I cook and my darling hubby photographs. Food is the medium through which I personally express myself best; I use it to recreate emotional spaces and shades of the day that I observe and want to share and literally ingest. That’s not to say that I don’t have an inclination to photograph too, it’s just not the medium that I work best in. It’s also not to say that my husband doesn’t have a proclivity to cook; he does, and is actually quite good at it. He enjoys using food as an outlet for expression, but it serves him more in the way of creating something that he’s physically craving. His forte is capturing visually what he’d like to share emotionally.
The two of us recently visited a cook shop looking for just the right little plates, bowls, mugs, ramekins, tablecloths and place settings we would use for photographing my culinary expressions. We perused the various styles that would be visually appealing, yet play a supportive role to the food they presented. The goal was to select pieces that would best hold the various types of cuisine that I would be whipping up, so a good amount of time was spent going up and down the isles of the shop. We’d find a particular piece that struck us somehow, then move on to compare it to others, then once again come back to it, turning it this way and that. Are the colors too bright? Would the eye go first to the platter or to the food? Was the shape too distracting? We knew that the food should be the star for our purposes and these pieces the vessels. These pieces the vessels.
That evening I contemplated how people remind me so much of these various, beautiful vessels. Each person holds their very own unique set of gifts and talents that they bring to the table to display their purpose for existence. Some are subtle and some more colorful, but all useful. When it comes to myself, I suppose that perhaps I’ve hoped I’m a kind of delicately ornate platter, baked glossy and painted with colors reminiscent of the seaside homes of enchanting Brittany, France: vanilla butter-cream, decorated with a whimsical splash of sea-blue flowers. I hold a bounty of seasonal fruits: ruby-red raspberries, blushing, wild strawberries, fresh aromatic peaches topped with a dollop of farm-fresh cream. Then again, maybe I fancy myself a sort of ceramic braising pot, passed on from generation to generation, that can proudly hold a meaty stew with lots of vegetables, fresh picked herbs and a healthy pouring of good wine. The nurturer in me desires to nourish and leave the partaker feeling full in belly and invigorated in spirit by the quality of the ingredients. I wondered: could I still accomplish this desire being something other than a delicately ornate platter, or a well-seasoned braising pot? What if I’ve been created to be a humble, white mug?
I thought about this idea for a while, letting it swim around my head. I imagined a medium-sized, non-descript white mug, the type you’d expect to find in a local diner. I began picturing all of the various things you could fill that mug with: steaming, freshly brewed coffee that wakes up a tired soul at the very whisperings of dawn; creamy, velvety, deep-dark hot chocolate topped with real whipped cream, a few shakes of spicy cinnamon and chocolate shavings, that rewards the worker after shoveling a snow-blanketed driveway; rich, tangy and fiery roasted garlic-tomato soup with cheese toasts partly submerged, corners peaking out, soothing a weary soul wrapped in a favorite blanket next to a flickering fire after a long days work; or chilled, smooth, homemade vanilla-bean custard, topped with a crispy lemon cookie that brightens the smile as the cap on a good meal with friends. The thought of the infinite possibilities of what a humble, white mug could hold was so inspiring! I had the realization that it wasn’t the vessel itself that was important; it was what it could hold within it, and what it would do with it.
I’ve become quite comfortable with the prospect of possibly being a “simple” mug instead of a platter or a pot, and sitting in eager anticipation of realizing what has been placed within me to hold and display. May I learn what I have been created to be and how to best serve that.
Taste what’s good, and pass it on.
Fiery Roasted Garlic Tomato Soup with Cheese Toasts
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Ingredients: (serves about 6)
15 whole Roma Tomatoes
7 Tablespoons Olive Oil, divided use
1-½ tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
3 tablespoons Brown Sugar
1 tablespoon Salt
1 teaspoon Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
1 Tablespoon Red Chili Pepper Flakes
2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning
3 whole Heads Of Garlic (peels Left On), plus 2 cloves, chopped, divided use
1 whole Onion, chopped
1 bunch Lemon Basil (or Regular Basil), stems removed and chopped
¼ cups Flat-leaf Parsley, chopped
3 ½ cups Chicken Stock
1 cup Croutons (packaged)
½ cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 loaf rustic-style Bread, such as Ciabatta
6 Tablespoons Gruyere Cheese, shredded
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with foil.
-Cut the Roma tomatoes in half and place in a large bowl; add the 2 Tablespoons of olive oil as well as the balsamic vinegar and other ingredients down through the Italian seasoning to the tomatoes, and toss to coat; add to baking sheet to roast for 45 minutes.
-Cut the tops off of the 3 heads of garlic and add 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil; wrap the oiled heads tightly in foil, and place them next to the tomatoes to roast for 40 minutes.
-Once tomatoes and garlic are roasted, set aside to cool slightly until they can be handled; then squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their papers, discard papers and set aside the roasted garlic. (Keep oven set to 400 degrees, as it will be needed to make the cheese toasts later.)
-In the meantime, in a large pot over medium heat, add the remaining 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, the chopped onion and 2 fresh, chopped garlic cloves. Allow them to become aromatic and translucent. Then add the roasted tomatoes (and all of their juice from the baking sheet), and the roasted garlic; add the basil and parsley and stir to combine; add the hot chicken stock and the croutons and allow to gently simmer without lid, for about 20 minutes.
-Finally, add the grated Parmesan cheese, and using a hand immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth and all tomatoes are completely pureed (if using a blender, work in small batches to puree- be careful to not overfill the blender, as hot soup can splatter); check the salt/pepper, and adjust, if necessary; keep soup warm.
-To make the cheese toasts, cut the rustic bread into six 1/2″ slices, drizzle with 1 Tablespoon of olive oil, and place on baking sheet and into oven to toast until golden; remove bread from oven and top each with 1 Tablespoon of the Gruyere cheese and place in oven once again, just until cheese is melted; remove bread from oven and cut each slice on the bias (making 12 pieces); keep warm.
-Ladle soup into serving bowls, and garnish with 2 pieces of the Gruyere cheese toasts.