I have nothing against chocolate. It’s an all-purpose food. Just like champagne is an all-purpose drink. It suits all occasions. When the chips are down: chocolate. When romance calls: chocolate. When the afternoon goes on forever: chocolate. It’s an obvious choice and no doubt about it, you will be eating it on Valentine’s Day.
Which brings me to a thorny subject and that is: Valentine’s Day. No problem if you have a sweetheart. No problem if you don’t have one and don’t care. But in between on the misty flats, there you are, sitting on the couch with a bowl of Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Therapy. Oh, who are we kidding? You are eating it out of the carton. And if you’d had the foresight, you would have made these Rocky Road cookies. Go ahead, you still have time. They are the antidotes of the moment. You can watch Under the Tuscan Sun while the cookies bake. It has great scenery. I forget the ending, but does it matter? All you need to know is that it starts out bad and ends up better. The point is, nothing is static. One day you are miserable, and the next day, or week or month or year, who knows how you will be? Even an endless dry spell has its nuances, and it only seems endless. It has a termination point. You just can’t see it yet.
Now that you’ve had plenty of chocolate, it’s time for lunch. You need something to fortify yourself before your next encounter with the ice cream carton. That’s where these pommes d’amour come in. (Why does everything sound so much better in French?) Though tomatoes are out of season, you can make a very good soup with roasted plum tomatoes. You’ll hardly notice how long they’ve been off the vine or how far they’ve traveled. With so much flavor from the roasted tomatoes, no stock is necessary or wanted. For Valentine’s Day, why not spice it up with a garnish of sour cream spiked with some chopped chipotle chiles in adobo. You don’t need a hot date to be a hot tamale.
Summer seems far, far away right now and the temperatures are not climbing fast enough to make it feel like spring will ever come. Never mind. In the meantime, I am going to break my rule of cooking only with seasonal ingredients. What could possibly be in season right now? The ground is hard as a rock and underneath the snow it is brown, brown, brown. I need a little color and spice. The spice here is from chipotle chiles and they are hot. For the uninitiated, chipotles are smoked jalapenos and you can buy them in a can “in adobo.” They are marinated in a tomato, garlic, and vinegar sauce. Just remember, a little goes a long way.
Roasted Tomato SoupServes 4
About 2 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
Freshly ground pepper
A pinch of sugar
3 cloves of garlic
A few sprigs of thyme
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 stalk celerey, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon rice
1/2 cup sour cream or crème fraiche
1 1/2 teaspoons seeded and finely chopped chipotle chile in adobo, or to taste
1. Heat oven to 450°F. Lightly oil the bottom of a large baking dish.
2. Place the tomatoes in one layer in the baking dish with the cut side down (you may need to use more than one baking dish.) Sprinkle them with salt, pepper and sugar and drizzle them with a little olive oil. Slice off the tips of the garlic cloves but leave the root end intact. Do not peel them. Distribute the garlic and thyme around the tomatoes. Bake them on the upper shelf of the oven until they are soft and their skins are loose and wrinkled, 35 to 40 minutes. If the skins are slightly charred, so much the better for flavor.
3. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large (3 to 4-quart) pot over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook gently until they are tender, about 8 minutes.
4. Remove the tomatoes from the oven and fish out the garlic cloves and the thyme. Discard the thyme and slip off the husks of the garlic cloves. Add the tomatoes and their juices to the pot with the garlic and rice. Simmer gently for 10 minutes.
5. Puree the soup in a blender until very smooth, in batches if necessary. Rinse out the pot. For a silky smooth soup, pass it through a food mill or strainer to eliminate tiny bits of tomato skin and seeds. Add the blended soup back to the pot with enough water (about 1 cup, depending on juiciness of tomatoes) to thin it to the consistency of heavy cream. Reheat the soup and season with more salt and pepper if necessary.
6. Stir the chopped chiles into the sour cream and float a spoonful on top of each bowl of soup.