Thursday, March 25, 2010

Cioppino With Crab, Shrimp, And Mussels Served With Fresh Baked French Bread... Made With Leftover Tomato Basil Soup

So, as usual, I made far too much Tomato Basil Soup and we had some shrimp, crab and mussels in the freezer that needed to be used pretty quickly, so I decided to make Cioppino. This truly has to be one of my greatest seafood soup efforts to date. How do I know this? I know this because our son was in town at the time and he doesn't do seafood... and he ate 2 bowls of it. I'd say that's a pretty good indication. Of course, he also polished off a half a loaf of French bread right along with the Cioppino.

I started with the basic Tomato Basil Soup and added about a half a carton of chicken broth (unsalted). I brought it to a boil then turned it down to a simmer to let it reduce a bit. I also added a couple of teaspoons of a product called Superior Touch Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base. This stuff is amazing and also comes in beef and veal and vegetable. I haven't been able to do without it since I found it. It's magical stuff as far as flavor goes. They have a web site at www.superiortouch dot com.

I added some additional chopped fresh parsley, basil, a bay leaf and oregano as well as some extra garlic, because we love garlic. The aroma was simply hypnotic as we both waited in anticipation of our lovely warm bowls of Cioppino. We were not disappointed in any way.

Once the broth had reduced to my satisfaction (each to his own, you know) I timed the addition of the seafood to coincide with the loaf of bread being done. 

This is a great way to extend the Tomato Basil Soup recipe, although with a definite twist. You will not even recognize it but you will enjoy it immensely....

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tomato Basil Soup With Grilled Gruyere Cheese Sandwiches

Since we're still experiencing cold weather, I'm still into making heavier meals, but worrying about having to bare this body in the spring has me rethinking that. So, I decided to make a nice, light Tomato & Basil soup. I didn't want to get out and go to the store so I simply used ingredients I had on hand. Using canned tomatoes gives me the rich, tart flavor I'm looking for because they are picked and canned at the height of their flavor. And, instead of having the run-of-the-mill grilled cheese sandwiches, I opted to use Gruyere cheese, which is much more flavorful. I also discovered we didn't have bread so I took some fairly old hamburger buns out of the freezer to use, which worked great



3 tablespoons olive oil

2 to 3 medium onions, chopped

2 (14-1/2) ounce cans of ground peeled tomatoes

5 to 6 cups of chicken or vegetable stock

2 chicken bouillon cubes

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

3-4 leaves of Mexican oregano, finely chopped

5-6 cloves fresh garlic, crushed


1. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat.

2. Add the onion and cook for about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 3 more minutes.

3. Add the crushed tomatoes and the stock. 

4. Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer.

5. Cook until soup has slightly thickened, approximately 20 to 30 minutes. 

6. Season with salt and pepper, if needed.

7. Add the parsley, basil and oregano. 
8. Simmer for 10 minutes more.

9. Go ahead and place the pot in the sink and using a stick blender, blend the mixture to smooth or desired consistency.

10. Whisk together a tablespoon of sour cream with a tablespoon of milk and place dollop in center of soup.

10. Serve immediately or as soon as grilled cheese sandwiches are ready.



Bread - Whatever you have on hand - 2 slices per person

Gruyere cheese, sliced very thin

Butter or margerine or olive oil (I use a mix of butter and olive oil)

1. Slice cheese and place on one slice of bread, place other slice on top. 

2. Place in preheated pan on medium to medium-high heat, placing press on top.

3. Cook for several minutes then turn to brown the other side for several minutes. You don't need the press for the other side. It only makes the cheese ooze out.

4. Remove from pan and slice in half.

5. Serve with Tomato Basil Soup.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Delicious And Blissfully Messy Caesar Salad Burgers In Memory of The Split T in Oklahoma City

Years ago, when I would spend summers with my paternal grandparents in Oklahoma City, we used to go eat at a hamburger joint owned by a former OU football player, whose name has inexplicably erased itself from my brain. The place was called The Split T (in honor of the old college football play that is seldom used these days) and was located on Western Ave. in the older part of Okie City, just down the street from the biggest Catholic high school in OKC, Bishop McGuinness, which was on 50th. They only served their specialty burgers which included such delicacies as a Theta Burger and a Caesar Burger, as well as the best french fries you could find in Oklahoma City at the time, which was the early 1960's. Burgers, fries and Cokes ruled during this era. I seriously doubt that anyone could match those burgers and fries, to this day. But, I digress, since we always know how unreliable childhood memories can be, right?

Still, all these many years later, I catch myself comparing each and every burger and order of fries to my childhood memories of those that The Spit T cranked out. The place was phenomenal for its time, I assure you. Otherwise, how could it possibly stick so prominently in my mind, above all others? I mean, I was eating those burgers well into my teenage years, so my memory surely can't be that bad, right? Right? Hello?

A couple of years ago, Mr. Snoots and I traveled to Oklahoma for my family reunion and I couldn't wait to take him there. Sadly, it was gone, which made my heart sink into the pit of my stomach. I wanted one of their Caesar Burgers so badly that I could actually remember the taste of it. It made me produce buckets of drool, but don't dwell on that image, okay?

So, I turned around and made my way to the old Charcoal Oven, which was still located on Northwest Highway then. Unfortunately, they didn't offer Caesar Burgers so I had to compromise and order a boring old run-of-the-mill Theta sauce cheeseburger. I survived, but I still had Caesar Burgers locked into the somewhat-of-a-memory area of my brain.

Then one day, Voila! Eureka! At long last it dawned on me that I could at least make the burgers for us at home, even if I couldn't duplicate their french fries. However, no matter how good the Caesar dressing is, it just doesn't compare. I challenge all of you to make this burger perfect. Frankly, I didn't want to use ground veal but Mr. Snoots insisted so I eventually caved in. As an Ultimate Challenge, I present to you:

Caesar Salad (Veal) Burgers:

The Caesar Recipe:


1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shaved

3 squiggles (about an inch long each) anchovy paste, or to taste

2 egg yolks, coddled and slightly beaten

1/4 teaspoon sea salt, freshly ground

1/4 teaspoon peppercorns, freshly ground

juice from 1 large lemon that is juicy (depending on the size, so adjust to taste)

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

8 big fat cloves of garlic, or to taste, pulverized (we love garlic!)

homemade croutons (hubby makes his own but I can surely do without them on my burger, thank you!)

Since Mr. Snooty makes the Caesar in this household (his mom's recipe), then you must realize that he has improved this recipe many times over the last 30 years. This is as good as it gets.


1. Apply the anchovy paste directly to the sides of the bowl and add the torn pieces of Romaine lettuce.

2. Add the coddled egg, salt, pepper, lemon, olive oil, pulverized garlic, and shaved Parmesan cheese. Toss vigorously for approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

3. Top the grilled burgers with desired amount of Caesar salad and serve. I usually toast the buttered buns in the oven so that they are ready when the burgers come off the fire but you can also do them on the grill. I don't usually add cheese but it certainly doesn't detract from the overall deliciousness of the burger and it's really a complete meal, although you could add freshly made french fries for the bigger appetites.