Line a shallow baking pan or baking sheet with aluminum foil. Remove the canned tomatoes from the juice and place them on the baking sheet. Reserve the tomato juice. Sprinkle the tomatoes with 1 tablespoon of brown sugar and place them in a 450 degree oven. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, until all of the liquid is evaporated and the tomatoes begin to brown on the undersides. Cool the tomatoes briefly.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is very tender. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of flour and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Raise the heat to medium-high and whisk in the chicken broth. When it begins to simmer, add the roasted tomatoes, the reserved tomato juice (you should have about 1 cup), star anise and thyme. Return the mixture to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 15 minute, stirring once or twice.
Place a strainer over a wide 4-cup glass measure or a large bowl. Pour the tomato mixture through the strainer, reserving the tomato liquid. Remove the star anise and discard. Place the tomatoes and about ½ cup of the tomato liquid in a food processor. Blend until smooth. Pour the mixture into a clean saucepan and stir in the remaining tomato liquid. Add the saffron and cream and bring the soup to a gentle simmer over low heat. If the soup is too thick, thin with a small amount of chicken broth. Taste and add 1 teaspoon of brown sugar, if desired. Season with salt and pepper.
To serve, ladle the soup into small wine glasses or custard cups. Garnish each serving with a few crumbles of goat cheese and a thyme sprig. Makes 4 to 6 small servings.
Option: For "mini" appetizer servings, ladle the soup into espresso cups. Serves 8 to 12.
Tom Hodge's wine recommendation: 2007 Cooper Point Pinot Noir, Family Reserve, Monterey.
Herbal Orange-Lime Syrup:
Herbal Orange-Lime Syrup: Squeeze and measure the orange juice and lime juice. Strain the pulp from both juices and pour them into a small saucepan. Add the sugar and chopped thyme and stir over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1/3 cup. The mixture should have a syrupy consistency. Remove the pan from the heat and let stand for 3 minutes. Strain the syrup to remove the thyme. Set aside.
Season the scallops with sea salt. Dip them into the beaten egg white, drain briefly and coat with the Panko breadcrumbs. Heat the oil in a stainless steel (oven-proof) skillet over medium-high heat. Place the scallops in the skillet and sear until lightly browned on the bottoms, 1 ½ to 2 minutes. Carefully turn the scallops over and place the skillet in a 500 degree oven. Roast for 3 to 4 minutes, depending on the size of scallops.
While the scallops are roasting, cook the snow peas in a pot of boiling water until tender crisp, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the peas from the pot and cool in ice water. Drain well.
To serve, place each scallop on a small plate and drizzle with the Herbal Orange-Lime Syrup (re-warm syrup if needed.) Arrange 3 snow peas on each plate. Garnish with thyme sprigs. Makes 4 small plate servings.
Tom Hodge's wine recommendation: 2005 Denner Vineyards Viognier, Paso Robles.
Prepare the Rosemary-Pink Grapefruit Ice the day before needed (recipe follows).
Using a sharp knife with a thin blade, cut off both ends of the grapefruit. Place the fruit on a flat end and cut away the peel and white pulp from top to bottom along the curvature of the grapefruit. To remove the sections, make cuts on either side of each section. (You will need 8 sections.) Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit. Run a knife around the edges of each half between the flesh and the shell and, using a large spoon, remove each avocado half from the shell. Slice each avocado half into 6 slices. Set aside.
White Balsamic Vinaigrette: In a small bowl, combine the white balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil.
Place the arugula in a salad bowl. Add as much of the vinaigrette as desired and toss the salad to coat. To serve, place a small portion of the dressed arugula on four salad plates. Arrange 2 grapefruit sections and 3 avocado slices around each salad. Sprinkle with some of the crumbled feta. Top each salad with a small rounded scoop (1 to 2 tablespoons each) of Rosemary-Pink Grapefruit Ice. Serve immediately. Makes 4 small plate servings.
Tom Hodge's wine recommendation: 2004 Annata Pinot Grigio, Sicilia.
Rosemary-Pink Grapefruit Ice: In a small saucepan, heat the sugar, water and rosemary over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is melted. Bring the mixture to a boil, remove the pan from the heat and let stand for 2 minutes. Strain out the rosemary and discard. Stir the grapefruit juice and lime juice into the sugar syrup. Place the mixture in a covered container and chill in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours, or overnight.
To freeze the ice, place the chilled grapefruit mixture in an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. Or, to make the ice in the freezer: Pour the mixture into a shallow container, cover tightly and place in the freezer. After about 1 hour, stir to break up the ice crystals. Return to the freezer and stir 2 to 3 more times, every hour or so until the mixture is a firm with a fairly smooth texture. Makes 4 to 6 small servings.
Remove the fat from the meaty side of the rack of lamb.
Using a morter and pestle, crush the garlic with the salt and pepper. Add the herbes de Provence and crush until the mixture resembles a paste. Stir in the olive oil.
Spread the garlic and herb mixture onto the meaty side of the rack and place it in a baking dish. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes, or cover and refrigerate if cooking later. (If refrigerated, let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking.)
Heat a stainless steel (oven-proof) skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil to the skillet and place the rack in the skillet, meaty-side down. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until browned. Turn the rack over and brown for about 30 seconds. Place the skillet with the lamb in a 500 degree oven and roast for about 7 to 10 minute, until the internal temperature reaches 130 to 135 degrees for medium-rare. Transfer the lamb to a cutting board, tent with aluminum foil and let rest for about 10 minutes.
While the lamb is roasting, prepare the Cheese Grits (recipe follows.)
To serve, cut the rack of lamb into 4 double chops. Place a large dollop of Cheese Grits in the center of each plate. Arrange a double chop on top. Garnish with fresh rosemary or thyme sprigs. Makes 4 small plate servings.
Tom Hodge's wine recommendation: 1998 von Strasser Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Diamond Mountain, 2005 Proteus Domaine du Poujol.
Pour the milk and water into a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When the liquid comes to a boil, slowly stir in the grits. Reduce the heat to low and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter, cheese and white pepper. Cover and let the grits stand for about 3 minutes before servings. Makes 4 small servings.
Pour the half and half into a large saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until very hot and steamy, just below simmering. Remove the pan from the heat. Place the egg yolks and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Using a wire whisk, whisk until the mixture is pale yellow and falls into ribbons when the whisk is lifted from the bowl. Slowly pour about 1 cup of the hot half & half into the egg mixture, stirring constantly. Pour the egg mixture slowly into the saucepan of remaining half& half, stirring constantly. Cook over medium-low to low heat, stirring continually, until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 20 minutes. Pour the cooked custard through a wire-mesh strainer into a large bowl to remove any curdled bits. Cool briefly.
Add the peppermint extract and if desired, a few drops of red food color to obtain a soft pink color. Cover and refrigerate overnight, or until the custard is well chilled. Crush the peppermint candy. Place in a covered container and chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Prepare the Double Chocolate Drops (recipe follows) while the ice cream mixture chills.
When the custard is well-chilled, stir in the chilled crushed peppermint candy. Freeze the custard in an ice cream freezer according to manufacturer’s directions.
To serve, place 2 scoops of peppermint ice cream in each dessert glass or bowl. Tuck two Double Chocolate Drops into each serving of ice cream and serve a shot of peppermint schnapps on the side. Recipe makes 1 quart of ice cream. Serves 4 or more.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, unsweetened cocoa powder and baking soda. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter and sugar mixture, mixing just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Drop the cookie batter by teaspoons, about 2 inches apart, on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake the cookies in a 375 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.
Recipes by Jayni Carey ©Copyright, 2008.