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One American woman. Twenty acres and a 1650 farmhouse in Tuscany. Random introspection and hilarity, depending on the day.

16 May 2006

True comfort food

I've been fighting some creeping Italian form of the flu -- relatively high fever, cold sweats, things swollen and achy that shouldn't be swollen and achy -- for about a week now, since the Professor & MaryAnn left.

Some days have been better than others, and I think today I finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I had the energy to go for a hike this morning, perfect timing since I had some leftover thoughts rattling around in my brain that were ready to escape into the sunshine and fresh air, and I'm already feeling a million times better.

Traditional medicines aside, the one thing that has gotten me through the last week is Judith's Amazing Crema di Pomodoro soup.

I've never been a chicken soup person. But a good tomato soup over rice, now THAT cures what ails me. This simple, amazing soup is super-easy to make and more delicious than its few ingredients would lead you to believe.

It's from Judith's "Vacation Rental Kitchen Cookbook" - which means it's meant for kitchens that aren't super well equipped (e.g., mine.) The original recipe gives measurements in "espresso cups" presuming you won't have measuring tools - how sweet! People wonder why I don't post more recipes here - it's because while I really enjoy cooking, I don't "invent" anything: there are so many people out there that are really great at it, I just use their recipes and generally muddle through. If you're looking for blogs with fabulous recipes and food pics , Judith's, and Gia-Gina's, are highly recommended. They always inspire me to try something new.

Judith's Crema di Pomodoro

2 pounds (about one kilo) of fresh tomatoes - diced. Or an equivalent amount of canned diced tomatoes. (IF YOU DON'T have a stick blender/food mill, get "passata di pomodori" - pureed pure tomatoes in the canned tomato section of the grocery.)

3 tablespoons of good extra virgin olive oil

1 C finely chopped onion

Good sized pinch of salt, plus 2 teaspoons.

2 cups of milk (skim is fine - though I usually substitute about 1/2 c of this for cream, which makes the soup richer and also, sadly, a little less healthy!)

First, make a pot of white rice - 1C rice to 2C water, 2 pinches of salt - bring to a boil then cover and let simmer on low heat for 15 minutes. Just turn off the burner at the end and let sit - you'll serve the soup over "rice balls" when it's finished.

Warm the oil in a deep pot on low heat - saute' the onions with the first pinch of salt until they're really really softened (Judith says if they brown it's not the end of the world, but try not to.) Completely cook the onions - once the tomatoes go in, something about the acid prevents further onion cooking. When the onions are cooked, if you know your tomatoes aren't very sweet, you can add a glug of sherry or marsala and let it cook off.

Add the diced tomatoes and 2 teaspoons of salt. Cook this slowly, stirring occastionally, for about 10 minutes. Use a stick blender to blend it smooth in the pan, then return to low heat.

Slowly - one tablespoon at a time to begin with - stir in two cups of milk. Correct the salt to your taste and grind in some fresh pepper.

I do have one recipe modification here: The Mom taught me a trick from a chef friend of hers ... cook the soup for an additional 3-5 minutes with about four thick slices of lemon floating in it. Massage the slices just a touch before you put them in, so they'll release some juice into the soup. It adds just the perfect amount of tang.

Serve over a nice-sized "ball" (think ice cream scoop) of the rice with a sprig of basil, a drizzled thread of oil, a sprinkle of parmesan, a dollop of creme fraiche or pesto, or pretty much any other garnish you can think of, depending on how uppity you want it to look when it's served.

Judith says this freezes, but I've never had any left over long enough.

Especially this week, I've been making the "cheaters' method" version of the soup (using the pre-pureed tomatoes called 'passata' in Italy) - less time and mess. But during a cool night in fresh tomato season, I bet this would be scrumptious. Like my friend Blossom said once upon a time, "this makes me want to get in and wiggle!"


Blogger Gia-Gina said...

Thanks for the mention. I love this soup. Sadly the the States I used to eat Campbells canned tomato soup, even those who like to cook get lazy. Instead of water I added milk and ate them with Saltines. Also Knorr made a tomato bisque that was decent if not a bit too salty and I liked that too but nothing compare to the fresh taste of summer tomatoes here. I have to make this recipe soon.

8:33 PM  

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