Challenge ends on a somewhat disappointing note.

31 Aug

In the August 2010 issue of Eating Well magazine, the editor offered up a challenge to cook 10 new recipes from that issue and blog about the results. The first 7 recipes that I made for this challenge were fabulous, family-pleasing and easy to make. I have raved about them in my previous blogs. The last 3 recipes…well…not so much.

I don’t want to say anything bad about Eating Well magazine. I love the magazine and have always enjoyed the recipes and articles in each issue. But the last 3 recipes that I chose for this challenge were not quite as successful as the others. Not that they were bad in any way. They were all quite good. They were just not as successful as the others.

This past Sunday was one of those hot, muggy days where you walk outside and begin to sweat before you even step off your porch. After a crazy, busy summer of jam-packed weekends, not one of us had any desire to be outside. We stayed inside our cool, air-conditioned house watching movies, playing the Wii, and enjoying some “down” time. Since we were pretty much oblivious to the fact that it was 100 degrees outside, I decided to make the magazine’s Roasted Tomato-Bread Soup with grape tomatoes and yellow pear tomatoes from my garden. I also made the Rosemary-Pine Nut Biscotti to dunk in the soup since I didn’t have any country bread per the recipe.

Let’s talk about the soup first. This is nothing like what you would imagine for a tomato soup. It’s loaded with onions, fresh tomatoes and garlic, which are roasted in the oven and then simmered in vegetable broth. You serve it topped with grated Parmesan cheese and chopped fresh basil. It’s almost like a light version of French onion soup. It’s not tomato-y. Jason, Madison and I really liked it. The boys did not. All in all a very tasty soup.

But, here’s the problem with it. It’s a lot of prep work. You have to thinly slice 4 cups of onions, cut in half 4 cups of grape tomatoes, and peel and thinly slice 1/2 cup of fresh garlic. Half a cup of garlic! It took forever and by the time I was done, the kids (who were playing the Wii in another room) were whining because their eyes were burning! In addition, if you decide to make this soup, the directions tell you to add the roasted vegetables to the broth, bring it to a simmer and then shut it off. If you have roasted the vegetables per the time in the recipe, you will have onions that are still slightly crisp. Jason and I both thought they needed to simmer for a while in the broth to soften completely like they do in French onion soup.

So, not a bad recipe. Just one I’m not sure I’ll make again unless I can buy half a cup of sliced garlic cloves! By the way, this soup is vegan if you leave off the cheese, which is what I did.

Now, about this biscotti. Wonderful flavor. Almost like a sweet, dense cornbread with rosemary in them. Worked well with the soup. I probably will not make them again.

I’ve made a lot of biscotti. A lot. This recipe needs some help. I usually put all of my ingredients in the food processor and pulse it until it forms a dough. The directions for this one were to simply mix it in a large bowl until the dough formed so that’s what I did. But the dough didn’t want to cooperate. It was a little too dry and didn’t want to hold together. After working it for a while on the countertop, I managed to form it into a nice looking loaf and placed it on the baking sheet and into the oven. When I pulled it out 30 minutes later, the whole top had cracked and pulled apart — big time. I moved it to the cooling rack, waited 20 minutes and then attempted to slice it so it could go back in the oven for round two. What a mess. It crumbled as I cut into it and some of the slices fell apart as I moved them back to the baking sheet. The picture above has the best looking ones in it — and they are nowhere near as nice looking as the magazine’s picture shows.

In addition, the recipe calls for 2/3 cup of pine nuts. Unless you can find somewhere that sells them in bulk, you’re looking at a rather pricy recipe. I bought a 1/2-cup bag for $5 at Kroger and that’s what I used because I didn’t want to spend another $5 for another bag! Luckily, I have rosemary growing in my herb container outside. Otherwise, I would have had to buy one of those little packages of fresh herbs at Kroger and they run about $4 each.

End result? Yummy, but too crumbly and too expensive to make again.

The final recipe for this challenge is Eating Well’s Roasted Corn & Shiitake Mushrooms. I made this tonight as a side dish with dinner. The recipe worked very well and, again, Jason, Madison and I thought it was okay. The boys didn’t like it. It was extremely easy to make since I used frozen corn instead of cutting it off the ears of fresh sweet corn. I didn’t read the recipe before I went to the store, so I only had enough shiitake mushrooms for 2 cups. The recipe calls for 4 cups so I used baby portobellos that I had in the fridge for the other 2 cups. I would say the only downfall to this recipe is the expense of buying that many shiitake mushrooms. They aren’t cheap. Also, it’s not the most attractive-looking dish. Good flavor, but I’m not sure I would serve it to guests.

Anyway, I have to say it’s been a fun summer of blogging about the recipes in my issue of Eating Well. (I call it my issue because it’s the one I’m featured in!) Thank you, Eating Well, for this challenge. It’s been a summer of good eats!

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