My happy place is my kitchen. When life gets the best of me and I don't know what to do, the first thing I want to do is go to my kitchen and give it a good cleaning. Then I want to bake. Or make pancakes. After the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011, we found ourselves anxiously watching the news and sitting through countless aftershocks. The only thing that kept me from having a complete breakdown was getting in the kitchen and making pancakes. Something about going through the motions of making something so simple and comforting helped keep me focused and calm.
This week, after the tragedy in Las Vegas, I made bread and soup. Nothing fancy. Just food to soothe my sou, fill my belly and warm my heart, even if only for a moment. It's not a long-term solution but it helps me face my children on a day when all I want to do is curl up in a ball and cry for the lives that were cruelly taken. And sometimes that is exactly what we need food to do: nourish our bodies and our minds so we can carry on and do what we can to get through the day.
If you're looking for some therapy, let me suggest making this soup with last-of-the-season tomatoes, slow roasted until deep red, sweet, and juicy. Allow yourself to slow down and breathe in the smell as the tomatoes slowly roast. This act alone is sure to help you center yourself. This is especially fitting for the season we are in, when the air is clear and crisp and it isn't quite chilly enough to turn on the furnace, but chilly enough to want your oven on for a few hours to warm up your living space.
The tomatoes are the star in this recipe, but I also have a secret weapon: miso paste. You can use any miso paste you have on hand, but that seemingly insignificant tablespoon of umami goodness takes this soup from good to great. I always have a container of miso paste in my fridge. It is, hands down, my favorite secret ingredient. If you don't already have some, I recommend fixing that ASAP. Get white miso to start with and, once you've experimented with that a bit, branch out to others shades from red to almost black. (Need some miso inspiration? Check here, here and here.)
I'd love to know how you cope when life gets heavy and overwhelming. Do you bake? Do you cook up a storm? Walk? Run? Leave your thoughts in the comments. I think we could all use more ways to get through it all, don't you? For now, I'm going to curl up under a blanket with a warm bowl of tomato soup and a crusty slice of bread. Anyone else?
Simple Roasted Tomato Soup
Makes 6-8 servings
- 8-10 medium, ripe tomatoes, cored and halved
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- kosher salt
- 4 cups chicken broth, stock, or water
- 1 tablespoon miso paste (I used white but use whatever you have on hand)
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Arrange the tomatoes, cut side up, on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and a generous sprinkle of kosher salt. Roast for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until the tomatoes are slightly shriveled, deep red in color, and just begin to release their juices.
- Pour the tomatoes and their juices into a 4 or 6 quart pot. Add the chicken stock, broth or water and bring to a simmer. Add the thyme, red pepper flakes, paprika and miso paste and stir to combine. Bring back to a simmer and cook for 5-10 minutes or until heated through.
- Pour into a blender and carefully pulse until the soup is smooth. Return the soup to the pot and taste. Season as needed with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, or cool and store in large jars for up to one week.
*If you'd like, you can toss a couple garlic cloves on the pan with the tomatoes before roasting. I left that out because I wanted this soup to be as simple as possible.