I’ve been suffering from minor food trauma the past couple of days, and it is a sorry, sorry state to be in. It’s funny because it was induced by a few dishes that I actually followed recipes to make, tasty looking recipes even, but it just didn’t work out. It all began when I decided to make caramelized radicchio, which sounds good, right? It’s not. Caramelizing did nothing for the bitter bite of radicchio except make it seem awkwardly out of place, and the texture was limp and, well, kind of squiggly. I tried to smile and choke it down, but it was as if somebody had set a plate of worms in front of me. I haven’t felt that way about a serving of vegetables since I was about 9. And like at age 9, I spent more time prodding it with my fork and eying it apprehensively than eating it. Epic fail.
This was followed by trying a recipe for spiced, roasted butternut squash slices. Cardamom and butternut squash?! How could that not be delicious? Seriously. I’m still not sure how it could not be delicious, but it wasn’t. It was overspiced and strangely cloying. It tasted more like an apple pie gone wrong than butternut squash. And the recipe suggested leaving the skin on, which may technically be fine and all, but having tried it, I’m going to go ahead and suggest you don’t. I had a couple more disasters and by last night I was feeling a bit gun shy and couldn’t quite bring myself to cook, so we went out. And I tried my first ever turkey burger. I should have known better. Turkey and I have a turbulent relationship anyway. Thinly sliced and paired with some really good bacon and we’re okay, but turkey in ground form, it turns out, icks me out to a completely irrational extent. According to Joel it was actually quite good for a turkey burger, but it still made my stomach do an unhappy flop. That was another meal of predominantly poking at the contents of my plate.
I was floundering people, floundering. I was starting to think that maybe I was going to take up eating nothing but yogurt. Thankfully this soup reached out and pulled me up from the depths. This soup, plus a grilled cheese sandwich, which I’m fairly convinced can make nearly anything better. This soup was born when I remembered that I had some oven roasted tomatoes from the summer stored in my freezer. Roasting tomatoes locks in the intense flavor of summer while also softening and lightly caramelizing it. All they need is a splash of stock and a swirl of creme fraiche or heavy cream to transform them into a luscious, comforting bowl of soup. And then I stirred in a spoonful of harissa…It turns out I misremembered something that I had read. The actual tip had been to add harissa to a grilled cheese, but I left my grilled cheese plain and put the spice in my soup. It was transformational. A flavor jack pot!!! If cream of tomato soup is an adorable little freckled kid, this soup is her when she has grown up into a knock-out with red high heels, a come hither look, and a fiery temper. Sultry, alluring, hot but also sweet. Sophisticated, but definitely not too sophisticated to be eaten with a buttery, gooey cheesy grilled sandwich for dipping. This soup will perk your taste buds back up and fortify you to face anything, even if that anything is a trip back into the kitchen to figure out what to do with the rest of the radicchio.
Fiery roasted tomato soup (serves around 6)
If you’re roasting tomatoes, you really need to start with juicy, ripe tomatoes. Which means either it has to be tomato season, or you need to have stored them from when it was. If you don’t have good tomatoes to roast, you can substitute canned tomatoes (sometimes you can even find canned tomatoes that have been “fire roasted”), which will still be delicious.
- 8-10 large ripe tomatoes (or 4 cups canned tomatoes)
- 2 whole garlic cloves
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 Tbs. harissa (Middle Eastern spice paste)
- 1/4 cup creme fraiche (or heavy cream)
- Heat your oven to 425F. Slice the tomatoes in half, rub them with a bit of olive oil and spread them on a roasting pan along with the garlic cloves. Roast for 45-50 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and their skins are starting to blacken. Remove from the oven. Once the tomatoes have cooled enough, remove their skins (or, if you don’t mind some chunks of skin in your soup, you could just leave them on, but it does make the consistency not half as nice).
- In a medium-large pot, heat another splash of olive oil over medium heat. If you’re using canned tomatoes instead of roasted, at this point at the garlic (minced first) and cook for a minute, then stir in the tomatoes. If you are using roasted tomatoes, then add the tomatoes and the roasted garlic together to the olive oil. Cook until the tomatoes are bubbling. Next, stir in the stock and bring to a boil, smashing the tomatoes as they cook for just a couple of minutes. Then (carefully!) transfer the soup in batches to a blender and blend until smooth, pouring the blended soup into a new pot. Or, alternatively, you can use an immersion blender and blend the soup right in the pot.
- Bring the soup to a simmer and stir in the harissa. Finally, stir in the creme fraiche (or cream) and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve, accompanied by additional creme fraiche if desired, and a sprinkling of parsley. And grilled cheese sandwiches of course!