It has been one heck of a summer to be a gardener. To say the weather hasn’t cooperated would be an understatement. Cold late, then no rain for weeks, then way too much rain, then cold early, bugs in Biblical sized mobs, and finally, blight on our tomatoes.
We are more fortunate than a lot of people though, because we are just now seeing it, and we will get all the tomatoes we need. I have to credit our blight battling strategies for this, because some people started seeing a month ago.
But, it proves something we already knew – gardening always has the potential to be an exercise of our patience, because you never know how it’s going to go in any given year. So, while we have struggled, it’s important to also mention that we still got a ton of veggies this year. It just hasn’t been easy. It would be nice for it to be easy just one year, but then we might get to expect it, and you can’t have that.
A year like this one does make me thankful that though we rely on the garden to feed us a majority of the year, if something goes wrong, we can always resort to the grocery store in the winter. A hundred years ago we would be looking forward to a winter of eating leeks, onions, garlic and winter squash – all of which performed in a spectacular fashion. [hmmmm - a casserole? roasted? another soup maybe?] So though, we are working toward food independence, in reality, we are a long way from it. Which has the twin effect of making me feel humbled and grateful at the same time – not a bad combination, actually.In the meantime, we have gotten some really nice tomatoes, and an abundance of anything gets my creative thoughts going. This is a simple soup – simple to make with uncomplicated flavors that turn out to combine into something that seems like it would be a lot more trouble. It begins with tomato sauce, instead of raw or even canned tomatoes, so it is ready pretty quickly. In my case, the sauce is homemade, but any kind will work nicely.
You are going to end up with something that really hits the spot once we start getting into this cool fall weather we have coming up. Imagine coming home to a bowl of this after your annual visit to the pumpkin farm!
- 4 ounces sliced smoked bacon
- 2 cups sliced carrot
- 1 cup sliced celery
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- About 10 grinds black pepper
- A pinch of dried pepper flakes
- 2 -3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped, 1 teaspoon dried
- 6 cups fresh or canned tomato sauce
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 cup half and half
- In a large, heavy soup pot, cook the bacon, over low heat, until cooked through and crisp. Remove the bacon to a paper towel to drain, and then crumble. Set aside.
- Remove all but 3 tablespoons of the bacon drippings.
- Add the carrots, celery and onion, salt and peppers to the pot, and sweat over low heat until very soft – 10 to 15 minutes.
- Scrape all of the vegetables into a blender or food processor, along with 1 cup of the tomato sauce, and blend or process until very smooth. [Take care when doing this, as hot foods can pop the lid off a blender. I take the center plug out of the lid, and hold a folded kitchen towel over the opening while blending, to prevent getting burned.]
- Return the pureed vegetables to the pot, and add the remaining tomato sauce and the chicken broth. Add the thyme springs, tied together with kitchen string, and the chopped oregano.
- Simmer gently for about 10 minutes, to blend flavors.
- Remove the thyme, and stir in half and half.
- Gently bring back up to serving temperature, taking care not to let it boil.
- Serve with bacon crumbles sprinkled over each serving.
It also makes a wonderful, rustic first course – or a great midnight snack!It is delicious reheated as well. Just make sure to do so gently, so as not to curdle the half and half by boiling it. And now, you will have to excuse me – Larry just brought another 5 gallon bucket of tomatoes in the back door!
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