notes from maggie's farm
Saturday just may have overtaken Sunday, lately, as my favorite day of the week. Not earth-shattering news, since just about every one's favorite day of the week is one of the two (any takers for Monday out there? No?) but Saturday has taken Sunday's place, here, because Saturday is the day my fella comes home.
Practicality, and the price of gas, has determined, for us, that it makes sense for Tom to stay 'in town', rather than make the 70+ mile trip to and fro Austin for work every day during the week. And while it may be practical, it's not exactly pleasant. We both get a little lonely. We make do, though. We talk often on the phone. He chats up his coworkers, I chat up the animals. And Facebook. He usually makes a trip home mid-week, to make sure I haven't gone cabin-fever crazy and painted the walls bright red, or some other nuttiness induced by this small-scale farmer's life of solitude and sweat, and luckily, so far, he has not been met with any. Or much. Whatever. I digress.
Saturday is special in that it's certain he's coming home, and, we'll have 2 whole days together. Really, we'll have one whole day and two half days. And, except for an evening on the porch under the stars, always, church, usually, and a dinner out, occasionally, most of that time will be spent in the gardens, tending to animals, fixing what's broken, catching up on laundry.....nothing all that idyllic, but together--and that makes it swell. That's the difference.
I now wish to be addressed as samurai farmer chef because check out that chopping! Now that's some impressive chopping going on, huh? huh?! Okay, I'll get over myself. Later on. Eventually. That mezzaluna makes me a little hard to live with.
(all, just about, or not much at all from scratch)
roasted tomato basil bisque
1 small onion, diced
1 large rib of celery, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 T butter
4 16oz cans roasted tomatoes
4T sherry vinegar
1 pint half and half
1 small bunch basil, stemmed and chopped
kosher salt, and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
Saute onion and celery in butter until transparent. Add minced garlic, and continue sauteing, about two minutes, stirring to keep garlic from scorching. (If this gets away from you, and garlic does scorch, toss the whole shebang out and start over. Scorched garlic is a deal breaker.) Add tomatoes, sherry vinegar, and sugar, stirring to combine well, reduce to a simmer, and cover.
Simmer on low, stirring occasionally to prevent any sticking, for as little as 1 hour, or up to 2 hours--the longer this slowly cooks, the more concentrated the flavors and ease of breaking down the tomatoes. After simmering, Blend all in pot with an immersion blender (or transfer to standard blender, in small batches, or food processor, in small batches (heated food in a blender has the tendency to expand unreasonably, and this cook, has had, in my younger days, to clean up volcano-like soup disasters from every surface, ceiling, and fixture around. Don't make my mistake.) But really, get yourself an immersion blender. They're easy to work with, cheap, and fun!
Now, you can stop right here, turn off the heat, add the half and half, basil, and correct the seasonings and you'll have a perfectly acceptable chunky, rustic soup. Or, for a silkier, more elegant soup, strain the soup base through a fine-meshed strainer or chinois.
Ladle soup into a chinois or strainer over a bowl or pot large enough to contain strained soup, pressing solids against the walls of the sieve. Return the strained base to soup pot, add half and half, and chopped basil.
Correct seasonings (or pass salt and pepper at the table, to allow for individual preference), garnish with basil, and serve.
Hope for even a little more decadence? A spoonful creme fraiche would be to die for, (but too much and that might just be literal, so no heavy hands here, friends--a little dab'll do ya).
Needing a little less decadence? This meal can go from hearty bisque to simply healthy dairy-free by omitting the half and half. (It can go to dairy-free and vegan by substituting a grapeseed oil for the butter.) Easy. You can either choose to separate a few servings at any point after the simmering, or simply skip the dairy altogether for the whole batch.
So you see, with little effort, this impressive and versatile soup can simmer slowly with little attention as I go back and forth between laundry loads. To take this from just about homemade to all the way--come back next week on Tips for Tuesday--Homegrown, where we'll be DIY'ing, with the help of your garden's star; Slow-Roasted Tomatoes are on the menu.