**homeroom update: We’ll be cooking mac and cheese at the Underground Farmers’ Market in Oakland this Saturday from 5pm-11pm. Live music, beer, and 40 food vendors! Details at homeroom510.com.**
An interesting thing happened the other day. I was cooking, as usual, when I realized how long it was since Alejandro and I went out to dinner, or even ordered in.
It wasn’t that long ago. But for us, it was unusual. I guess with all the commotion and stress over homeroom lately, we just haven’t had time, energy or the money to go out much (gosh, and we’re not even open yet!) Anyway. It was two weeks.
Are you laughing at me? Do you think I’m ridiculous for saying two weeks is a long time?
I put the question out there on twitter: How often do you eat a meal out that costs more than $20 per person?
I was surprised by the response. I would say we spend more than $20 per person once every two weeks, with cheap bites out in between. But my twitter friends, they don’t eat out much. At all. Many people said only a couple of times a year. A couple of times a year? I’m guessing that means birthdays, anniversaries, and a few special occasions. Maybe because I live, and lived, in urban areas, I’m accustomed to eating out a lot. I knew people in New York who ate home a couple times a year!
But really, I love eating home. I love preparing dinner while catching up on the day with Alejandro, and sipping a glass of red wine. I love knowing where the ingredients come from, and exactly what’s in the food we’re about to eat. And most of all, I love spending a fraction of the cost on a meal that’s most likely better than what we’d eat out.
Take this soup for example. It’s bold, spicy, vibrant, made with all local ingredients, and it cost me a few dollars to make.
It’s like a gazpacho, but you eat it hot. There’s a bit of prep work to this soup, but dang, is it worth it. Don’t be tempted to plug in your food processor – this soup is all about the mortar and pestle, and the individual greatness of each and every ingredient.
So tell me, how often do you spend more than $20 at dinner? Once a week? A month? A year? Leave a comment, and let me know where you live too. I’m so curious!
Bright and Spicy Summer Soup
Makes 3 big bowls
3 ears of corn, kernels cut from the cob
2 pounds of tomatoes (I used a mix of early girls and heirloom)
2 1/2 tablespoons roasted garlic (recipe below)
1 red torpedo onion, peeled and chopped
2 poblano peppers
2 jalapeno peppers
Handful of chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons of butter
1 sliced avocado
1 cup water
Roast the poblano and jalapeno peppers under the broiler until the skins are blackened and blistered. Let cool. Remove the skins, seeds and white veins, and roughly chop. Set aside.
Submerge the tomatoes in a pot of boiling water for 15 seconds. Drain and let cool. Using your hands, remove the skins and crush the tomatoes into a bowl.
Melt two tablespoons of butter into a large pot. With the heat on low, add the onions and gently cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and continue cooking on low.
Using a mortar and pestle, mash up the peppers until they break apart (do this in batches if you have a small mortar). Add the peppers to the pot.
Next, crush the corn kernels in the mortar until they too break apart. You should have some super sweet juice at the bottom of your mortar. Add the corn and the juices to the pot.
Increase the heat to medium-low and stir in the roasted garlic and a sprinkle of sea salt. Cook for 10 minutes. Taste again for salt.
Top with cilantro and sliced avocado before serving.
Where I shopped:
Corn, poblano peppers, jalepeno peppers, avocado, tomatoes, cilantro, torpedo onion: Berkeley Farmers’ Market