I don’t entertain that much, mostly because I live quite far south into Brooklyn for anyone to visit and also because most of my friends aren’t in that “let’s host a dinner party for fun!” mode of their life yet. I’m very much the grandma of the group, and damn proud of it.
This past Saturday, I was graced with my dear friend Sarah’s presence for a lovely cozy & homey brunch. She greeted me with her smiling face, a beautiful bundle of summer-reminiscent sunflowers, and a few bottles of rosé. Sarah is the ultimate rosé drinker, no season will stop her from it. I like that about her, among many other things.
In deciding what to make, I recalled a tomato soup I had cooked up a few weeks prior that was richly thick. It’s dense texture and rustic tomato flavor would be perfect for an Italian spin-off of shakshouka, with pillowy poached eggs nestled in. The soup was also paired with goat cheese gnudi or dumplings that help mimic a more sophisticated and grown-up take on the classic tomato soup and grilled cheese pairing. How could I not include these?!
Along with the soup and dumplings, I made a simple salad of sweet green cabbage, radicchio, speckled radicchio, shaved fennel bulb, and pomegranate seeds. I dressed the tender but joyously bitter greens with a balsamic vinagarette spiked with apple cider, maple syrup, and shallots.
For the win, Sarah brought a crunchy loaf of sesame crusted Italian bread (for dunking of course) and I had made chocolate rugelach the night prior, because why not?
A week from today, it will be thee American day of entertaining. I’m in total shock that it’s Thanksgiving again, I feel like it was just yesterday that I was in Washington, meeting Dustin’s family for the first time, and being introduced to all their traditions. I’m very eager to do this holiday all over again with them: feasting, laughing, relaxing, offering up my culinary assistance where I can. Becoming more a part of the entertainer rather than being the entertained, a shift that is a true symbol of closeness.
I hope you too will be feasting, laughing, and relaxing with loved ones and friends…celebrating and appreciating the good things in your life, the treasures you have, the fullness of your being, the beating of your heart…If you happen to feel far away from those feelings of thankfulness throughout this holiday season, invite a dear friend over, make this soup, and I’m pretty positive that those feelings will begin to slither back at the first slurp.
I recently purchased these bowls at Pier 1. They’re affordable, come in a number of different colors, and perfect for serving hearty soups and stews, especially when dunking bread is involved, which isn’t that always involved with soups and stews?
Note: This recipe is from America-Farm to Table by Mario Batali. This particular recipe features goat cheese from Jumpin’ Good Goat Dairy Farm in Vail, Colorado. The recipe calls for chicken broth, but I had vegetable on hand to use. For the dumplings, I found the goat cheese mixture very sticky and difficult to form into balls, I added 3-4 Tbsp. more to the mixture. I formed them into the size of a golf ball rather than a quarter…
Mario Batali’s Tomato Soup
-2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
-2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
-1 medium red onion, finely chopped
-4 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
-1/4 C. chopped sun-dried tomatoes
-3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
-3 C. low-sodium chicken broth
-1 28-oz. can whole San Marzano plum tomatoes, pureed with juices
-1 Tbsp. sugar
-1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
-Fresh basil leaves for serving
-In a 6-quart Dutch oven, heat the oil & butter over medium-low heat until the butter melts.
-Add the onion, garlic, and sun-dried tomatoes and cook, stirring occassionally, until soft but not browned, about 6 minutes. In the meantime, puree tomatoes in food processor, 10 to 20 seconds.
-Add the flour, stir to coat the onion and garlic, cook for 5 minutes more.
-Add the broth, pureed tomatoes and their juices, sugar, and thyme and bring to a boil over medium-high heat while stirring the mixture. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 40 minutes.
Mario Batali’s Goat Cheese Dumplings
-1 1/2 C. fresh soft goat cheese
-1/2 C. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
-3 large eggs
-1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
-1 tsp. kosher salt
-1 tsp. black pepper
-6-7 Tbsp. all-purpose flour, plus more for dredging
-While the soup is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Set up an ice bath.
-In a large bowl, mix the goat cheese, Parmigiano, and eggs. Stir in the nutmeg, salt, pepper, and flour. Form the mixture into balls the size of a quarter.
-Dredge the formed dumplings in flour to coat, tapping off the excess. Slide the dumplings into the boiling water, being careful not to overcrowd the pot; work in batches if necessary. After they float to the top and have cooked for about 4 minutes, remove the dumplings using a slotted spoon and place them in the ice bath to set. When completely chilled, transfer to a baking sheet and refrigerate.
-Once the soup has simmered for 40 minutes or so, in a sturdy blender or using an immersion blender, blend the soup in batches until smooth. Rinse the pot and return the soup to the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Set the pot over medium heat and return the soup to a rapid simmer.
-Add the chilled gnudi and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, but do not boil.
-Serve warm, with basil chiffonade sprinkled over each serving.
-Enjoy for 4 to 6 servings!