Monday, April 22, 2013

Jerusalem in Jerusalem: Tomato and Sourdough Soup

It's been unseasonably cold here lately. In fact, tonight as I'm writing this, it has just stopped raining. Its the kind of night that should be long- spent under a blanket watching a bad movie and eating popcorn. But it's not. We've changed the clocks already. On most nights this time of year, my windows would be open. They're closed tonight. And though I'm not eating popcorn, or watching a bad movie, I am huddled under blankets, thinking at the cat that she should get up and come cuddle, because there's nothing like a cat cuddle on a cold night.

Wednesday night, when Naomi came over for our weekly Ottolenghi cooking club, was also cold, if a bit less blustery than tonight. Still, it was a good night for the tomato and sourdough soup we had planned. We planned for soup since it was the day after Yom Ha'atzmaut- Israel's Independence Day-and we knew that after a day of consuming nothing but grilled meat, accoutrements and beer, we would want something light for dinner. It was a fortuitous piece of planning due to the aforementioned cold, and because the news coming out of Boston had left me confused and sad and angry. I needed something warm and comforting.  Fortuitous, indeed.

And since we were doing tomato soup, it seemed that grilled cheese would be in order as well. אם כבר,אז כבר, as they say in these parts- if already, then already.

Naomi can get a little bit tyrannical about cooking club. She refuses to let anyone else cook with us. Friends are welcome to eat with us, but cooking is reserved for me and her exclusively, which is, frankly, kind of nice. Then again, when Naomi suggested that we eat our sandwiches before the soup, I may or may not have emphatically and vigorously insisted that we cannot under any circumstances eat the tomato soup separate from the grilled cheese. (Spoiler alert: I insisted). So, maybe Naomi is not the only one who can get a bit tyrannical. But when it's cold and miserable and the news from far away makes you want to curl up and hide under a rock until humanity gets it shit together, sometimes you need a little warmth. Sometimes you need a friend to cook with and bowl of tomato soup (with grilled cheese, of course) to get you to the other side of the dark.

Tomato and Sourdough Soup
From Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 cups vegetable stock
4 large tomatoes, chopped
1 14-oz can of diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon sugar
1 slice sourdough bread
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper

1. In a saucepan, heat the oil and add the onion. Saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the cumin and the garlic, saute for another 2 minutes. Add the stock, tomatoes sugar and some salt and black pepper. Bring the soup to a simmer. 10 minutes in, tear up the slice of bread into the soup. Cook for another 10 minutes. Add the cilantro. Using a hand blender, blend the soup, leaving it a bit chunky. It will be thick.

2. Serve with a garnish of cilantro, a drizzle of olive oil and a grilled cheese sandwich on the side.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Doing something right

You know you're doing something right when a Frenchwoman compliments you on your meringues. It's pretty satisfying when your nieces say so as well- when they wrap their arms around you and say, " I like everything you bake". Well, that's pretty fantastic, even if the chocolate chip cookie experiment went inedibley awry. The meringues though, were something else. I must of made near a hundred of them over the one week of Passover. And yes, my sister-in-law's mother, born and raised in France, did indeed compliment them, and later still, came into the kitchen to watch me make another batch.

Passover in my parent's house is a rush of noise. We are a lot of people; a lot of children- children who invite other children to play. Generally the house looks and sounds as if a tornado is continuously going through it for a week straight. The thing to do, I've learned, is to be the eye of the beloved storm. Go still and let it happen around you. Get yourself into the kitchen. Concentrate on egg whites as they slip through your fingers. Cradle the yolk in your hands. Think, egg whites. Egg whites are difficult. Are the beaters clean? Is the bowl dry? Did I get shell in them? Will they fall? Please don't let them fall. When you heat egg whites and sugar, science happens, or maybe magic, and you can feel strands of stuff connecting and congealing and forming bonds. A metaphor, if you will. Egg whites are difficult, but at the end you get this thing- this fragile, sweet thing- brittle at the edges and soft in the middle.

Another metaphor, I guess.

Chewy Chocolate Meringues

Adapted (lightly) from Riki Shore at

1 cup egg whites (from about 6 large eggs)
2 cups sugar
1 cup dark chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 275 F.  In a small saucepan, heat the egg whites and sugar over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved.

2.  Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer, (or use a hand mixer) and beat on high until stiff and glossy. This took me about 15 minutes using a hand mixer. It will probably take you less with a stand mixer. Add in the chocolate chips and mix gently until incorperated.

3. Spoon dollops of batter onto cookie sheets lined with with parchment paper. The cookies will look like fluffy clouds of goodness.

4. Bake for 45 minutes, rotating the cookie sheets half way through.

5. Go through 36 meringues in 2 days. Realize you will be making many meringues.