What is the most popular page on my web site right now? In the upper Midwest the months of August and September are the "tomato months", those much anticipated months when locally grown fresh tomatoes are finally available in abundance, just bursting with their peak flavors, and are loaded on the tables at the roadside farm stands and local farmers' markets. Apparently people are looking for a recipe for Fresh Tomato Soup on both google.com and yahoo.com, as thousands are finding their way to the recipe for tomato soup that I have posted on my web site, which is the same recipe I have been making for my family for nearly 25 years.
Here is the Fresh Tomato Soup Recipe as I made it for this group, which was essentially tripling the recipe on my web site so that it would serve 10-12 easily:
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped (about 1 cup chopped) - I use yellow onions from our garden
3 garlic cloves, chopped small - from our garden
3 carrots, chopped small
2 sweet red peppers, chopped small
3 Tbsp. whole wheat flour
12 cups peeled and chopped tomatoes - a variety of heirloom tomatoes from our garden
9 cups tomato juice (homemade by putting stewed tomatoes through a food mill but purchased juice would work)
3 Tbsp. tomato paste (homemade, but store-bought is fine)
1/2 tsp. salt (omit if using store-bought tomato juice)
Fresh basil, chopped fine to use as garnish
Freshly grated parmesan cheese
Heat olive oil over medium high setting. Add chopped onions and garlic to heat for a few minutes (be careful not to burn the garlic). Chop remaining vegetables by hand or in a food processor (I used the food processor) and then add to onions and garlic. Heat through for a few minutes until just starting to soften. Add the whole wheat flour, stir, and cook for a few minutes. Then add the tomatoes, heating until tomatoes soften and just start to fall apart. At this point, I carefully put about half the soup into my blender (it will be hot) in batches so that the blender is never more than half full. Puree those vegetables and put back into the soup pot. Then add the tomato juice and tomato paste and cook on a simmer until everything is heated through. Add salt to taste. Serve either with a sprinkle of basil or cheese (or both).
This robust soup is what I chose as the centerpiece of the meal I served for our third book club dinner and discussion. Along with it, I served our kale-bean salad plus freshly made whole wheat French bread (my first time to make my own). The recipe for the bread came from a great cookbook I have used for several years called Fix-It-Fast Vegetarian Cookbook by Heather Reseck. In addition, we had lots of cherry tomatoes from our garden and concord grapes from the Ann Arbor Farmers' Market.
We finished discussing In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan along with some professional peer-reviewed articles that reviewed the Registered Dietitian's role in the protection of our natural resources and the promotion of ecologically sustainable food systems. Much of the discussion was on the apparent disconnect between (1) much of the content of ADA's position paper regarding the need to conserve and protect the natural resources that are part of the food production system and (2) ADA's partnerships with various food companies (however, calling a company like Coca-cola a "food company" seems like the very definition of the word oxymoron).
I don't remember which blessing I chose to start our book club meal. So instead I'll close with a food blessing that a friend had picked out to read as the grace before the dinner at her daughter's wedding reception last weekend. She forgot to bring the book to the reception so instead said a beautiful blessing totally from the heart (the only wedding reception blessing I've ever heard that thanked the farmers for growing our food) but later gave me a copy of what she had intended to say. Here it is:
As we begin this meal with grace,
Let us become aware of the memory
Carried inside the food before us:
The quiver of the seed
Awakening in the earth,
Unfolding in a trust of roots
And slender stems of growth,
On its voyage to harvest,
The kiss of rain and surge of sun;
The innocence of animal soul
That never spoke a word,
Nourished by the earth
To become today our food;
The work of all the strangers
Whose hands prepared it,
The privilege of wealth and health
That enables us to feast and celebrate.
~~John O'Donohue in To Bless the Space Between Us, Doubleday, 2008
Weddings are some life's most treasured moments, indeed they are true wealth. I feel so fortunate and count my blessings to have the health that allowed me to travel to this lovely wedding last weekend surrounded by very good friends! The friends at this wedding took care of me, my husband, and my children (who were ages 7 and 2) during my 9 months of chemotherapy in 1984-85. As I was recovering after completing chemotherapy, I realized that I could never, ever repay in kind all the countless ways these friends helped my family. I actually remember the instant when I first really understood the concept of "paying it forward". I have never forgotten the love and support these friends showed me and my family during those long and very difficult months, and I have kept their love in my heart, paying it forward ever since.
Diana Dyer, MS, RD