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Recipes for the Reds

When I'm overwhelmed with tomatoes or red peppers (although, really, "overwhelmed" and red peppers do not belong in the same sentence. It would be like being "overwhelmed" with health), I have a couple of go-to recipes.

Annie suggested that I needed to share my tomato recipe, and I hesitated. It's not really a recipe, more like a procedure. At any rate, here goes.

Take a bunch of your lovely, fresh, ripe ripe ripe tomatoes. It doesn't matter what variety; you just have to enjoy them enough to eat them somewhat concentrated. Wash and core them. Chop roughly. Set aside. Mince an onion, leek, or a bunch of shallots. Make the allium pile correlate to the amount of tomatoes -- a whole onion for a large pot, half for half, etc.

In a heavy-bottomed pan, melt about 1/4 cup butter and an equal amount of good olive oil together. Add the onion and saute on medium heat until translucent. Add the tomatoes. Cook until the skins are coming off of the pieces, and the tomatoes are breaking down. Hasten this process by smushing them with a spoon.

When they're cooked, remove the pot from the heat and either in batches in a food processor or with an immersion blender, blend until smooth. Pass the puree through a fine sieve and then salt and pepper the resulting liquid to taste.

You could then gild the lily by dressing each bowl with a lagniappe of something -- a spoon of cream? A swirl of pesto? A drizzle of good balsamic vinegar? Any of those suffice.

I try to make batches and freeze them because heating up a bowl of this in the doldrums of February, along with topping it with thawed cubes of pesto, is a great way to remind myself that the earth is still turning and spring will come again.

So that's my "made up" soup. I also cook things from recipes. This week, Denise and I shared another soup-centric meal that featured the Roasted Red Pepper Soup from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Since it asks for quite a lot of red peppers, I can only make this when the garden cooperates. Another good reason to go pepper-mad each spring.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Fried Polenta Croutons ** I do NOT often make croutons!
From Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
Serves six

You will need some leftover polenta, chilled and cut into cubes. Why? Why? Why? I'm not a huge polentist, so skipping this isn't a challenge for me.

3 Tbsp olive oil -- I put "some"
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small russet potato, peeled and thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp chopped fresh marjoram, plus more for garnish -- I skipped this part, because I didn't want to walk to the back corner of the garden
1 Tbsp tomato paste -- or you could use one smallish fresh tomato and not worry?
4 red bell peppers roasted and chopped
1 tsp Hungarian paprika -- In my case I misread and put in one tablespoon. Still, okay
Salt and pepper
Quart of water

Heat olive oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and potato and cook, stirring frequently, until edges begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, bay leaves and marjoram, and cook, stirring, one minute more. Stir in tomato paste and cook for yet one minute more.
Add peppers, paprika, 1 tsp salt, a few grinds of pepper and the broth. Scrape the bottom of the pot. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat and simmer until potato is quite tender, about 25 minutes.

If you have a sister to watch the soup, you can drive to school to pick up a child who it turns out is not there, so you have made the trip for no reason. (She had gone to a friend's. Sigh.)

Fish out the bay leaf. I use an immersion blender -- seriously? They are so useful! -- but you can use a tall blender or a food processor, with care -- to blend until smooth. Taste and correct salt and pepper as needed.

Madison says to serve with croutons, but you can ladle it into bowls and top with balsamic vinegar and it's still fantastic.

To roast the peppers, I cut them in half, put them under the broiler before I did anything else until they were nicely charred, and then stuck them in the soup pot with the lid on. After they steamed for a while, I pulled off what skins I could but didn't get too crazy about it. I'm willing to eat some charred bits of skin.

I missed all of the in-between pictures (see going to the school) but this is what it looked like post-blending. Apparently I'm a huge fan of almost single-ingredient pureed soups!

But pureed soup does not, on its own, a meal make. In the "Get 'em while they're fresh" approach, we also had some beans. I've posted before about how much I love my dried beans.

However, I also enjoy shelled beans, and they're not easily available here. I figured I'd grab some of the green ones while I still had them. Denise helped me shell both kinds of beans, and Oona thought it was interesting, but was a bit less helpful.

 We just boiled the shelled beans until they were tender, but discovered that, like Favas, they had sort of a strong inner peel. We nipped that off and were left with starchy, soft, bean innards.

Finally! Dressed with a crunch of sea salt and some very good olive oil, they made a fine accompaniment to the soup. Can you tell I'm not a food blogger? Sigh. . . pictures.

Although Denise and I each yummed up our lunch, after demanding soup and beans, Oona decided that perhaps pb&j would be more to her preference. Have to eat lunch before getting ice cream!


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