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Author Notes: Making a delicious, multi-course, Michelin-star-bedazzled foodfest is a great feeling. You prepare, you meticulously build a mise en place so scientifically exact that it’s worthy of the douchy italics I just used. In short: you make some fucking theater.
Tricking people into thinking you spent the kind of effort I just described when you really did jack shit, however…that’s just a higher art form altogether.
Now, does that mean this is something you should do all the time? No, you lazy piece of garbage, it’s not. Spending an entire day (preferably two or three) on a meal makes you a better cook. It makes you a better person. It teaches you that small mistakes can add up to utter disaster, and teaches you that in a particularly salient way: by catching you/your food on fire (or any other number of horrible things).
But on the opposite side of the coin, it’s important to keep your cards hidden, too (and to use less goddamned clichés). When you go all out; go all out. When you want a tasty meal that won’t require calling off of work and inducing crippling carpal tunnel, you keep the cooking technique easy and the presentation tight.
Granted; making your own pepper jelly doesn’t usually fall in the realm of “lazy”, but this is Fresh Beats, Fresh Eats, not Sandra Lee’s Soulless Cannery of Horrors.
…I’d probably watch that show if it existed. But only to see who gets killed off in the first season. —Fresh Beats, Fresh Eats
Red Pepper Jelly
- 3 red bell peppers
- 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
- juice of 1 lemon
- 3 cups sugar
- 1 cup distilled white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
Grilled Cheese/Tomato & Red Pepper Bisque/Balsamic Greens
- rosemary bread
- cheddar cheese
- 1 vidalia onion
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 1/2 tablespoons AP flour
- olive oil (as needed)
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 16 ounces roasted red peppers
- 32 ounces diced tomatoes
- 6 ounces tomato paste
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 splashes half and half
- salt & pepper (to season)
- greens (duh)
- balsamic vinegar (also duh)
- olive oil
- First, chop up your peppers thick. Feel free to leave the seeds in, it makes it look more jammy. Yes, jammy is totally a word. Probably.
- Put the bell peppers and red-pepper flakes in a food processor and pulse until they’re finely chopped.
- Turn it down to medium-high, give it the occasional stir, and keep it going until it becomes jam. It should take about 30 minutes, but you can always do the good ol’ plate in the freezer test to see when it’s ready. Once it’s sufficiently jamified, put it in a jar and stick it in the fridge while you make everything else.
- Next is the soup. Get a large saucepan and melt two tablespoons of butter over medium heat, then mince your garlic and throw it in there for a minute.
- Whisk the flour in with the butter and garlic until it forms a roux (that’s fat-people speak for “buttery flour-paste).
- Whisk in the white wine and cook for a couple of minutes.
- Add in the broth, tomatoes, tomato paste, and red peppers, give it a quick stir, and bring the whole thing up to a boil.
- Let the tastiness get back down to a simmer, then cover it and let it simmer for 30 minutes.
- Take the pot off heat, add in the half & half, and hit it with an immersion blender. If you don’t have one, let it cool to room temperature and throw it in a regular blender or food processor. If you’re impatient and want to do it without letting it cool first, I’m sure it won’t explode in a boiling, glass-filled mess all over your face. Really. Honest.
- Season with a little salt and pepper, then keep it heated on low while you grill those cheeses.
- This part’s easy: first slice up the onions nice and thin.
- Melt a tablespoon of butter in a large pan over medium-high heat, then throw the onions in there for 5 minutes, stirring fairly frequently.
- Turn the heat down to medium, add a little olive oil if the onions are looking dry, and cook until they get all nice and brown and caramelly, about 30 minutes. If you read ahead and don’t suck at math, you’ll realize that this would be the perfect thing to do while the soup is simmering. If you didn’t, you’re probably one of the people who exploded their food processor with lava-soup.
- Once the onions are done, slice up your bread and put the cheddar, pepper jelly, and onions on it.
- Melt two tablespoons of butter in a small bowl in your microwave, then brush it onto both sides of your sandwiches using a pastry brush.
- Heat up a grill pan on medium, melt the last tablespoon of butter, and toast up those sandwiches for about 3 minutes on each side. Bonus points if you weigh them down with something heavy so you can feel all fancy for getting to use the word ‘panini’.
- While those are on the grill, toss your greens with the balsamic and oil and let it sit for five minutes. Not terribly hard, but hey: it tastes good.
- Slice the sandwiches in half; put the soup in a bowl with a little crème fraiche on top, and slide some greens on the side, and you’re good to go.