Tomato Bisque and Pumpkin Focaccia

Friday, January 7, 2011 - 
Over my holiday break, I love to organize.  I find things that can be tweaked and have a go.  This break, I tackled many things: hubby's closet (which still looks fantastic I might add), kitchen shelves, our media center, and all the wonderful cooking magazine subscriptions that I get.  Yes, I went through four years of magazines.  I have no idea how I had so many, but I hope you wouldn't have really known that if you were in my home (many were put away in drawers, of course, organized by year and magazine). While I was recycling many of them, I came across a few recipes here and there that inspired our menu for this week, specifically one from Cooking Light - tomato bisque and pumpkin-walnut focaccia.

As you know, I love pumpkin and make it often in the fall/winter season.  From muffins to soup, I think pumpkin is great in anything.  Hubby is normally the baker of the two of us, but I decided to give the focaccia a try.  I began by activating yeast with warm water and brown sugar.  After a few minutes, I added some flour and butter, mixed it up, and put it in an oven I had warmed (but no, it wasn't on!)  Once the yeast did some work, I added the pumpkin puree, nutmeg, some cinnamon and salt - then more flour and off to the mixer with a dough hook.  At this point, I threw in a handful of Gouda from the lobster mac & cheese I was also making for good measure.  As it mixed away (saving me from kneading the dough), I marveled at the beautiful color.  Once it had the elastic texture I was going for, I let it rise for the remainder of the evening.

While I was prepping the dough, I also was prepping the tomatoes.  Two cans of whole tomatoes, an onion, and lots of garlic went on a baking sheet and was covered with a broth mixture made out of vegetable broth, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar and soy sauce.  Now, I was out of soy sauce (have you noticed I've been out of things lately?) but alas, Chinese take out packets were saved (don't ask when, because I have no idea) and came in handy for the sauce.  I poured this over the tomato mixture and placed in the oven to roast for about one hour.  I got great color and caramelization without any burning due to the broth.  When that cooled down, I poured it into a blender.

I actually split the cooking/baking into two days.  After all this prep was done, hubby and I enjoyed the lobster mac & cheese we were also making and put the bisque and dough in the fridge for the next day.  Then the next day while I was at the gym, Tim took out the dough to warm it up.  When I got home, we both got to work, which was minimal because of the prepping from the previous day.

I shaped the dough and sprinkled with walnut before putting it in the oven.  When it came out, I had two loaves of some beautiful bread.  It wasn't really the consistency of focaccia (at least to me it wasn't,) but it was still delightful.

The soup was blended and mixed with some more vegetable broth and half & half to give it that creamy texture.  For a more smooth texture, this could have been drained as well, but ours was pretty thick and that wasn't going to happen quickly enough for our stomachs. 

One of my resolutions is to eat more veggies, so I paired this meal with a simple salad.  It was a great, healthy dinner that didn't take much time to make due to previous preparation.  The soup was creamy and delicious - perfect on a cool evening in the winter.  The focaccia was subtle in pumpkin flavor but still very present.  The bread itself was very soft and paired great with the soup - I actually ended up using the slice I had versus a spoon.  And the leftovers for lunch the next day were also fantastic - I ended up making a chicken sandwich out of a slice for Tim and I ate mine as originally prepared.

I was happy to stumble upon this recipe that I had marked to use, but hadn't gotten around to it.  I made a few of my own modifications, but I'm sure it would have been great on its own as well.  

What dish haven't you cooked yet, but have plans to do so in 2011?