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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Trips Too Bountiful?

I'm really not one who believes in the notion of too much of a good thing.  How can too much good be bad? Well, my farmer's market shopping habit has had me rethinking that notion. I shop three times a week, which isn't offensive.  Buying too much stuff on each visit might be. We are not a family of five. We are a family of two. When I browse the market this time of year I can't help myself.  Everything is so damn beautiful and delicious.  That being said, we haven't been able to eat all the stuff that I've accumulated over the past week. Trust me, we've  tried. I think we've eaten fresh corn  (every way imaginable)  every night for two weeks now.

Last night, my vegetable hoarding finally caught up with me.  I had an array of things I really needed to either use or toss.  I used it all. 

I lugged  bags out of the refridgerator vegetable drawer to assess our supper plans.  We had plenty of vegetables.  Plenty.  Soup was the obvious choice. Vegetarian vegetable soup, no less. After chopping, dicing, and mincing green bell peppers, small Yummy orange bell peppers, purple candy onions, green beans, garlic, and speckled roma tomatoes, I sauteed them in olive oil until they were tender.  Just as the onions started to caramelize, I deglazed the pot with a cup of white wine and added 2 cups of vegetable stock.

I had a few large heirloom black brandywine and yellow brandywine tomatoes sitting in a bowl on the countertop that were slightly past their salad prime.  I decided to use their juices to finish the soup base. I could have used my food mill, but didn't feel like dealing with cleaning seeds from the blades.  Messy.  I went the primative route with an oridinary box grater. It was fun. 

After slicing the tips from the tomatoes, I grated them into a fine chinois strainer fitted over a mixing bowl until I had a heaping pile of tomato pulp.  Using a wooden utensil, I sieved the pulp through the strainer until only the seeds and skins remained.  When finished, I had 2 cups of gorgeous tomato essence. 

I poured it into the soup pot along with parsley, oregano, fresh thyme, salt, and pepper.  When it came to a boil, I reduced it to a simmer, clamped on a lid, and let it gently bubble away.

While the soup simmered, I whipped up a quick basil pesto, covered it with plastic wrap, and set it aside.

Corn.  A few nights ago, I made creamy fresh ambrosia corn risotto with sauteed rainbow chard as accompiments for balsamic glazed chicken.  Although the fresh corn risotto was fantastic, we had leftovers. Happy dance. Lefttover risotto is the gift that keeps on giving, especially the gift of arancini di riso or fried risotto balls.  Bingo.

Arancini di riso are usually served as snacks with dipping sauces, but I decided to serve them as dumplings for our soup. Sacrilege.

I pulled the leftover corn risotto from the refrigerator and rolled it into meatball sized 1 inch balls. Using my thumb, I made holes in the centers of each rice ball, stuffed the holes with fresh mozzarella, enclosed the holes by rolling them back into balls, and slid them into the refrigerator to firm up.

Much wine followed.

When it was time to eat, I heated  peanut oil in a heavy pot until it reached 350 degrees. Once the oil tipped the thermometer at 350, I dredged the cheese-filled risotto balls in flour, egg wash, and panko bread crumbs before carefully dropping them into the smoking hot oil to cook.  After a few turns to brown the balls evenly, I  scooped them out, placed them on paper towels, and doused them with kosher salt.

After ladling the soup into  large pasta bowls, swirling in the pesto, I scattered fresh snipped chives along with a few basil leaves and nestled the arancini into the soupy broth.  Fresh lemon finished.

It was a fascinating combination of....well, everything. The hot tomato-infused broth slowly defused the pesto, gradually melting the parmigiano and releasing the basil-flecked olive oil into soup. The broth was light. Very light.  Like sipping air. Tomato air.  Heaven.  The vegetables vanquished to the broth, adding flavor with subtle bites.

Oh my.  When sliced, the arancini crackled and snapped. Splayed open,  the crunchy rice balls oozed cheese, creamy rice, and sweet corn into the soup.  Ridiculous. Really.


This morning, I stopped by the farmers' market on the way to work...
and reloaded.

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