Monday, January 4, 2016

White Pizza and Tomato Soup: Comfort Food for 2016


The first dinner I cooked in the new year was also a landmark one, for this, I decided, is how we're doing classic comfort food in 2016.  This soup works brilliantly with garden fresh tomatoes and basil OR with canned pantry staples. The meal meshes together two kid-friendly favorites and utilizes a time-saving dough if you prefer.  People who are mildly offended by pizza without tomato sauce (*cough* husband *cough*) can get their dose of red with a dunk before each bite, but a splash of sherry in the soup and the monochrome pie bring a little elegance to the whole thing. If it's colder than a polar bear's Frigidaire (see 1:12, oh how we love Slugs & Bugs!) where you are too, don't you think this would be a nice way to warm up tonight?

For years we've made and enjoyed the Cream of Tomato Soup recipe from the More With Less cookbook (How have I not blogged this?!  Thankfully, someone else has. ) but have come to prefer the flavor of this one.

Tomato Soup  (inspired by Ree Drummond's Best Tomato Soup Ever)
serves 6

 
3 T. butter

1 medium onion, diced fine
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes  (or equivalent chopped fresh tomatoes)
3.5 c. chicken broth
1/4 c. sherry
2-3 T. sugar (more or less to taste, depending on how acidic your tomatoes are)
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. parsley
1/2 cup heavy cream (or milk or a combo for a lighter version--I usually do half and half)

Melt butter in a large stockpot and saute onion and garlic until they begin to caramelize.  Add sherry, simmer for one minute, then add tomatoes, broth, sugar, pepper, basil, and parsley.  Simmer on low heat for at least a half hour (I've done up to an hour), adding cream/milk in last 5 minutes*.  Stir and heat thoroughly (but don't boil the cream), check seasonings, then serve warm. 

*You can use an immersion blender to puree the soup before adding the cream if the chunks of tomatoes are bothersome to one of your dinner guests. I'm the queen of texture issues so...I get it. :)


White Pizza
(adapted from these two recipes)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. 

Pizza dough: Approximately 1lb. of your favorite store-bought or homemade, enough for one large pie. I used one recipe of this 5-minute Quick and Easy Pizza Crust to speed things up and the portions are a perfect match for the soup (makes 1 pie), but our favorite pizza dough recipe for all other purposes is here.

White sauce: In a small saucepan melt 2 T. butter.  Saute 2 minced cloves of garlic, then stir in 3 T. flour until thoroughly mixed, then whisk in 1 c. of milk.  Add a pinch each of salt and pepper, 1/2 tsp. dried basil, 1/4 tsp. dried Thyme, and 2 T. Parmesan cheese.  Set aside.

Ricotta mixture: Stir a pinch each of salt and pepper and 1/4 tsp. dried Thyme into 1 cup of Ricotta cheese.

Assembly:
Roll out pizza dough to desired thickness and place on a prepared peel or baking pan sprinkled with cornmeal to prevent sticking.  (We enjoy a thin crust, and I made a 17" pizza, which our peel and stone just barely accommodated...)  Spread white sauce over the surface of the dough leaving a small edge, then dollop with small scoops of ricotta mixture.  Top/fill in empty spaces between dollops (is there a better way to explain this?!) with shredded mozzarella cheese--approximately 1/2lb. Sprinkle with mixed Italian herbs if desired, then bake for 8-10(-/+) minutes.  Baking times will vary depending on oven, whether you are baking on a stone or in a pan, how thick your crust is, etc.  I look for a crispy crust and cheese that is starting to brown/bubble.  You all know what a finished pizza looks like, right?  I don't need to belabor this. :)

Serve with tomato soup and a large green salad. Enjoy!

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