Thursday, June 12, 2008

Feeling Frenchy? Tomato Bisque, Crusty Bread and Balsamic Dipping Sauce

It's 45 minutes until I have to leave to go to the airport. I'm on my way to what I hear is a lovely Lake Michigan beach for the roommate's bachelorette par-tay. So, to kill time, I can work on the proposal, or blog.

Blog it is!

Two nights ago, I was craving bistro-esque food. Not that I have ever been to a French bistro, mind you; I've only seen them on television and I think I would probably enjoy dining at such an establishment. After my trip to Harry's (the first one I've made all summer!), I was really craving something gourmet yet non-pretentious. And, it's hot outside, so light suppers have been sounding better and better. I whipped up a delicious and perfect menu:

Tomato Bisque
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, minced
1 28 oz can tomatoes, chopped (or whole or diced but pureed in the food processor)
1/4 cup white wine (anything drinkable will work, I used Pinot Grigio, which is my favorite and a fridge staple)
3/4 cup low sodium chicken stock (use veggie stock if you don't eat meat)
1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream
generous amounts of salt and pepper
1 tsp freshly chopped thyme
2 Tablespoons freshly chopped basil
small chunks of fresh, authentic parmesan cheese, optional (if you're planning on using the stuff out of the green plastic can, then just don't even bother)

In a large soup pot, heat butter and oil together. Sautee shallot, thyme and garlic along with salt and pepper to taste until cooked through, only about 4 minutes. Add in wine, simmer until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add in chicken stock and tomatoes, salt and pepper generously. Bring to a slow simmer, heat for at least 20 minutes on low to medium low. At the very last minute, before serving, stir in the cream and basil. If you have fresh parm on hand and eat it by the handful like I do, toss some chunks into the soup right before serving, so you get melty-gooey-cheese bits in the soup.

Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
bag of salad, your choice of greens
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar, the more expensive, the better (though I used a nice mid-range brand that wasn't the cheapest or most expensive and it was amazing)
2 Tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil (again, I splurged on this occasion, and it was well worth the investment)
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together the vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. Toss on top of greens. Save some of the dressing as a dipping sauce for crusty bread.

The soup also functions as a delicious dipping sauce for the bread. I chose a demi-baguette at Harry's that had rosemary baked into it. For a bit more protein, I served the bread on a plate with some sliced gouda. I know soup in the summer may sound weird, as it's served hot, but the way I see it, we have air conditioning inside, and it tasted so dang good, it didn't matter how hot it was outside to me. The leftovers were nice the next day, as always.

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