Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Pleasures of Reading About Eating

No one who cooks, cooks alone.
Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past,
the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.
– Laurie Colwin

Not only do I like to cook, but I also like to read about cooking. I got hooked on cooking/food essays long before there were such things as food blogs. My first year out of college I subscribed to Gourmet magazine, not so much for the recipes, but for the excellent writing that filled the pages each month.

I became a huge fan of Laurie Colwin, a regular contributor to the magazine. She died unexpectedly at age 48 and I felt as if I had lost a dear friend. (I felt the same way when Gourmet magazine ceased publication in 2009). Ms. Colwin published two collections, which are still in print. Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen and More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen. Every couple of years, I take these treasures off my bookcase and spend an afternoon rereading her essays. She died way too soon.

I recently ran across this food essay written by poet Jane Hirshfield. Not only can she write, she can cook -- and did so for years at Deborah Madison's Greens Restaurant in San Francisco. In her essay, she writes about five utensils of the spirit: imagination, a spirit of curiosity and experimentation, confidence, companionship and a sense of the large. Whether you consider yourself a cook, or not, I hope you enjoy reading this essay as much as I did.

And now, I leave you with a quasi-recipe for roasted tomato soup, which I have been making on a regular basis with whatever array of tomatoes comes out of my garden. Roasting the tomatoes adds a nice depth of flavor to the soup. Today, I made this batch mostly with round and firm yellow tomatoes.


Roasted Tomato Soup

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Dice up two sweet onions and 3 or 4 garlic cloves. Place them in the middle of the pan. Then cut in half about 2 lbs of any kind of tomatoes. In addition to the yellow tomatoes, I used some plum and cherry tomatoes today. Run your finger around the inside of the tomatoes, discarding the seeds. Pile the tomatoes over the onions/garlic, covering them up (so they don't burn). Pour about 1/3 cup of olive oil over the tomatoes and salt and pepper generously. Roast for about 35 minutes, until the tomato skins start to get crispy.

Transfer the roasted tomatoes/onions/garlic to a heavy soup pot and add about a quart of chicken broth, two bay leaves and two tablespoons of butter. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 or 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and add a handful of basil leaves to the pot (optional). Using an imersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

At this point, I freeze the soup in 2-pint jars. I defrost the soup in the refrigerator for a day. When you reheat it, you can add a splash of milk or heavy cream -- but it is pretty tasty just as it is. 

Serve on a cold Sunday night with grilled cheese sandwiches. Put on your pajamas, set your bowl and sandwich on a TV tray and pretend you are 8-years-old watching The Wonderful World of Disney. 

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