They will call you crazy (eat Tomato Soup)

When you make houses for the elves to live in, between the roots of trees behind the school, they will call you crazy.

They will call you crazy when you kiss boys in the bottoms of parking structures, shirt pushed up, back against a wall, not sure how much you even really like them but liking that they like you.

When you dance even though people can see you, even though everyone else has a partner and you are alone, they will call you crazy.

When you decide to go to London, on a whim, in November, they will call you crazy and watch you go. And when you get there, the people who are with you, they may not call you crazy but they won’t really understand, either, when you stop and look at this:
Carrots and beets at broadway streetmarket
or this

or this

or this

or this

But when you stop and look at this,

they will sort of understand. Or at least, you can explain, and it will make some sort of sense. And certainly, the face there, metal and ancient and familiar as a friend, he understands.

I built houses and I kissed boys I took walks and I love street markets as much as I love art and I love nonvascular plants (that’s moss) as much as I love trees which is a lot. I was never a king of anywhere, and I’ve never done anything to warrant being buried with my ship and all of my armor, but maybe I’ll do something in this world that counts.

I am figuring out how to be a Grown Up, or something like it, and there is nothing more crazy than that.

It has me thinking about what I do that I think is worth doing, and worth sharing, and what I come up with is mostly food. I like creating stuff, and so do other people. Share a photo or a poem or an essay or a thought and while it may inspire creation it cannot move seamlessly to created to creating to destruction to recreation again. Food does that.

And we all need to eat.

Every-Wednesday-except-when-I-don’t, I cook for a rotating cast of wonderful people, and it is the most or least crazy thing that I do.

I’m thinking of sharing these things, adventures if and as we have them, jokes we make perhaps that can be conveyed past context, flashes of brilliance or intuition, but mostly: food. Lovely food. Every body needs to eat.

With luck there will be lots more pictures, because pictures help recipes along. There isn’t for this one, but that’s what you get for not planning carefully. It is a recipe for tomato soup, and given that tomato soup is one of the simplest things you can think of to eat, the sheer complexity of this recipe makes it one of the craziest that I know. It is heavily adapted, because it wasn’t written very well the first time.

Chef Jonathan Michael’s Crazy 3-Pot Cream of Tomato Soup

Serves: 5-7, depending on how hungry they are.*

Time: Probably an hour and a half, with chopping and everything.

Hardware:

  • Small saucepan (big enough for 2 cups plus a bit)
  • Medium saucepan (big enough for 4 cups plus a bit)
  • Big pot (big enough to fit the contents of both the small and the medium saucepan, with room to stir)
  • Whisk
  • Wooden spoon
  • Knife
  • Cutting Board
  • Measuring spoons & cups

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons (that’s 1/2 stick) butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups milk (plus some extra for thinning)
  • 1 large onion, quartered (you can leave the skin on, if you like) PLUS
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 or 3 cloves of garlic (peeled)
  • 4 cups tomato puree
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped celery (a stalk or two?)**
  • 4 teaspoons brown sugar

Steps:

  1. Once all your chopping is done, put the milk, the quartered onion, the garlic and the bay leaf into the smallest saucepan and bring to a simmer (go with medium heat for this). Once it starts to bubble, turn off the heat and let it sit for 30 minutes while the milk infuses with the aromatics.
  2. While the milk is infusing, heat the olive oil in the middle-sized sauce pan over medium to medium high heat, then saute the chopped onion and celery until translucent but not brown. (You may want to add a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper, here. If so, no one will blame you.) If you see them starting to brown, just turn the heat down.
  3. When the onion and celery look right, add the tomato puree and brown sugar and simmer for 30 minutes. CAREFUL: Tomato puree is very thick and “simmering” can quickly turn into “large bubbles of molten hot tomato bursting all over your kitchen.” You may want to keep the heat at low, for this. Or even thin it out with a little water.
  4. While your milk finishes up its infusing time and your tomato puree simmers gently away, get your largest pot over a burner and get into a position where you can easily see into it and stir it. Melt the butter in this pot over medium heat, and then add the flour, all at once and whisk it vigorously with your whisk. Keep whisking until the mixture lets of a sort of nutty aroma, but don’t let it brown. It should be bubbling, but will still be pretty thin (about like crepe batter, if you’ve ever made crepes).
  5. Remove the onion, bay leaf and garlic (if you can find it easily) from the milk and, when you’re ready, pour the milk, in thirds, into the flour-and-butter mixture (which is called a roux). If you can have a friend do the pouring, let ’em, because this is going to get VERY thick, VERY quickly. It will think out a little bit with the third addition of milk, but as the flour particles expand to soak up all that liquid, you’re gonna need all your strength to whisk. Chef Jon says “Make sure the milk is fully incorporated with a smooth consistency after each addition, before adding more.”
  6. Once all the milk is in, do the same thing with the tomato puree. Pour it, in thirds, into your milk-flour-butter-mixture (which is basically a white sauce, called b├ęchamel), stirring in each third completely before adding the next. If you’ve got a friend to help, let ’em help.
  7. That’s it! If it looks too thick for your liking, thin it with milk. You will probably want to add some salt, and maybe some pepper.

You want to eat this with grilled cheese sandwiches, which anybody can make but if you can’t, here’s the easter-egg recipe:

For one sandwich take two slices of nice white bread, 1 slice of sharp cheddar and 1 slice of mild cheddar. Put a maybe a quarter tablespoon of butter into a heavy skillet over medium heat till it foams and then the foam subsides. Put your sandwich, all made, into the butter, and weigh it down with a second frying pan. Or a brick. Or just push on it with your spatula, you know, whatever it takes. When the time is right (Only you can tell. Check too early.) flip the sandwich, trying to get side number two just as much in the butter as possible. Re-apply the weight. When the time is right again, and the cheese is appropriately melty, remove to a plate or directly to your bowl of soup.

The soup is crazy, the sandwich is not (unless you go the iron-method of cheese grilling, which I fully support).

They will call you crazy. Feed them, for if you have good luck, they are saying it with love.

* This soup is too complicated to make for fewer. Also, it would require tiny saucepans.

** to get a nice size piece, take each stalk of celery and cut it in half horizontally, and then lengthwise, so that rather than having little half moons when you slice it, you have pieces that look like wedges with a bite taken out of their tip. Then chop in 1/8 inch slices.

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