I had an unspoken but hard and fast rule about soupapolooza! when it began: that I would never repeat a recipe. Since I tend to repeat boyfriends, bad behavior and boring stories I thought I would give myself the opportunity to be bold and different with the soup. But I also promised that I would use local, seasonal ingredients, and in looking back on the very first soupapolooza! I realize that unless we’ve all joined Marty McFly (oh how I miss my spiral perm and Whitesnake) in the DeLorean and have managed to have three seasons happen at once, that little rule was shot from the very beginning, so whatever. I cheated this week. Because I remade the creamy roasted tomato soup with a different variety of tomato, but I cheated nonetheless. I’m a big fat CHEATER. So sue me.
Maybe because I was familiar with the recipe and/or maybe because it’s so simple, I had the most laid back Sunday. Usually I’m up at 7.30 or 8, finalizing the day’s menu and printing out my shopping list, out the door by 9 and working through the farmer’s market by 9.30. Afterwards I come home with the various loot from the market, extra supplies from the grocery store, wine from K&L and new gadgets from Sur La Table (ANY excuse to buy a new pot) and start assembling the mess by 2. By 6.30 I’m ready to serve with candles lit, bar set up and salad dressed; well, in a perfect world...
Most Sundays I’m still running around and usually unable to talk with anyone when they arrive (just a few weeks ago I was quite short with the Conspiracy Theorist Web Designer when she was kind enough to ask what could she do to help and I practically screamed “get out of the kitchen and get yourself a drink! THEN we can talk about Atlantis!”). It’s a long, arduous, active day and, truthfully, I drag my feet much of the time. Sometimes I cheat by going directly to the grocery store and buying the crappy produce there, not that I like to admit this, but it can be challenging to stare down the barrel of the gun being held by an unknown number of potential party guests with nothing but an unknown stack of recipes in defense. And sometimes I try to shave some time off the prep by avoiding the hipsters with strollers and the displaced homeless people on Ivar at the farmer’s market. Plus I hate shelling out the fiver for parking at Bed, Bath and Beyond because, truly, that is beyond offensive since I come out of that place smelling like a bad candle. I do always get a better result when I go to Hollywood, though, so my cheapness and outrage over paying for parking really shouldn’t be part of the equation. But sometimes it is a very convenient excuse.
But this week it was all a breeze. Because I’m a cheater. Because I knew the recipe and because I was craving a grilled cheese sandwich.
Here’s how it all went down. Two words: Whole Foods. For everything. Drove Home.
I started by making the ice cream base for the lemon gelato at about 2pm. I set it in an ice bath to cool while I whisked the anchovy vinaigrette and washed the greens for the salad. At about 4pm I sliced the tomatoes and placed them on cooking sheets with about 20 cloves of unpeeled garlic and drizzled with olive oil, sea salt and freshly grated pepper. They roasted for about an hour while I showered and put makeup on-- something I NEVER have time to do on most Sundays. I felt almost guilty luxuriating in my shower until I remembered that I live in a workshop and my tiny utilitarian bathroom looks like something out of a horror movie from the 1970s.
After applying extra mascara for drama’s sake, I finished prepping ingredients for the soup and pulled the tomatoes out of the oven before I set out all the dishes and serving stuff on my prep table and erected a bar under the stairs out of two giant tablecloths from Crate & Barrel and a folding table from Target. MacGruber!!! Once again, it seemed crazy that I had enough time to do this, but ultimately it’s so much nicer to have the wine in the open area of the loft instead of taking up valuable counter space in the kitchen.
I finished the soup, sliced the cave aged gruyere and Italian country bread, lit the million candles inside and out of the loft and poured myself a glass of champagne just as the first guest, Foodie Filmmaker, walked in the door with a lovely bottle of red in hand. It was almost too easy.
As the rest of the denizens arrived and imbibed I placed slices of bread in a lot of butter in a skillet over medium heat, added the gruyere and topped with more slices of bread (1 1/2 minutes on the first side, 45 seconds on the second) and then put them all on a cookie sheet (I made about 12 sandwiches in batches in the skillet). After topping each of the sandwiches with still more butter from Parma, I popped them in the oven at 350 degrees for a few minutes until I could see the cheese had melted all the way through and the bread looked crisp. I sliced off the crusts and then quartered the sandwiches and popped them on top of a bowlful of soup. And scene.
And as the ice cream was spinning away, I managed to join my friends while they debated various topics including alien abduction, pet photography, the structure of the Federal Reserve and whether or not the medical tests required to be granted a work visa to teach English in China would be approved if they came from a clinic with the words “Gay and Lesbian” in the title. It was kind of a smorgasbord of random.
But I digress. The ice cream was eventually plated with a ginger cookie and a candied lemon peel and everyone was happy. At least that’s what they told me. I didn’t care because it was a lazy soupapolooza! Sunday and it felt like no work at all.
Heres the 411 on the delicious soup:
Roasted Tomato Soup
Gourmet | August 2009
by Maggie Ruggiero
Yield: Makes about 8 cups
Active Time: 20 min
Total Time: 1 3/4 hr
Using beefsteak or other juicy tomatoes makes for a light, delicately nuanced soup that works in hot weather. Plum tomatoes will result in a more intensely flavored soup that's good for the chilly fall months. It's impossible to play favorites: They're both wonderful.
4 pounds tomatoes, halved lengthwise
6 garlic cloves, left unpeeled
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups chicken stock or reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
Arrange tomatoes, cut side up, in 1 layer in a large 4-sided sheet pan and add garlic to pan. Drizzle tomatoes with oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
Roast tomatoes and garlic 1 hour, then cool in pan. Peel garlic cloves.
Cook onion, oregano, and sugar in butter in a 6-to 8-quart heavy pot over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes.
Add tomatoes, garlic, and stock and simmer, covered, 20 minutes.
Purée soup in batches in a blender (use caution when blending hot liquids), then force through a sieve into cleaned pot, discarding solids. Stir in cream and salt and pepper to taste and simmer 2 minutes.
I garnished the soup with the mini gruyere gilled cheese sandwiches, as I described earlier, but there is a lovely recipe for simple parmesan wafers in the above link if you’re trying to pretend to be fancy.
When I want grilled cheese I want my grilled cheese and I want it now, just like Veruca Salt. I make no apologies for it... or for my cheating for that matter. Sometimes things are even better the second time around.