28 August 2009

Roasted Tomato Soup

I flove tomatoes. My husband, unfortunately, thinks they are of the devil and quotes George Carlin anytime I try to feed them to him in any form other than a sauce or salsa - basically something that contains large chunks of 'mater is not for him. Therefore, I don't make this soup very often since it makes a lot and it's only me that will eat it, but it tastes so good when I do.
(recipe from Tyler Florence via Food Network)


2.5 lbs fresh tomatoes (I use a mix of whatever is at the store and looks good)
6 cloves garlic, peeled
2 small yellow onions, sliced

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 quart chicken stock
2 bay leaves

4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, optional
3/4 cup heavy cream, optional
Madeira sherry, optional


Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Wash, core and cut the tomatoes into halves. Spread the tomatoes, garlic cloves and onion slices onto a baking tray. Drizzle with 1/2 cup of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, or until carmelized.

Remove roasted tomatoes, garlic and onion from the oven and transfer to a large stock pot. Add 3/4 of the chicken stock, bay leaves, and butter. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until liquid has reduced by a third.

Wash and dry basil leaves, if using, and add to the pot. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth. Return soup to low heat, add cream and adjust consistency with remaining stock, if necessary. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

I like making this soup first of all because I think it tastes much better than any tomato soup you could buy on the market *and* it allows me to control what's going into it - including salt. I also like making it because there is just something so comforting about watching a big pot of soup come together bit by bit and turn from dark red to almost pale pink after adding the cream; and smelling it as it cooks? Yum.

Using the immersion blender helps take care of any large pieces of skin or pulp as well as blend the tomatoes with the garlic and onion. You *could* squeeze the pulp out of the tomatoes before you start but I generally don't. Sometimes I've strained the soup after blending it to remove any larger pieces of skin/pulp or tomato seeds but I don't find it necessary. I like a more rustic feel to the soup but you could do it if you don't care for the texture of the occasional piece of tomato skin or seed.

The addition of cream changes it into more than just tomato broth. It gives an added weight on the tongue that is much more velvety and smooth than a broth would be; it helps eliminate some of the acidic nature of the tomatoes. I also like using the shery for just a little bit of bite. It blends well with the cream and tomatoes and leaves a nice aftertaste on the tongue - kind of an extra layer of flavor you're not expecting and are pleasantly surprised by it.

I don't have an exact measurement for this; rather, I pour a little bit at a time and let the soup continue to simmer over low heat until the sherry is blended and then taste, adding more salt and/or pepper if necessary. Once I was out of sherry and ended up using some Absolut Vodka in a pinch and that also worked well. I guess you could call it a cousin to the Bloody Mary :).

This soup is great with some nice crusty bread smeared with butter or some Wheat Thins and sharp cheddar cheese.

14 August 2009

I haz(d) a plan!

I write on occasion. Nothing much and now mostly just stories for friends using characters from old gaming sessions or jumping off from crackfic we wrote years ago. A scene or a snippet of conversation will pop in my head and I'll play around with it for *mumble*years*mumble* until I have something I think is worth sharing, and then I'll send it to that person for their birthday or whatever. Because I write at the pace of a glacier melting during the ice age, I try never to promise anything by a particular date. Bad writing karma.


I had this story I was working on for a dear friend. Known her for years, gamed with her, wrote with her through thick and thin. We haven't written together for a long time but we still haz friendship :). Anyway, I'm actually going along very well on a story I'd been thinking about for a long time - a kind of "what if we really were bastards and did kill Kenny?" kind of thing. *rubs hands together*

I start working on it and I'm about 25 pages in when my brain suddenly decides to hijack the proceedings with one wee little thought: "Hey, self. Did you ever wonder how Person X got from Point A to Point B?"

Me: "Well, yes. But I'm over here with Person Y right now."
Brain: "OK. That's fine. You stay over there but I'm going to go jaunt over this way now."

Where does that leave me? 3,845 words (and growing) about a whole 'nother character on a completely unrelated topic!

My friend. She sucks. And it's all her fault.

But I love her anyway.

12 August 2009

Maximus is not amused

There are some days where it quietly, gently, ever-so-subtly goes to hell. Then there are days where you walk in and the moment you do, the shit misses the fan and hits your face.

This day was just...weird.

I came into work, unlocked the room that needed said service, and then opened up my office to boot up my computer and check whatever e-mails came in overnight from desperate students. But soft! What light on yonder phone blinks? It is my voice mail!

I punch in my code and I hear one of the professors telling me that it's now 11:30 at night and he's going to bed. Would I be so good to call his house at 8 a.m. to wake him up?

There is not enough coffee in the world to make that request make sense. I probably stared at the phone for about thirty seconds thinking, "The hell? No wife? All your alarm clocks were stolen? Did I sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night?"

The answer to all three questions pretty much being "no", I called, let the phone ring twice and hung up. The professor in question called back to tell me his wife beat me to it.


Then I faxed over new business card requests to our PR office to have them approved. I got a call from the fax-ee telling me that I should scan and e-mail instead since that is free and their fax cartridges cost money.

Ooooookay. So, it's really not a fax. It's just a fax-shaped paperweight?

After that, the Student Who Makes and Cancels Appointments called to set up another appointment. It's like my own personal Groundhog Day.

The kicker for the day was when my husband forwarded me an e-mail with a letter attached. This letter was from a New York law office and told us that we must immediately (a) change the name of our coffee shop and (b) immediately desist from offering live music under our current name or they're going to sue us. Apparently, a 40 seat coffee house in the South is competition for a club in New York. The mind, she boggles. The eyes, they roll. The check, it goes to the lawyer.

Now I'm going to make a rather LARGE drink and hope that I don't choke on an ice cube or slip on a banana peel or something that would really make the day complete.

07 August 2009

In Memoriam - Two Years Later

This is probably my favorite picture of my Dad. He's got his dog who adores him (and he adores her) and he's on one of his many motorhome trips.

He wasn't a perfect man by any stretch of the imagination. He was always ready for play sometimes to the detriment of work. He kept some secrets that have those he left behind still puzzled two years later. But he loved us. That was never in doubt.

Two years on and the most immediate, sharp pain of his death has muted but looking at the picture still brings tears to my eyes and I have to clear my throat before I can pick up the phone when it rings at my desk. When death is sudden, it's almost like someone has pressed "pause" on your relationship with that person. You keep waiting to finish; finish that conversation you started, the phone call...something to create some type of closure that you can use to mark it as "the end". Doesn't come, though, and you're left in some kind of holding pattern. There are times I call my parents' house just to hear his voice on the answering machine. I still expect him to call me for my birthday, and the first time I addressed a package solely to my mother felt alien and just plain wrong to me.

We've all worked on picking up the pieces. My mother has made great strides in some areas, yet remains (as I've said) aggressively passive in other areas of her life. I finally finished college and marched through the line to get my diploma while holding the above picture in my hands instead of having him watching from the audience. My brother has become a sort of financial advisor to my mother and supplies visits from the nephews. His favorite granddaughter got married to the young man he liked so much. The first great-grandchild arrived this year.

I call her every night as I have since the day he died and talk to her for however long she wants. Some times it's only a few minutes and other times it can be an hour or more. We talk about what she did that day, what she's watching on TV, church and, of course, about my dad; especially around this time. She wants to be with him and I remind her that she will be. She wants to know when and cries about why can't it be now and I have to tell her I don't know why, trying to reassure her in all my imperfect, linear understanding of God and his existence and plans outside time and space.

When I spoke at my dad's memorial service, the thing I kept coming back to was his gift of hospitality, his generosity of heart. Those were the memories people told me about as I was writing my eulogy and those are the memories spoken of when I run into friends of his these days. As far as legacies go, I think it's a good one when you're remembered with smiles and laughter.

Tonight I will press "play" for a little while. I will sit out on the back porch with a drink and tell him how Mom is doing and she will make that trip to Alaska, how his grandson thought he'd found the woman of his dreams, how his great-granddaughter is almost four months old, and how I love him and miss him.

I love you, Dad. See you tonight.