Standing at the farmers’ market the other day, I wasn’t sure which way to look. Peaches or pumpkins? Corn or delicata squash? Tomatoes or sweet potatoes? The weather last week was telling me to look back at summer, but the week before? A decided nip in the air.
That’s the thing about change. Barring environmental and personal catastrophes, change rarely happens overnight. Conditions sway back and forth, sometimes too wildly for our comfort, until phew! Everything settles down. For a while.
And then it starts all over again.
The fastest track for learning the lessons of change is to invite a child into your home. I don’t mean for the afternoon, but you know, as a baby. Then watch him grow up and watch yourself swing this way and that to keep up, thinking you’ve nailed it one minute and turning around and realizing, the situation has moved on. Your toddler no longer fusses about getting dressed in the morning because he now refuses to go to preschool. There was a moment of peace and a feeling of accomplishment somewhere in the middle of that. Boy, did you feel like at last you were on top of it. Not.
Nothing is static. We might wish for a Groundhog Day existence because it feels safe and comfortable, but if that’s what we want, why not go sit on a bench in Miami right now and get it over with? Everyone, everyone, has times when they must weather slings and arrows. Everyone endures painful times, times of not knowing.
During carefree times we forget. Years can go by with few bumps in the road, and then…along comes a recession or who knows what, to make us wring our hands. That’s when we need to pay attention to the little moments: the cup of tea or bowl of warm soup on a chilly afternoon, like sweet little islands in a turbulent sea.
So here we are again, on the cusp of a change in seasons, more straightforward than changes in our internal climate. The question of what to eat is not so hard to solve, whether you look forward or backward this month. Peaches or pumpkins? Or maybe a soup that takes the best of summer into the fall: roasted tomatoes and vegetables, smoothed in a blender, to be eaten hot or cold, depending on your mood or the temperature outside.
This was originally published in the now defunct online Magazine of Yoga.
Roasted tomato and vegetable soup (Serves 4)
Plum (Roma) tomatoes have thicker flesh and fewer seeds than mid-summer round, slicing tomatoes and therefore are not so quite so juicy, easily roasted on a rimmed baking sheet without spilling. Use a baking pan if you find that the tomatoes you have on hand are especially juicy. Roasting concentrates all the good veggie flavors; adding water to thin the soup should not dilute them. If you happen to have a little white wine around the house, use it for a little extra oomph; the alcohol evaporates in cooking. If you prefer, leave it out.
3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds plum tomatoes (about 14 to 16)
2 garlic cloves
2 stalks celery, cut in 2-inch pieces
2 carrots, peeled and cut in 2-inch pieces
1/2 medium onion, thickly sliced
1 red pepper, cored, seeded and cut in 2-inch pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup white wine, optional
Snipped chives, for garnish
1. Heat the oven to 450°F. Lightly oil the bottom of 2 rimmed baking sheets.
2. Core the tomatoes, and halve them lengthwise. With your fingers, scoop out and discard the seeds. Trim the root ends from the garlic cloves and lightly smash them with the flat of a knife to break the husks. Leave the husks on.
3. Place the tomatoes in one layer on a baking sheet with the cut side down. Place the celery, carrots, red pepper, onion and garlic in one layer on another baking sheet. Sprinkle the vegetables with salt and pepper, and drizzle with a little olive oil. Roast the tomatoes and vegetables for 20 minutes. Rotate the pans, moving the top pan to the lower shelf and the bottom pan to the upper shelf. Continue to roast for 15 to 20 minutes more (about 35 minutes total), or until the vegetables are soft and the tomato skins are loose and wrinkled. If the tomatoes are slightly charred, so much the better for flavor.
4. Remove the pans from the oven and let rest until the tomatoes are no longer hot, about 10 minutes. Slip off and discard the tomato skins. Remove the husks from the garlic cloves.
5. Puree the vegetables in a blender with 1 cup water, until smooth. Be sure to scrape all the juices from the bottom of the baking sheets into the blender. Pour the puree into a soup pot. Season the soup with salt and pepper, and stir in the wine. Add enough water to thin it to the consistency of heavy cream, about 1 cup, depending on the juiciness of the tomatoes. Simmer the soup for 10 minutes. Season with more salt and pepper if you like. Serve hot or cold.
Note: I like mine with a little cream (naturally). Add a spoonful of heavy cream on top to make it look pretty.