No Carb Left Behind: episode 1

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First off, I should admit that I did not come up with this tour name myself; it’s what Liz’s friend calls her Italy trip in Eat Pray Love. Unlike her, I do not have ready access to fried squash blossoms and homemade tiramisu and roasted endive and penne ai quattro formaggi and pizza that incurs an existential crisis.

Perhaps it’s just as well.

However, we do have some pretty awesome street food, delis, and bakeries here in Seattle, and it’s my sad duty to revisit my favourites in the process of moving away. It’s not as impressive as Cher’s farewell tour, I know. But at least I’m only planning one.

My first stop was Michou Deli, in the Pike Place Market. It has a wide range of sandwiches and salads, with a respectable collection of pastas, soups, and pastries as well. My favourite sandwich, the one you see above, is the Tuscan chicken, with chicken, tomato, artichokes, greens, mozzarella, and pesto. This time I got a side of kale–wild rice salad to go with it. Such a good lunch — and super affordable, too; my sandwich–salad combo was under $7.

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And while I was at Pike Place, of course, I had to stop at Three Girls Bakery (no official website, but here’s their Yelp listing) to pick up a pastry. I decided on a poppyseed rugelach in the end, but they also have fantastic palmiers, croissants, brownies, and cookies. They’re reasonably priced, too (I paid $2 for this rugelach, and the guy threw in a broken one for free), so if you decide that the line at Piroshky Piroshky is too long, just walk a block further and get your pastry fix at Three Girls.

Also, a word about visiting Pike Place Market: I highly recommend going there early. Le Panier opens at 6:30 a.m. and Lowell’s at 7 a.m., so by the time you finish breakfast, many of the produce, flower, and seafood vendors will have set up their wares, and you’ll be able to stroll the market without the crowds. It’s a much more relaxed, personal, and efficient way to experience the market. (If you’re there for the crafts vendors, you’ll probably have to wait until 10 a.m. But that’s all the more time to mooch around the nearby coffee shops, right?)

Stay tuned for the next installment … but in the meantime, I want to know: What’s the best sandwich in your hometown?

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Counter Action: Roasted tomato–basil soup and Parmesan–pesto grilled cheese

tomato soup i

Soup for everybody!

If I had a family motto, I think that would be it. Or possibly “More butter!”, with “The book was better” also in the running.

Our crest: A blue field with butter rampant.

Our crest: A blue field with butter rampant.

I first made this soup in the summer of 2011. I had a lot of soup recipes on my bucket list, but no food processor or blender with which to make them. It was also beastly hot, and I had no car. So I got up one morning, very early before it was too warm, and trekked 1.6 miles down to Walmart, then 1.6 miles back home, blender triumphantly in hand.

And before you ask, yes, it was uphill both ways.

Actual footage of the journey. I'm telling you, Wal-Mart will build anywhere.

Actual footage of the journey. Seriously, Walmart will build anywhere.

The very first thing I made with that blender was Smitten Kitchen’s summer squash soup with parsley–mint pistou. The next thing was this tomato soup, and believe me, it was worth every sweaty step of the journey. Roasting the tomatoes gives the soup a smoky depth that draws it away from typical fresh, light summer fare and into the neighbourhood of more contemplative fall foods. Meanwhile, the basil keeps the soup from being a one-flavour wonder, and the cream mellows out the acidity of the tomatoes. If grilled cheese sandwiches aren’t your thing, try ladling the soup into ovenproof bowls, topping with pesto-spread toasts and thick mozzarella slices, and broiling for a few minutes, à la Heather Christo’s caprese soup.

But whatever you do, don’t skimp on the butter.

tomato soup ii

Roasted tomato–basil soup

(Barely adapted from Ina Garten. Serves 6. Keep refrigerated for up to one week.)

Ingredients:

  • 3 lb. tomatoes
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 T. butter
  • 2 medium onions
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 28-oz. can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 c. fresh basil
  • 6 c. chicken broth
  • 1 c. heavy cream or whole milk

Directions:

  1. Halve tomatoes lengthwise and place cut-side up on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Grill at 400°F for 35–40 minutes.
  3. Melt butter in large stockpot over medium heat.
  4. Cut onions into half-moons and add to butter. Cook 3–4 minutes or until translucent.
  5. Mince garlic and add to stockpot with thyme and red pepper flakes. Cook 1–2 minutes or until fragrant.
  6. Add canned and roasted tomatoes to stockpot, along with juices and oil from tray. Cook 3–4 minutes.
  7. Chop basil roughly and add, along with broth. Raise heat to medium-high and simmer 30 minutes.
  8. Blend soup in batches (or use immersion blender). Return to stockpot and add milk.
  9. Garnish with plain yogurt, extra virgin olive oil, basil leaves, or grated Parmesan. Serve alongside grilled Parmesan–pesto sandwiches (recipe below).

Grilled Parmesan–pesto sandwiches

(Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod)

Ingredients:

  • Bread of your choice (I recommend French or sourdough)
  • Pesto
  • Butter
  • Thinly sliced Parmesan

Directions:

  1. Spread butter on one side of each piece of bread. Place bread butter-side down on prep board or plate.
  2. Spread pesto thickly on every other piece of bread.
  3. Top with Parmesan and plain buttered bread, with butter facing outwards.
  4. Place in preheated frying pan or sandwich press. Grill until each side is golden-brown.

Variations:

  • Replace Parmesan with mozzarella or extra-sharp white cheddar.
  • Include thinly sliced sun-dried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, roasted red bell peppers, artichoke hearts, or kalamata olives in filling. (The thicker the filling, the more you’re likely to need a sandwich press. Alternately, use a regular frying pan and put a heavy, heatproof plate on top of the sandwich to press it together.)
  • Rub inside of sandwich with garlic clove (roasted or raw) before adding filling.
  • Spread other side of sandwich with your favourite canned tomato sauce, alfredo sauce, or ricotta.
  • Drizzle balsamic vinegar lightly over filling.
  • Use artisan bread with olives, garlic, cheese, herbs, or tomatoes already baked in.

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Photo credits: Crest from Nemo and desert from tpsdave on Pixabay. Also, fun heraldic fact: In that crest, the horizontal stripe is called a fess. Thanks, Wikipedia.