or make sure the foil does not touch the cheese.

  16. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes.

  17. Remove foil, and bake an additional 25 minutes.

  18. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.

We used the fresh homemade heirloom tomato sauce instead of canned, ground turkey instead of ground beef, fresh basil leaves instead of dried, and fresh spinach (cooked down) instead of frozen spinach. We also upped the cheese to 1 lb of low-fat mozzarella, grated.

It's been almost a year since I had lasagna, so I took a larger than normal size piece. But good thing I didn't go back for seconds like my mouth was telling me to. This was a heavy meal! *urp*
If you love lasagna as much as I do, I recommend you try this World's Best Lasagna recipe. You won't be disappointed!


Other favorite recipes using tomatoes:

Gazpacho, Strawberry and Tomato Salad with Maple, and Lomi Lomi Salmon.

Continue Reading: "World's Best Lasagna"...

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Chantilly Crepes Again

Annie was preparing food for a friend's brunch party (she always gets asked to do food for gatherings here and there -- birthdays, showers, meetings, etc). Since I did so well making crepes last time, she asked me to do them again.

Recipe from "Chantilly Crepes" by Rose Levy Berenbaum.


3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp melted unsalted butter
1 tbsp Grand Marnier
3/4 cup cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar.

Blend ingredients at high speed for 10 seconds. Brush a med-hot pan lightly with clarified butter and ladle 2 tbsp of the crepe batter into the center. Move batter in a counter-clockwise direction until the pan is covered. Cook until the edges begin to brown, then flip and cook another 10 seconds. Remove to a plate to cool. Make another one.

(Here's a hint: if you use a good, non-stick crepe pan like our Calphalon 10" pan, you won't need to apply any more butter to grease the pan after the first application. The butter in the recipe is really all you need to keep the crepes from sticking.)

Don't you think these crepes look like Chantilly lace?

Here they are filled with Nutella, fresh raspberries, and topped with whipped cream. Also works great with blackberry jam. Eat, repeat.

Wanna watch a video of me making these Chantilly Crepes? It's so easy!


More breakfast recipes: Mushroom and Gruyere Omelette, Omurice, Pandan Waffles

Continue Reading: "Chantilly Crepes Again"...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

East Lake (San Jose) Again

One night, Annie played a mind-reading game with me: "Guess what I want to eat tonight?"

"KFC?" I replied, half-jokingly.

"Chicken is close, but not fried."

"Ah," I say, "East Lake." Our go-to Chinese restaurant in San Jose for good, cheap eats. We had to hurry out the door, though, to beat the dinner rush. We made it just in time to snag a table. (One of my guilty pleasures is watching the line of waiting diners grow longer as we eat. Muhuahahahaha!)

Annie ordered the steamed free-range chicken with ginger sauce. Like revenge, this is a dish best served cold. Unlike revenge, this is a dish best eaten over lots of white rice. That ginger sauce is killer!

I ordered the steamed tofu with minced shrimp in soy sauce. The dollop of minced shrimp isn't embedded in the tofu, so it comes off in one deliciously shrimpy bite. I assume the tofu is just there to cleanse the palate before the next bite of shrimp.

We also ordered a plate of steamed oysters (those were some big, honkin' oysters) and a plate of kai lan. I like eating kai lan, but I don't like the way they're served - so oily that you can't get a grip with the plastic chopsticks. You either have to stab it with a fork or pinch the kai lan between the chopsticks with all your might, hoping it won't slip and fall into your bowl of soup on the way to your plate.

Dessert was some sweet red bean and tapioca soup. Be warned - there's a lot of sugar in this one. You may have to fight off the kids for the last spoonful.

Where do you want to eat tonight?


View Larger Map

More Eating Out in San Jose: Andiamo's (Italian) Dynasty (dim sum), Goveas (Mexican), Halu (ramen)

Continue Reading: "East Lake (San Jose) Again"...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Menu for Hope IV

The House of Annie is participating in this year's Menu for Hope IV, which is is an annual campaign by food bloggers to raise funds for the United Nations World Food Programme to help fight global hunger. Last year, Menu for Hope raised almost USD$63,000 in donations to support the WFP. This year, funds raised will go to a school lunch program in Lesotho (a country surrounded by South Africa) that purchases food from local farmers rather than relying on grains shipped in from overseas.

The idea for Menu for Hope is simple and fun: food bloggers around the world offer food-related prizes for raffle to raise money. Some of the amazing prizes up for raffle this year include a personal tour of the el Bulli kitchen laboratory with Ferran Adria, a private tour of Love Apple Farms plus a dinner for 2 at Manresa , an autographed copy of "Baking: From My Home to Yours" by Dorie Greenspan, a "Best of the Ferry Building" gift basket, a KitchenAid stand mixer, and a wine vacation in Napa. WOW!

In keeping with Annie's tomato madness, House of Annie's contribution to Menu for Hope is "The Heirloom Tomato Cookbook" by Mimi Luebbermann. The cookbook is a collection of recipes by different chefs, showcasing heirloom tomatoes from appetizer to dessert, along with wine pairing suggestions. There is also a photographic glossary of heirloom tomatoes, as well as information on cultivating them.

Of course, what good is an heirloom tomato cookbook without any heirloom tomatoes to cook with? So, IN ADDITION to the cookbook, Annie will help the winner choose seeds of 10 varieties of tomatoes out of Annie's library of over 200 heirloom tomatoes. Annie will mail seed packets of these varieties (10-15 seeds per packet) out to the winner along with the cookbook in January.


If the winner is in the San Francisco Bay Area, we will deliver 10 starts of heirloom tomato plants, ready for planting, in late April or early May; or they can come to the House of Annie in San Jose in late August or early September to collect a basket of ripe tomatoes from our organic garden.

So, how can you participate? First check out Chez Pim for the complete list of prizes. Make a note of the prize code for each prize you are interested in. Then go to

and click on the Give Now button. Follow the prompts for how much you'd like to give to the campaign. Specify the prize codes you would like to bid for in the "Personal Message" section of the donation form. To bid for Annie's prize, use prize code UW24.

For every USD$10 you donate, you get one raffle ticket and a chance to win a prize. You must write-in how many tickets per prize, and use the prize code. For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for UW01 and 3 tickets for UW24. Please write 2xUW01, 3xUW24.

That's it! The donation will be deducted from your credit card and forwarded to the World Food Programme, and the results of the raffle posted on January 9 on Chez Pim. Be sure to tell all your friends about the campaign, and good luck to all who enter!


Continue Reading: "Menu for Hope IV"...

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Strawberry and Tomato Salad with Maple

Annie is mad about tomatoes. The tomato bug bit her several years back, and each year we have grown more and more tomato plants in our backyard. She got into growing heirloom tomatoes, ones which have been around for a long time and are now becoming popular again. She trades seeds with other enthusiasts and even starts her own plants from seed in the middle of Winter!

During the Summer, we are literally swimming in a crimson tide of tomatoes.

Cherry tomato plants, especially, are some of the best producers in our garden. The challenge then is to figure out how to use all these 'maters before they go bad. Needless to say, most of the dishes that Annie makes that call for tomatoes use fruits grown right in our own backyard.

We've used them in soups like gazpacho and bouillabaisse, salsas like lomi lomi salmon and mango salsa, sauces (yes, we made our own tomato sauce) for spaghetti and lasagna, and salads like our chopped salad. Of course, we're not afraid to eat them on their own, sliced up and seasoned with a little salt and cracked black pepper. But I was looking for something a little different.

I read this article in the San Francisco Chronicle about the farm that supplies almost all the veggies for Manresa Restaurant. We've been to Love Apple Farms before, to attend tomato growing classes put on by Cynthia and even to enter a tomato tasting competition (Annie won a nice prize of farm fresh eggs for her entry). At the bottom of this article was a recipe for Strawberry and Tomato Salad with Maple Syrup. I had all the ingredients on hand, and the recipe looked easy enough so I decided to make it.


1 teaspoon maple syrup

3 drops of vanilla extract

3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar from Modena

5 teaspoons highest-quality extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and pepper to taste

1/2 pint strawberries, hulled and cut in half (or quarters if large)

1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

4 basil leaves, cut into fine strips

Several small whole mint leaves, for garnish


Instructions: Make the dressing by combining the maple syrup, vanilla and balsamic vinegar together and vigorously whisking in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Combine the strawberries, tomatoes and thinly cut basil. Season with the dressing and a turn from a pepper mill and toss them as gently as possible so as not to bruise the strawberries or crush the cherry tomato halves.

It was a very interesting and tasty combo! We did it again the next night.

What's your best dish with tomatoes?


Continue Reading: "Strawberry and Tomato Salad with Maple"...

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


So I was standing there, chopping veggies to make chopped salad (see previous example here), and wondering what to do with all that reserved tomato juice I had saved from the salad plus the lomi lomi salmon. Suddenly, a word popped into my noggin: Gazpacho! Oooh, I hadn't had *that* in a while.

I like tomato-based soups, and gazpacho is one of my favorite variations of tomato soup, with that spark of spicyness from the raw garlic. A chilled soup would go along great with the chopped salad. So I went over to Epicurious and found this recipe

It's a pretty simple recipe, but one ingredient that was new to me was smoked Spanish paprika. And what do you know, we actually happened to have a package of that, that we purchased at the Penzey's Spices store in Houston!

This was one of the best gazpachos I've made. It's not too spicy, as I held back on the pepper and the raw garlic. That smoked Spanish paprika made the dish, I thought. Our friend raved about it, saying it was better than the one he had tasted in Italy that got him hooked on gazpacho in the first place.

This recipe is a keeper. I'm gonna make it again soon (of course, using only Annie's homegrown tomatoes)!


Continue Reading: "Gazpacho"...

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Akane (Los Altos) Again

Sometimes, you just can't get enough of a good thing. After our "discovery" of Akane Sushi in Los Altos, we convinced a couple of our friends to join us for dinner there just a few weeks after our first visit (Part 1 and Part 2). This time we tried to get one of the tables in front of the sushi bar but it was already taken. The wives graciously allowed us husbands to sit at the bar while they took a table in the main dining room.

Again, I told Shu-san "omakase" or "chef's choice" meaning he had free reign to deliver up whatever sushi he wanted. Front to back we have aji, tai, toro, and kanpachi. I didn't like the kanpachi last time but this time it was really good. The best one, of course, was the toro.

I don't have a good picture of the salmon nigiri that they crisp up using a creme brulee torch. I tried to capture a video of him torching the salmon but I couldn't get a good angle. Oh well. I've decided that the salmon is better left un-torched.

Due to the busy-ness of the main dining room, our wives didn't get served their food for a long time - I think the kitchen must have gotten backed up. To tide them over, I ordered for them the "Akane II Roll" which is a roll with shio maguro - white tuna, avocado wrapped inside out, then rolled in panko.

Again, an excellent meal and worth the price, if a bit slow on service. What we've learned is, go early to avoid the dinner rush, and sit at the bar. At least there you can watch a little sports on the TV above the bar while you're waiting for your food to be served.


Continue Reading: "Akane (Los Altos) Again"...