The Blizzard of 2013 has come and mostly gone from the Boston area. The eastern part of the state is still under a travel ban until 4 pm. I applaud the governor for proactively keeping people off the roads. I’m sure it went a long way towards the seemingly seamless cleanup effort that has taken place so far. There are power outages in some area, mostly southeast of the city (we are northwest of the city). For a variety of reasons, the public transit system remains down, but hopes to be up and running for the Monday commute. Officials are urging all to be patient, a virtue that Americans often seem short on. I’m happily settled in for the rest of the day with a cup of tea and a book (Jill Lepore’s The Story of America: Essays on Origins).
I estimate we got about 27 inches of snow. It’s a little hard to judge because of the heavy drifting. Thank goodness the snow blower was successfully fixed! Howard did a few passes with the heavy equipment, and I supplemented with the shovel. We were cleared out and ready for action by around noon.
What’s the perfect lunch for a snowy day? I always vote for tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. I made a pot of soup yesterday in anticipation of the storm, and it definitely hit the spot today. This recipe was quick and easy and uses canned tomatoes, a staple in my pantry. I used garden basil that I froze in ice cube trays at the end of the summer which gave the soup a hint of a warmer season.
Spicy Tomato Soup
Adapted from Food52
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, peeled, halved, and sliced into ¼-inch-thick slices
¼ tsp red pepper flakes (or to taste)
2 (28-oz) cans whole tomatoes, NOT drained
1½ cup water
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent and very tender, about 10 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes and their juices, plus the water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the flavors have melded, about 30 minutes. Add the basil, season with salt and pepper, remove from the heat, and let cool briefly, about 5 minutes.
Set a medium-mesh strainer over a large, heatproof bowl. Using a blender, purée the soup in batches until smooth. Pour the blended soup through the strainer. Stir and press on the solids with a rubber spatula to force what you can through the strainer. Scrape into the bowl any tomato that goes through the strainer but sticks to the outside. Discard any solids that don’t go through strainer. It won’t be that much. Taste the soup and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.
Return the soup to the saucepan and reheat until hot.
This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie tripped me up a little bit. I didn’t read through the recipe carefully. I didn’t even realize it wasn’t a true tartine, an open-faced sandwich with bread, until I saw some chatter about it. Then, when I was at the farmstand, I had picked up some slender eggplants, about the size of cucumbers, assuming the eggplant would be chopped, however, the recipe called for a large eggplant where the slices would serve as the base for the topping. I proceeded, following the mantra “cook with what you have” and surprised myself with a winning success.
All these ingredient hiccups resulted in total procrastination. I woke up this morning and, alas, still hadn’t made the recipe. I was going out for lunch and needed dinner to be extra quick tonight, plus Howard won’t eat eggplant, so he wasn’t about to try it. Still in my pajamas, I headed downstairs to roast my eggplant slices, make the tomato salsa, and slice the cucumbers. I would at least taste it, so I could participate with the other bloggers.
I have to mention that I love cooking in my pajamas. It always seems so decadent, and yet productive at the same time. Falling straight out of bed and into the kitchen to get things going, fitting in a shower while something bakes or simmers, it makes me feel like I’m squeezing something extra out of the day.
I hear that in the Middle East, they eat salads for breakfast, so I followed suit. I arranged my tiny eggplant slices on the plate, topped them with the tomato salsa, then loosely arranged some thinly sliced cucumbers on top with a little drizzle of olive oil. This served as an unusual appetizer for my usual breakfast of toast, cheese, and fruit.
My favorite part of this recipe was the caponata-like tomato salsa. I used a combination of diced farm-fresh tomatoes along with quartered backyard-fresh cherry tomatoes. These were tossed with celery (unpeeled, in case you’re wondering), scallion, garlic, olives, capers, and fresh oregano along with oil and vinegar. . I loved the contrast of the sweet tomatoes and the crunchy celery and scallion. I didn’t have any green olives on hand so used Kalamatas. I liked the way the purplish color of the olives complemented the similarly-colored skin on the eggplant.
Even though he doesn’t care for eggplant, Howard even took a container of the tomato salsa to eat as part of his lunch. We polished off the leftovers with tonight’s quick grazing dinner of things found in the fridge.
I liked the whole composition and would make it again, though more likely, I’ll only make the tomato salsa component to eat as a salad or to top some grilled chicken or fish.
I’m looking forward to reading about what my fellow FFwD bloggers thought about this week’s recipe. Check out their links here. We don’t post the recipes, but consider getting your own copy of the book, Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table.