Simple Tomato Soup

Simple Tomato Soup
Dave Cruz

Serves 4
50 minutes total time
10 minutes active time
Easy, Kid Friendly

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Tomato soup is familiar. I love the idea of adding spice to it (here in the form of garam masala) for a little left turn. This soup originated as a way to use an abundance of fresh tomatoes at the end of summer, but now we use canned tomatoes in it. Make sure you buy good ones. I like San Marzano tomatoes.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 teaspoon garam masala
Kosher salt
2 ¼ pounds canned whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes
Finely chopped chives, optional

Put the oil and garlic in a medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Cook the garlic, stirring occasionally, and adjusting the heat as needed, until the garlic is golden and tender, 3 to 5 minutes.

Stir in the garam masala and 2 teaspoons of salt and toast just until fragrant, 5 to 10 seconds. Remove from the heat.

Using your hands, crush the tomatoes into the pot, and add the reserved can liquid. Offset a lid on the top of the saucepan and simmer briskly, stirring often until reduced and thickened, about 40 minutes.

Remove the soup from the heat. It can be left chunky or blended using a hand blender or blender to the desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and divide among bowls. Sprinkle with chives, if you like.

Almond Maple French Toast

Almond Maple French Toast
by Susie Heller
Simple Feast

1 hour total time
1 hour active time

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This French toast has become a favorite of my family so when my kids come to visit, I’ll get them ready the day before and serve them freshly made in the morning. It’s very easy but is a cut above other French toast recipes I’ve tried over the years. The secret is the surprise of a creamy filling.

Cooking note: When I can get it, I buy a Pullman loaf of bread and slice it myself.

Eighteen 3/8-inch slices white bread
6-ounces almond paste, at room temperature
6-ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon maple syrup, plus additional for serving
8 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, or more as needed
2 tablespoons canola oil, or more as needed

Trim the crusts from the bread and put them in the bowl of a food processor with two of the slices of bread. Process to fine breadcrumbs. Remove from the bowl and reserve.

Put the almond paste, cream cheese and maple syrup in the processor bowl and mix until smooth. Remove and reserve.

Spread the cream cheese mixture over 8 slices of the bread and top with the remaining slices, forming 8 sandwiches. Slice each sandwich on the diagonal. You can continue to cook the French toast or wrap the sandwiches in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

To complete: Put a cooling rack over a baking sheet and place in the oven. Preheat the oven to 250˚F.  Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk the eggs, milk and vanilla together and pour it into a shallow bowl. Put the breadcrumbs in a second shallow bowl.

Dip both sides of each sandwich into the egg mixture, allowing a minute for the mixture to absorb and letting the any excess drip back into the bowl. Dip the sandwiches into the breadcrumbs to coat all sides. Quickly dip in the egg mixture a second time. Place on the parchment-lined baking sheet and continue to coat all the pieces.

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Heat half the butter and oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add enough sandwiches to fit comfortably, without touching, to the pan. The butter and oil should come slightly up the sides of the French toast as it cooks. If not, add more butter and oil as needed. Cook for about 3 minutes per side, turning to brown the short sides as well.  Transfer to the baking sheet in the oven. Add the remaining butter and oil to the pan and cook the remaining pieces. Serve warm with additional maple syrup if you’d like.

Food processor
Baking Sheet
Cooling Rack
Non-Stick Skillet

Susie Heller is part of Simple Feast, an app that hosts an amazing community of Chefs and their delicious recipes. To view more recipes go to Simple Feast.

Almond-Quinoa Pancake

Almond-Quinoa Pancakes  

by Dave Cruz
Simple Feast

Makes 20 pancakes
50 minutes total time
35 minutes active time
Easy, Kid Friendly

These are tender, with a crumb that’s a little cakey. Red quinoa flour gives the pancakes a darker look than white quinoa would, and its flavor isn’t overly nutty. The batter will keep in the refrigerator for a few days, and since the pancakes are even better after the batter has rested overnight, this is a great recipe to make in advance and have ready for a leisurely brunch or breakfast. If you are serving with coconut cream, make the cream the day before serving to allow it time to chill.

Cooking Notes
To make your own gluten-free flour for this recipe, use 85 grams of brown rice flour, 50 grams of sweet rice flour, and 68 grams of tapioca flour. You may use a commercial gluten-free flour blend instead.

Red quinoa flour can be hard to find. You can grind your own in a large spice grinder, enough for a few batches of pancake batter if you like. You may also substitute equal parts white quinoa flour by weight instead.

1 ¼ cups gluten free flour
½ cup red quinoa, finely ground
¾ cup almond meal
¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons coconut sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
2 ¼ cups almond milk, plus more as needed
1 vanilla bean or 1tablespoon vanilla paste
¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted, at room temperature
Vegetable oil
Maple syrup, optional
Dave’s Coconut Cream, optional (recipe follows)

Combine the dry ingredients.

In a separate mixing bowl, beat together the eggs and egg yolks, followed by the almond milk. Scrape in the seeds from the vanilla bean or add the vanilla paste and whisk again.

 Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix well.

While whisking, drizzle in the coconut oil. Let rest for 15 minutes at room temperature or refrigerate up to overnight.

Heat a griddle or large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Using a paper towel, add a thin film of vegetable oil.

Using a 2-ounce ladle or ¼ cup measuring cup, scoop the batter onto the griddle. It will spread to 5- to 6-inches. (If the pancake doesn’t spread, loosen the remaining batter with a little almond milk.) Let cook on the first side until beginning to bubble and golden brown, about 1 minute. Flip the pancakes over and cook until golden and cooked through in the center, 45 seconds to 1 minute more.

The pancakes are best served right away, but can also be held in a warm oven at 200˚F. Serve with maple syrup or a dollop of coconut cream, if you like.


Large spice grinder
Griddle or non-stick pan
2-ounce ladle or ¼ cup measuring cup
Non-stick spatula
Paring knife

Dave Cruz is part of Simple Feast, an app that hosts an amazing community of Chefs and their delicious recipes. To view more recipes go to Simple Feast.

Dave’s Coconut Cream

Makes 1 batch
6 hours 20 minutes total time
20 minutes active time

3 cups unsweetened coconut milk, full fat
1 ¼ teaspoons agar agar
3 tablespoons maple sugar
Pinch kosher salt
1 vanilla bean or 1 tablespoon vanilla paste

Stir the coconut milk and pour it into a large saucepan and whisk in the agar agar. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking frequently, about 5 minutes.

 Remove from the heat and strain through a fine-mesh strainer into an 8-inch square baking dish or other baking dish that will hold the liquid in a thin layer. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface to keep a skin from forming and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, but preferably overnight.

Transfer the coconut mixture to a high-powered blender and add the maple sugar and salt. Scrape in the seeds from the vanilla bean or add the vanilla paste. Blend on high until very smooth.

Makes about 2 ½ cups. The coconut cream will hold in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

8-inch baking dish
Fine-mesh strainer
Scale (if making the gluten-free flour)

Dave Cruz is part of Simple Feast, an app that hosts an amazing community of Chefs and their delicious recipes. To view more recipes go to Simple Feast.

Pasta with Pesto, Potatoes and Green Beans

Pasta with Pesto, Potatoes and Green Beans
by Susie Heller
Simple Feast

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Serves 4
45 minutes total time
35 minutes active time

It may seem unusual to combine potatoes with pasta, but this is a classic Ligurian dish.  The pesto can be made ahead and refrigerated (with a light film of olive oil poured over the top) for a day or two or frozen, but I like to add the cheese shortly before serving. If the pesto has been stored, just stir the cheese in by hand.

2 cups packed basil leaves
2 cloves peeled garlic
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
½ cup extra virgin olive oil, preferably Ligurian
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese plus a small chunk for garnishing
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces haricot vert or green beans
8 ounces red skinned potatoes, peeled
8 ounces penne pasta
Lemon, optional

Bring a pot of water to a boil and make an ice water bath.

Add the basil leaves to the water and blanch for about 30 seconds. Remove the basil with a skimmer and plunge into the ice water to chill. After about 1 minute, remove the basil, squeeze dry and roughly chop.

Put the garlic, pine nuts, basil and olive oil in a blender. Blend to combine, but keep some texture to it to the mixture. Add the Parmesan and pulse to incorporate. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Bring a large pasta pot, preferably with a strainer insert, of salted water to a boil. Dice the potatoes into a ½-inch dice. Add the potatoes and cook until tender, about 8 minutes. Using a skimmer, remove the potatoes and set aside.

Cut the beans on the diagonal to the approximate size of the penne pasta. Add the green beans to the water and cook until tender. Remove and set aside.  Add the pasta to the water and cook until tender.

Remove and reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta.

Put the pasta in a large skillet.  Stir in enough pesto to coat (you may have extra pesto), adding small amounts of the pasta water as necessary,  to reach the right consistency to coat the pasta. Stir in the beans and potatoes. Season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice.

Spoon into the serving bowls. Using a vegetable peeler, garnish the pasta with shavings of Parmesan cheese.

Rasp grater
Vegetable peeler



Mussels with Horseradish, Grilled Bread and Aioli

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Mussels with Horseradish, Grilled Bread and Aioli
by Curtis DiFede
Simple Feast

Serves 4
1 hour 20 minutes total time
50 minutes active time

To say that I am partial to seafood is an understatement. I love the simple, clean flavors of the sea but certain ingredients make fish and shellfish even better. In this case, horseradish offers a dimension of heat to balance the flavors. I like to use the food processor to make the aioli but it can also be made by hand using a mortar and pestle.


½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup safflower oil or vegetable oil
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 small garlic clove, peeled and pounded in a mortar

1 ½ gallons water
3 tablespoons fine sea salt
4 pounds mussels, debearded and scrubbed well
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced into 1/8-inch slices
1 medium leek, white and light green portion thinly sliced, 1/8-inch rings
4 shallots, sliced into 1/8-inch rings
1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 ½ cups dry white wine
2 tablespoons grated fresh horseradish root
¼ cup unsalted butter
½ bunch flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
½ bunch chives, thinly sliced

Grilled Bread
Eight ½-inch slices rustic Italian bread
Extra-virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt


To Make the Aioli

Combine the olive and safflower oils in a liquid measuring cup.

Put the egg yolk, lemon juice, and mustard in the bowl of the food processor and pulse to combine. With the food processor running, slowly add the oil, through the hole in the top, in a thin stream. Once all the oil is incorporated, stir in the mortared garlic and season with salt. Refrigerate.

To Soak and Cook the Mussels

Put the water and salt in a large bowl and whisk to dissolve the salt. Add the mussels and soak for about 30 minutes to remove any grit. 

Meanwhile, choose a stockpot or Dutch oven that will hold all of the mussels. Pour in a generous film of olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add the fennel, leek, shallots, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until all are translucent, about 8 minutes. 

Pour in the wine and cook until reduced by half, about 4 minutes. 

Stir in the horseradish and then add the mussels, stirring to coat them in the vegetable mixture. Cover with the lid and let the mussels steam to open, 6 to 8 minutes.

To Grill the Bread

Meanwhile, heat a grill pan to medium-high heat. Brush both sides of the slices with olive oil, and season lightly with salt.  Grill the bread until crispy on both sides.

To Finish the Mussels and Serve

Remove the pot with the mussels from the heat and discard any that haven’t opened. Add the butter, parsley, and chives to the pot, and stir to coat the mussels. 

Put toast in the bottom of each serving bowl and spoon the mussels over the top. Top with a large dollop of aioli.

Food processor
Liquid measuring cup
Grill pan
Stockpot or Dutch oven
Slotted spoon or spider
Mortar and pestle

Strawberry Fresca Smoothie

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Strawberry Fresca Smoothie
by Dave Cruz
Simple Feast

Makes 1
1 hour total time
10 minutes active time

We change smoothies from season to season at my restaurant, Little Gem, based on what fruits are available. This one gets its body from using both frozen and fresh strawberries, plus a little chia pudding.


Chia Pudding
2 teaspoons chia seeds
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon almond milk

8 medium strawberries
1 medium strawberry, frozen
1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 teaspoons lime juice, freshly squeezed
2 teaspoons agave syrup

To Make the Chia Pudding

Put the chia in a small bowl or ramekin and whisk in the almond milk. Refrigerate for until thickened, about 2 hours.  The chia pudding can be made up to 2 days ahead.

To Make the Smoothie

Put the chia pudding and the remaining ingredients in a high-powered blender and blend until smooth. Serve immediately.

Dave Cruz is part of Simple Feast, an app that hosts an amazing community of Chefs and their delicious recipes. To view more recipes go to Simple Feast.

Citrus press (juicer)
Small whisk


Diane Lane | End-of-Summer Cocktail

Diane Lane Cocktail Recipe

Diane Lane
Makes 1 cocktail
5 minutes total time
5 minutes active time

Rosemary Simple Syrup
Makes roughly 10 cocktails
45 minutes total time
10 minutes active time


Even though we are quickly approaching the first day of fall, I am having a hard time letting go of summer and all of its bounty. One of my favorite summer activities is concocting a refreshing mixed drink using whatever is available around the house and/or in the garden to beat the summer heat. There have been many successes and failures, but the one cocktail that I always go back to is a drink that I named the Diane Lane. Think rosemary and blood orange, Tuscany, and the star of the 2003 chick flick “Under the Tuscan Sun”. I even took this recipe with me during a stint as bartender at Angele Restaurant in Napa where, amongst other amazing cocktails, you can still find a variation of the Diane Lane on their menu today.

This is easy drinking and sure to help you through the remaining days of summer. 

Diane Lane
1 ½ ounces of Vodka
½ ounce of Rosemary simple syrup (see recipe below)
¾ ounce of fresh lime juice
2 sprigs of fresh Rosemary
Blood Orange Soda

Rosemary Simple Syrup
1 cup of water
1 cup of white sugar
¼ cup of Rosemary leaves

To Make the Diane Lane
Combine Vodka, Rosemary simple syrup, lime juice, 1 sprig of Rosemary and ice in your cocktail shaker. Strain it into a collins or highball glass filled with ice.

Top with Blood Orange Soda to the top then garnish with a fresh sprig of Rosemary and a lime wheel or wedge.

To Make the Rosemary Simple Syrup
Combine water, sugar, and rosemary leaves in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat and let syrup steep, about 30 minutes.

Pour syrup into a sterilized glass jar through a mesh strainer to remove rosemary leaves; let cool.

Equipment Needed:
Cocktail Shaker
Cocktail Strainer
Mesh Strainer
Small Saucepan
Glass Jar
Collins or Highball Glass



Tomato Jam

Tomato Jam
by Mourad Lahlou
Simple Feast

Makes 1 batch
1 hour 20 minutes total time
35 minutes active time


Starting in June, my grandpa would bring home bushels of tomatoes from his farm just outside Marrakesh. They were served in as many dishes as the women of the house could churn out, and what was left was pickled or made into this sweet-spicy jam. We knew it would be around for just a short while, so everyone would devour it all summer long, especially us kids. I call it a jam, because its made that way, but its really more like a relish that goes well with savory foods, like lamb, chicken, fish, or nibbles like crostini with goat cheese (as featured in this video recipe). Stored in a jar with a bit of olive oil on top, it will keep in the fridge for about a month.

Version 2

2 large lemons
5 ounces fresh ginger
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 pounds Sweet 100 tomatoes, stems removed
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Cut off the ends of the lemons and discard. Cut the lemons in half lengthwise, then lay them flat side down and cut crosswise into very thin half-moon slices. Set aside.

Peel the ginger and cut into ¼-inch slices. You will need 2/3 cup (90 grams). Put the ginger and vinegar in a high-powered blender. Begin blending on low speed, then, increase the speed to high to puree the ginger.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the tomatoes and both sugars to the pan and stir to combine. Increase the heat to high and stir constantly with a flat-bottom wooden spoon, scraping the bottom and corners of the pan to prevent the sugar from burning.

After about 7 minutes, the tomatoes will begin to split and release their juice causing the sugar to melt very quickly. Once melted and starting to boil, stir in the lemons. Continue to boil the mixture for another 3 minutes, and then add the cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and the pureed ginger mixture.

Return to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook at a rapid simmer until the jam has reduced by about half, 45 minutes. (In the beginning stir occasionally, but as it thickens, especially towards the end of cooking, stir often to keep from burning.) Add ¼ teaspoon of salt and 1/8 teaspoon of pepper. Continue to cook until the jam is thick and has reduced to about 3 1⁄2 cups. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper as needed.

Spread the jam in a non-reactive 9-by 13-inch pan, preferably stainless steel, to cool, then refrigerate in a covered container for up to 1 month. Makes 3 ½ cups of Tomato Jam.

Mourad Lahlou is part of Simple Feast, an app that hosts an amazing community of Chefs and their delicious recipes. To view more recipes go to Simple Feast.

Sauté pan
Nutmeg grater
Flat bottom wooden spoon
9 x 13-inch stainless steel or glass pan
Glass storage jars

Butter Lettuce Salad with Roasted Garlic Yogurt Dressing


Butter Lettuce Herb Salad with Roasted Garlic Yogurt Dressing
Simple Feast

Serves 4
75 minutes total time
25 minutes active time

In our garden, we have a big stone raised bed filled with herbs, so I like to make this dressing with whatever is growing out there.

Roasted Garlic Yogurt Dressing
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large head garlic, cut in half horizontally
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons chopped chives
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 tablespoon tarragon leaves
2 heads butter lettuce
Maldon salt

For the Roasted Garlic Yogurt Dressing

Preheat the oven to 400˚F.

Make a small package for the garlic out of aluminum foil and set in a small baking dish. Pour 1 ½ tablespoons of oil in the bottom of the package. Dip the cut side of the garlic in the oil and place cut side up on the foil. Drizzle ½ tablespoon of oil over the top of the garlic. Wrap the foil around the garlic to encase completely. Roast in the oven for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool, still wrapped in the foil, for 10 minutes.

Open the package and press the softened cloves and any oil through a fine-mesh strainer into the food processor. (If there wasn’t much oil remaining in the package add a little olive oil.) Add the vinegar, ½ teaspoon of salt, ¼ teaspoon of pepper. Add the yogurt and pulse until combined and creamy. You may need to add 1 to 2 teaspoons of water if the dressing is too thick. This makes about 1 1/3 cups of dressing. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

For the Salad

Separate the lettuce leaves. Wash and dry well.

Put the lettuce leaves in a large salad bowl. Drizzle in enough dressing to lightly coat the leaves. Toss and then add additional dressing as desired.

To serve family style, arrange the largest leaves around the edge of a serving bowl and working towards the center, decrease the size of the leaves to recreate the look of the whole head of lettuce.

Scatter the herbs over the top, and sprinkle with a bit of Maldon salt.

This recipe is part of Simple Feast, an app that hosts an amazing community of Chefs and their delicious recipes. To view more recipes go to Simple Feast.

Salad spinner
Food processor
Small fine-mesh strainer

Watermelon, Tomato, Cucumber Salad

IMG_7899Our watermelon was finally ready! Slowly growing over these beautiful months of summer. We decided we needed to showcase it. Hence, came the watermelon, tomato, cucumber salad, all homegrown in our garden. There really is something special about eating vegetables straight from the garden. This salad is super simple, refreshing and a crowd pleaser. The lemon cucumbers add a unique touch from the traditional watermelon, tomato salads out there. Also, we used a peppered feta which I highly recommend.

1 Small Watermelon
4-5 Medium Tomatoes
2 Lemon Cucumbers
1/4 Chopped Red Onion
1/2 cup feta cheese (pepper feta if you can)
2-3 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
Salt & Pepper to Taste

Chop all vegetables and place in a large bowl. Sprinkle feta cheese on top. Drizzle Balsamic Vinegar and top with salt and pepper. Mix and eat!