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I know I’ve already posted a tomato soup recipe, but that one used canned tomatoes. This one uses fresh tomatoes.

It’s completely different.

Actually, it’s not, but it’s nice to think it would be. And currently, my garden is bursting with fresh tomatoes. I may post about my first foray into canning in the next few weeks, but in the meantime, my every meal revolves around tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes are halved and sauteed to go into tomato-basil pasta, or diced, mixed with olive oil and basil, and spooned onto toast for cool bruschetta. Larger tomatoes are sliced and eaten raw or roasted to top a pizza. Green tomatoes are chopped fine and mixed into guacamole. Several pounds of tomatoes were exported to Mississippi and dropped with my grandparents, where they were sliced onto homemade doughburgers. And last week, 5 or 6 ripe tomatoes were sliced, diced, tossed in a pot, and blended into spicy tomato soup.

I know soup isn’t a summer food, but it had rained for the first time in months so it was an unseasonably cool 87 degrees outside! Bookmark this and make it in November, ok?

Tomato Soup with Fresh Tomatoes
Adapted from Allrecipes.com

Note: The original recipe called for processing the soup in a food mill. If you own one, do that. I don’t, so I used an immersion blender. Some of the reviewers strained the soup through a fine-mesh strainer for a smoother texture. I don’t mind my soup a little chunky, so I also skipped this step, but feel free to go for it!

You will need:
4 c. diced tomatoes
1 quarter onion, diced
1/2 celery stalk, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 c. chicken broth
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. flour
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. sugar
1-2 pinches red pepper flakes (optional)

Combine the tomatoes, onion, celery, garlic, and chicken broth in a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth.

In a separate saucepan of similar size, melt the butter over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, to make a roux. When the roux is medium-brown, add a small amount of the soup and stir constantly to avoid lumps. Add the soup in small batches to the roux, stirring constantly. Add the salt, sugar, and pepper. (I was unable to avoid lumps, so I just gave the soup another shot of the immersion blender. It was fine.)

Serve immediately garnished with basil, chives, grated cheese, or croutons, and alongside a grilled cheese sandwich or some cheddar-scallion biscuits.

Grandma, please forgive me.

I just got back from visiting my family in Mississippi, and in between touring the largest home garden I’ve ever seen, being kicked out of the kitchen more times than I can count, and drinking quarts of sweet tea, I kind of stole my grandmother’s recipe for biscuits with chocolate gravy.

I’ve never been to Mississippi and not had chocolate-and-biscuits for breakfast. It’s a family tradition, but like most traditions, we all do it differently. I split the biscuit, slather it with butter, and spoon the chocolate on top. Mom chops the biscuits into small pieces, dots the plate with butter, and pours on the chocolate with a heavier hand than I do. Grandma puts a pat of butter on the plate, tops it with chocolate, smooshes the butter and chocolate together, and then dips the biscuit in that. Grandpa eschews the chocolate altogether, but uses Grandma’s method to mix butter with sorghum molasses. Grandpa’s way, lacking chocolate entirely, is obviously wrong.

Like so many family recipes, it never occurred to me until this most recent visit to ask Grandma to teach me how to make the chocolate gravy. (Her attitude about me in the kitchen was such that I didn’t even ask, but instead resorted to subtle subterfuge. The one thing I got to do all weekend? Chop pecans. Grandma needs no help, thank you very much.) My great-grandmother died without my having ever inquired after her recipe for chocolate pie. Thankfully, the chocolate pie was passed down to a cousin of mine with more sense than I, but I’ve learned my lesson. I casually asked my grandma what she put in her chocolate gravy, ran to get a notepad when she wasn’t looking, and stuffed the recipe in my purse.

It’s for posterity, Grandma! I had to do it!

I’ve printed the recipe below as Grandma dictated it to me, but (at the risk of incurring significant wrath) I’ve added a few suggestions. Serve this alongside your favorite biscuits at your next brunch or Christmas breakfast and your family will swoon. My hunch is that leftover gravy, should you have any, would be excellent on ice cream, a brownie, crepes, or on more biscuits.

Grandma’s Chocolate Gravy
Serves 6-ish
Note: The amount of liquid is approximate. The gravy should be on the thin side, but not too thin. Practice.

You will need:
1.5 c. granulated sugar
2 tbsp. flour
2-3 tbsp. cocoa powder
About 1 c. water (I bet you could use milk to get a creamier gravy)
2 tbsp. butter

Mix all ingredients together in a saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring intermittently, until mixture bubbles, becomes very frothy, and thickens significantly, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately over warm biscuits.

I’m blessed with a friend who makes the best margaritas I’ve ever tasted. Brittany’s margaritas are also dangerous, because as the night wears on, she gets more and more heavy-handed with the hard stuff. She’s never shared her secret recipe with me, but I have seen her include finishing splashes of unexpected ingredients. Once, she topped off my glass with pomegranate Italian soda. Another time, it was some sort of prickly pear soda. I think she’s also been known to make a regular margarita with lime soda. The lesson for me has been that margaritas are much enhanced with the addition of a little bit of carbonation.

I shouldn’t have been surprised when she showed up to my most recent poolside barbecue with ingredients for her own tequila concoction, but this one stands out. As she tells it, this drink is a lazy man’s version of some fancier drink she had in LA. She’s been recreating the drink at home, steadily leaving out ingredients until she came up with this simple, refreshing cocktail. It’s so easy that it feels like cheating to share this with you, but you’ll wow your friends at your next gathering, shindig, or hootenanny with this fizzy margarita.

A note about tequila: Brittany’s boyfriend, a tequila connoisseur, has been kind enough to school me on the proper usage of tequila. Expensive, premium tequila should be reserved for sipping. For most mixed drinks, however, a mid-level tequila blanco will taste fine and go down smooth. Personally, I’m one of those women who doesn’t like my cocktails to taste like they have any alcohol in them, and tequila blanco lacks the smokiness found in more aged tequilas, like tequila reposado. For your day-to-day mixing needs, I suggest El Jimador Tequila Blanco. If you insist on the “top shelf” experience, spring for Cabo Wabo Tequila Blanco.

Ginger Beer Margaritas
Recipe adapted from my friend Brittany
Note: to make a pitcher for a party, use 3-4 bottles of ginger beer, and 2 shots of tequila per bottle. Add lime juice to taste and serve over ice.
Serves 2

You will need:
1 bottle ginger beer
2 shots tequila blanco
Juice of 1 lime

Pour 1 shot tequila into each of two small tumblers. Add ice and split the ginger beer between the two glasses. Top with lime juice, stir, garnish with a lime, and serve.

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