Pulling off the farmers market this past weekend was a bit of a challenge. I had flown back from Seattle Friday afternoon, knowing full-well that the evening would consist of harried hours of crimping and baking, filling and frosting. And I was okay with that. I wanted as much time there as possible.
Time to explore pie shops and see what other bakers are up to. Time to share french fries with Rachael in the afternoon or a pre-museum hot dog with Sam at Dot’s. Time to take evening walks around the lake or back from Delancey. Walks to the grocery store or the movie theater. Back home from playing darts or out to meet Tara for dinner or Jess for a good chat. Or a rather brisk walk to catch Dana at Booklarder (and we did!)
So you’d think with all of that walking, talking about feeling settled might seem odd. They’re opposites, really. It’s funny: so often that word has negative connotations. In regards to a bad relationship, it could be “she’s just settling.” Or in speaking about someone who has become much less adventurous or interesting, you might say they’ve already “settled.” As for Sam and Seattle, settled is just what comes to mind, what feels right. It feels like we’ve been in each others’ company for a very long time. But then Sam will say something or do something unexpected that leaves me dying with laughter or challenged or thoughtful. So it’s all perfectly comfortable and, at the same time, perfectly new.
When I returned home, with Marge, I just felt less frazzled, less worried, knowing full well that somehow all the baking would get done. It had to. And it did. On Saturday, I had two small leftover pies and I traded them for some beautiful tomatoes. I didn’t really set out to get tomatoes, actually. I wanted a few bunches of greens and some french radishes. But the girl at the farmstand insisted. She said they were almost the last of the season and that I didn’t want to wait. They wouldn’t be around forever.
You could make a soup, she said.
I looked at the large bag of tomatoes she was handing over. That’d be a lot of soup, I said.
Well, yes, but I’m sure you’ve got someone to make soup for?
I continued staring at the big bag of tomatoes, strangely hesitant to reach out for them.
Or, you know, just freeze any extra. That’s what I do. She seemed to be hedging, nervous she’s said or offered too much.
But I decided quickly that I liked her. She was resourceful. She was a woman that appreciated a big pot of soup — for someone else or just for yourself. She was also a woman that was practically giving away tomatoes on a blustery afternoon in early October and, for that, I handed over two small pear pies and walked away with my bag of round, slightly bruised beauties.
And truth be told, I do have someone to make soup for. He’s not in the next room, mind you, but we’re going to see a lot of each other this fall. And continue taking rainy evening walks. And eating lots of soup. Settling, in the best sense of the word. Not like these tomatoes, in which you’re advised by the rosy-cheeked woman selling boxes of them not to wait because they won’t be around forever. No, not like that at all.
This is an incredibly simple soup that consists of roasting a pan of tomatoes, garlic and onion and pureeing them with a bit of broth. Because of its simplicity, do be sure to use the very best, seasonal tomatoes you can find. You’ll taste the difference. Because I leave the skin of the tomatoes on, this soup is going to have a bit of texture at the end. I like this; if you don’t, run it through a mesh sieve after pureeing. The amount of broth can vary, too, depending on how thick you like your soup. Feel free to adjust the amount based on your tastes. If you like a creamier soup, add up to 1/4 cup heavy cream of half & half at the very end.
Preheat the oven to 375′. Spread the quartered onions and cloves of garlic out onto a cookie sheet. You want to get rid of some of the seedy part of the inside of the tomatoes — don’t go overboard here and aim for perfection but your tomatoes will be a bit too juicy if you roast them exactly as is. Use your finger to get some of the seedy parts of the tomatoes out of there. Then place tomatoes on baking sheet along with garlic and onion. Dash the olive oil over everything and sprinkle with salt and parsley
Roast for 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes have softened and slumped and reduced to almost half their size. Remove from the oven and scoop all of the ingredients from the pan into a medium saucepan.
Add the broth into the saucepan and allow to simmer on the low-medium heat for 10 minutes. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup in the saucepan itself or feel free to cool slightly and use a blender instead.
Winter Soups and Stews
If your house is anything like ours, last week wasn't our most inspired in terms of cooking. We're all suffering from the post-election blues -- the sole upside being Oliver's decision to sleep-in until 7 am for the first time in many, many months; I think he's trying to tell us that pulling the covers over our heads and hibernating for awhile is ok. It's half-convincing. For much of the week, instead of cooking, there'd been takeout pizza and canned soup before, at week's end, I decided it was time to pour a glass of wine and get back into the kitchen. I was craving something hearty and comforting that we could eat for a few days. Something that wouldn't remind me too much of Thanksgiving because, frankly, I can't quite gather the steam to start planning for that yet. It was time for a big bowl of chili.
Last weekend it was so windy – apocalyptically stormy, you could say – that our tent at the farmers market was uprooted by gusts of wind that were not messing around. I wasn't there, but apparently despite being heavily weighted down and with four customers holding onto each corner, it quite literally blew down the block. Sam, from across town, was reporting trees falling on every block and traffic lights out across the city. The next morning on a walk with Oliver around Green Lake, we were met with that same biting wind and ended up retreating for a hot chocolate instead. 'Tis the season in Seattle: we all get a little giddy and ahead of ourselves when we spot the cherry blossoms and daffodils, and I always trick myself into thinking that with the start of daylight savings time, summer must be right around the corner. In truth, before we had Oliver, we'd often travel somewhere sunny for a little mood boost around this time of year. When I moved from California, many friends – other (empathetic) 'expats' now living in the Pacific Northwest – recommended this: if you know what's good for you, they'd all say, go find the sun in February or March, and we would follow that advice faaaaaithfully. But with a baby, this just isn't where our priorities are this year, and I've found myself relying on other antics like buying out of season strawberries, drinking white wine with dinner, buying a new pair of sandals that likely will not see the light of day for the next two months, and making big, colorful pots of feel good, springy soup. Let's not kid ourselves: Cherry blossoms or not, Seattle's no Palm Springs when it gets down to bathing in the sunlight. But if you step outside onto your little porch, smell the honeysuckle blooming, take notice of the longer, lighter days and think about how you simply can't wait to see your baby crawling around on the sand when it's warm enough to stroll down to the beach, it starts looking better in its own light.
We returned home from San Francisco on New Years Eve just in time for dinner, and craving greens -- or anything other than baked goods and pizza (ohhhh San Francisco, how I love your bakeries. And citrus. And winter sunshine). Instead of driving straight home, we stopped at our co-op where I ran in for some arugula, an avocado, a bottle of Prosecco, and for the checkout guys to not-so-subtly mock the outlook of our New Years Eve: rousing party, eh? They looked to be in their mid-twenties and I figured I probably looked ancient to them, sad even. But really, there wasn't much sad (or rousing, to be fair) about our evening: putting Oliver to bed, opening up holiday cards and hanging them in the kitchen, and toasting the New Year with arugula, half a quesadilla and sparkling wine. It wasn't lavish. But it's what we both needed. (Or at least what we had to work with.) Since then, I've been more inspired to cook lots of "real" food versus all of the treats and appetizers and snacks the holidays always bring on. I made Julia Turshen's curried red lentils for the millionth time, a wintry whole grain salad with tuna and fennel, roasted potatoes, and this simple green minestrone that I've taken for lunch this week. Determined to fit as many seasonal vegetables into a bowl as humanly possible, I spooned a colorful pesto on top, as much for the reminder of warmer days to come as for the accent in the soup (and for the enjoyment later of slathering the leftover pesto on crusty bread).
One of the things I wanted to accomplish before really returning to work in earnest was to print some of our honeymoon photos and get them into an album. This project has taken far longer than expected as I find myself daydreaming about the craggy streets of Naples and meeting up with our friends Mataio and Jessica for a late night slice of pizza which we ate sitting on the sidewalk before embarking on an aimless but wonderful stroll of the city. There are photos of our balcony by the sea, most with tanned limbs, sandy sandals and a Campari and soda gracing the periphery of the frame. There was the little grocery store up the hill from our apartment on the Amalfi Coast that had the sweetest, tiniest strawberries and the best yogurt in little glass jars. Tomatoes drying in the sun, Aperol spritzes and salty peanuts before dinner at the bar across from the church square where all the neighborhood kids played kickball. As I sit here typing this now, photos remain scattered on my desk and it's likely they may not make it into the proper slots in the album anytime soon. Of course, they have me dreaming of sunshine and long days with little agenda, but they also have me thinking about the simplicity of our meals in Italy and how truly easy it was to eat well. Coincidentally, a few days ago Rachel Roddy's lusty new cookbook (can we call it lusty?!), My Kitchen in Rome, arrived at our doorstep. Clearly it was time to set the photos aside and get into the kitchen.
And suddenly, it's fall. I find that realization always comes not so much with the dates on the calendar as it does the leaves on the ground, the first crank of the heat in the morning, the dusky light on the way home from an evening run. Because we were gone on the train for nearly a week, I feel like fall happened here in Seattle during that very time. I left town eating tomatoes and corn and returned to find squashes and pumpkins in the market. It was that quick. And so, it only seemed fitting that I make this soup, one that has graced the fall table of each and every apartment (and now house) I've ever lived. In fact, I'm surprised that I hadn't yet made it for you here, and delighted to share it with you today.