Tomato-Cheddar Soup

4 to 6 servings

Linda Carucci sprinkles Recipe Secrets throughout her book. For her tomato-cheddar soup, she notes that the baking soda will neutralize the acid in the tomatoes and prevent the milk from curdling. To incorporate the cheese, remove the soup from the heat before adding it, and stir in a little at a time.

Serve this light, frothy soup either hot or cold. Adapted from her new book, "Cooking School Secrets for Real World Cooks" (Chronicle).

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 yellow onion, finely chopped

2 pounds Roma tomatoes, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks (may substitute one 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes)

2 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken stock

2 sprigs thyme (may substitute 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)

1 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

5 drops hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco, or more to taste

1 cup low-fat milk

2 cups (1/2 pound) coarsely grated cheddar cheese

1/3 cup creme fraiche or sour cream, for garnish

About 3 tablespoons minced fresh chives, for garnish (optional)

In a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, heat the butter. Add the onion and cook until it is soft and translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, thyme, salt, baking soda and hot pepper sauce. Increase the heat so that the mixture comes to a boil, then stir in the milk. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until the mixture thickens and the tomatoes break down, 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and discard the thyme sprigs. Stir in the cheese 1 handful at a time, making sure it has melted before adding another handful. Using a blender, puree the soup in 2-cup batches until creamy and smooth. Transfer the soup to another large pot and keep it warm over low heat. Adjust seasoning. To serve, ladle into individual bowls and top with creme fraiche or sour cream and a sprinkling of chives, if desired.

Per serving (based on 6): 314 calories, 14 g protein, 12 g carbohydrates, 24 g fat, 69 mg cholesterol, 15 g saturated fat, 861 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Bonnie S. Benwick; e-mail questions to

Lemon Marzipan Cake

12 to 16 servings

Recipe Secret: To make sure that the inside of the baking pan is coated to prevent the cake from sticking, brush the inside of the pan with melted butter, then refrigerate the pan for 5 minutes so the butter will harden, enabling you to see any missed spots. Brush with more melted butter and dust immediately with flour.

Carucci, a meticulous baker, prefers using fine sea salt in this recipe because it does not contain the anti-caking ingredient found in table salt.

Serve with a raspberry coulis or fill the center of the finished cake with fresh strawberries. Also adapted from Carucci's new book.

23/4 cups cake flour, sifted twice, plus additional for preparing the baking pan

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

4 ounces almond paste

21/4 cups sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus additional for preparing the baking pan

6 large eggs, separated

1 teaspoon vanilla extract, preferably Tahitian

1 cup low-fat sour cream

Grated zest of 2 large lemons (about 1 tablespoon)

Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Generously butter and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan or tube pan.

Over a sheet of waxed paper, sift together the cake flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl using an electric mixer on low speed, beat the almond paste until smooth. Add the sugar to combine thoroughly. Add the butter and beat until fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down the bowl. Then add the egg yolks and vanilla extract until well combined.

Starting and ending with the dry ingredients, alternately add the sifted flour mixture to the batter in 3 increments and the sour cream in 2 increments, remaining on low speed and mixing well after each addition. Stir in the lemon zest, and set aside.

In another large bowl using clean beaters or the electric mixer's whip attachment, beat the egg whites until they are stiff but not dry. Set aside.

Return the bowl of batter to the mixer, and, on low speed, add about one-third of the beaten egg whites to the batter until just combined. By hand, using a rubber spatula, gently fold the remaining egg whites into the batter.

Pour the incorporated batter into the prepared Bundt or tube pan and bake at 300 degrees for 1 to 11/4 hours, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean and the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Transfer to a rack to cool, letting the cake remain in the pan for 5 minutes. Then place a rack on top of the pan and invert the cake and rack together, carefully removing the pan, and let the cake cool completely, right side up. Using a fine-mesh strainer, dust the cake with confectioners' sugar.

Per serving (based on 16): 372 calories, 6 g protein, 48 g carbohydrates, 17 g fat, 118 mg cholesterol, 9 g saturated fat, 92 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Bonnie S. Benwick; e-mail questions to