My trip to Cleveland, Part 1, The Westside Market!

A few weeks ago I entered a recipe in the Aetna Healthy Food Fight. I received notification that my recipe had been selected for the cook-off round in Cleveland to take place on September 25 and 26. My friend and fellow personal chef, Tami Mitchell, Akron’s own Dine In Diva, also had a recipe selected so I went for a visit and we had a great girl’s weekend!

I arrived on Friday afternoon and Tami took me to one of her most favorite places, The Westside Market. We walked through the doors and there were some nice stalls of produce vendors that reminded me a bit of our own Rochester Public Market, but it was neater and indoors which is a plus! But then….we entered the beautiful old market building that houses a mecca of gorgeous, wonderous ingredients! Isn’t it incredible?

We walked the aisles and I was amazed by the gorgeous meats, many which are butchered on site
and look at this fish… it is really unbelievable!

Tami’s clients are very lucky because she often shops there for their meals.

We also visited some vendors of herbs, nuts and seeds, grains and the Mediterranean market where I bought some pomegranate molasses and some dried kiwi. They had a great selection of grains and pastas, as well as European spices, juices and drinks. It was a fun shop to nose around in.

I fell in love with the Westside market and the next time I go to visit Tami in November, I am bringing my BIG cooler and bringing home some treats for my kitchen!

Next up…a trip to Lilly’s Chocolates for some awesome chocolate and wine and beer pairings!

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A perfect taste of summer~Roasted Tomato Soup

As summer sadly wanes and fall is creeping up on us, this is prime time to savor the delicious summer bounty. I had a few pounds of gorgeous tomatoes sitting on the counter waiting to be eaten and today, with a little rain outside and a chill in the air, it was the perfect day to make Roasted Tomato Soup.

As a kid, I HATED tomato soup. The stuff in the can doesn’t taste like tomatoes at all and add to it a grilled cheese sandwich with the ubiquitous American cheese and it was one of my worst nightmare dinners! But homemade tomato soup is completely different. Made with fresh tomatoes that are concentrated down to their perfectly delicious essence, a bowl of fresh tomato soup is really just sublime.

This recipe is so fast and easy, it makes a perfect meal on a busy weeknight, and of course you should make extra and freeze it so in the middle of snowy January, you can dig it out of the freezer and remember that summer will, in fact, come again!

For this recipe, you begin by roasting your tomatoes. If you have never roasted a tomato, you are really missing something! It is simple to do and you can use any type of tomato to roast. (You can even do a bunch of cherry tomatoes left on the vine, they make a great presentation as a garnish on a vegetable plate or a grilled salad!) Just crank the oven up to 450ยบ, slice your tomatoes in half (or quarters if they are large) drizzle with olive oil, add some garlic cloves and roast them for 20-30 minutes until they begin to caramelize. You can roast them and freeze them, make a simple sauce out of them for pasta, or make them into soup! Oven roasted tomatoes, onions and garlic
We had a three cheese crouton to accompany the soup tonight and my eleven year old son decided that dunking the bread into his soup tasted just like pizza! Alrighty then, dunk away!

Roasted Tomato Soup
(adapted from Tyler Florence)

2 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes — (if possible use a mix of fresh heirlooms, cherry, vine and plum tomatoes)
6 cloves garlic — peeled
1 large sweet onion, such as Vidalia — sliced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher or Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 quart chicken stock
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Wash, core and cut the tomatoes into halves. Spread the tomatoes, garlic cloves and onions onto a baking tray. If using vine cherry tomatoes for garnish, add them as well, leaving them whole and on the vine. Drizzle with 1/4 cup of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, or until caramelized.

Remove roasted tomatoes, garlic and onion from the oven and transfer to a large stock pot (set aside the roasted vine tomatoes for later). Add 3/4 of the chicken stock, the bay leaves, and the butter. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until liquid has reduced by a third.

Wash and dry basil leaves and add to the pot. Use an immersion blender, or transfer in batches to a food processor or blender and puree the soup until smooth. Return soup to low heat, adjust consistency with remaining chicken stock, if necessary. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Garnish in bowl with 3 or 4 roasted vine cherry tomatoes and a splash of heavy cream.

Serves 4-6.