Friday, 18 May 2007

HHDD#12 Caesar… soup?

(an early entry, I know, but the weather seems to be turning from soupy to salady again, so I thought I'd better get this post up straight away)

When Katie of Other People’s Food announced the theme of Hay Hay it’s Donna Day, I have to admit felt a bit disappointed at first. After discovering food blogs (about eight months ago) and setting up shop in my own little corner of the internet (about four months ago), followed by a few busy months travelling around the world, I was very much looking forward to being home, getting my groove on in the kitchen and finally start participating in all those food events out there!

I had devoured all the previous round-ups of HHDD, SHF and quite a few more. All those chocolate-y, mousse, sweet, flowery, cocoa-y creations made my mouth water and my imagination run wild, and I was anticipating the day I’d have time to do something myself. And then, when the announcement for HHDD#12 came, it was … Caesar salad??? What about all those sweet bites?

But Katie was right of course, after months of sugar coma-inducing sweetness a nice crisp salad wouldn’t go amiss. She urged everyone to use the main elements of a Caesar salad and be creative with it. After doing a bit of research about Caesar salad (all right then, I read the Wikipedia entry), an idea started brewing in my head.

Seeing as the weather here in London is abysmal (grey, wet and cold), I’ve ditched the salads for now and have gone back to eating soup. And so I decided to turn my Caesar salad into a Caesar soup, with a recipe cobbled together from various other recipes I’ve made before – that parmesan galette I had last made years ago and my mother-in-law’s ‘summery lettuce soup’, which is one of my summer staples (her peppery cucumber soup is another firm favourite). And so, here it is, my Caesar soup. It has all the classic Caesar ingredients, apart from the dressing. I thought about making that into a foam, but I don’t have a foam making thingy, so I gave up on that idea. For now.

(my mother-in-law's summery) lettuce soup
2 onions

2 lettuces, washed and coarsely shredded

1 litre stock (chicken or vegetable, whatever you fancy)

Glaze onions in a bit of olive oil. Add lettuce and stir occasionally. It will start to wilt and may look rather bad, but don’t worry, this is normal. Add stock and simmer for about half an hour. Blend and season whichever way you like. Yes, it really is that easy.

* normally I use iceberg lettuce, which gives a crisp and summery taste. This time I used romaine, which has a bit more oomph and tastes a bit more spinach-y.
* if you prefer a smoother texture, you can also put the soup through a moulin-légumes after blending, though nobody outside continental Europe seems to know what that is.
* my mother-in-law’s original recipe calls for the addition of herb cheese (Boursin is perfect), which I omitted this time for Ceasar’s sake.

Parmesan galette
Grate parmesan, put on baking paper or silpat in circular shape (I use a ring mould for guidance) and put under the grill until it bubbles and is golden around the edges. Keep an eye on it, as it can go wrong real quick. You’re aiming for a disc that has an ‘interesting’ texture, with holes in it, but not so fragile that it breaks when you handle it or so thick that it becomes gloopy. Make sure the parmesan is fresh and moist and grates in long strands – my first to attempts were disasters; I used an old piece of parmesan, which I think was too dry. It would grate only in tiny flecks and didn’t melt in the oven at all.

Garlic croutons
Cut (white) bread in little squares, heat olive oil in pan, add garlic and then bread. Fry until golden and crispy.

Crispy bacon
Go to the supermarket and buy a pack of crispy bacon strips. Or, if you have lots of time and know how to make bacon crispy, go ahead and make it yourself.

Arrange croutons in middle of plate, stick bacon and parmesan galette in crouton heap, ladle soup around it, and finally add a twist of black pepper. Looks good, don’t you think?

keeping it real

But who am I kidding; my crouton mountain tumbled down as soon as I tried to stick the bacon in it and, no matter what I tried, I could not get it to stay in the position I wanted. So I had to cheat a little (shhh, don’t tell anyone); I cut a little cube of mozzarella I had in the fridge, made two cuts in it, clamped the bacon in one cut and the parmesan in the other, plonked it in the middle of the plate, artfully arranged all the croutons around it to hide the mozzarella et voilà … oh, wait. Now the parmesan galette started to bend backwards a bit (maybe I should have left it a bit longer under the grill to crisp it up a bit more). So I pricked a sewing pin in the mozzarella behind the parmesan to hold the galette up straight. Well, at least I didn’t use bluetack. Or superglue. Or other crazy things I’ve read in a rather freakishly weird article. I’m not very fond of eating sewing pins though, so after taking my food porn pictures, I ladled my soup in a bowl, dunked in the croutons, added some parmesan shavings on the top and put the bacon on top of the bowl. One more quick snap of the real thing and then I could eat my soup like normal people would. Sans sewing pins.


Katie B. said...

Very clever - I dig it! Your commentary is a hoot, too! Love your site!

Brilynn said...

That's a great take on the HHDD theme, looks wonderful, (cheating with cheese or not!)

jenjen said...

What a great idea, very creative take on the caesar.

Nora B. said...

Wonderful idea and it not just looks good but it sounds delicious. I might have to vote for you!

Barbara said...

A brilliant entry. You are so clever to have thought of turning a Caesar into a soup. Thanks for joining in at HHDD.

ChichaJo said...

How creative! And it's sounds very tasty too :)

Culinarily Curious said...

The creativity this month is AMAZING -- I'm sorry I missed it (though my "plain" Caesar would have paled by comparison. I'm glad I found you -- I think I'm going to enjoy your 'voice.'