Some days, like perhaps today when it’s been raining snow for the last two days, the best dinner is a simple soup and salad.
That first sentence may or may not be true. As I write this on Sunday evening, the day was sunny and warm with clear blue skies. According to the weather forecast, we’ll all be shoveling inches of snowflakes by the time you read this. Writing for the future is a tricky task. Soup, however, is straightforward.
When the weather is chill and damp, a roasted tomato soup with cheddar biscuits warms the belly and excites the tastebuds.
Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Slice six tomatoes, one onion and one red pepper into quarters. Roughly chop two celery stalks, and peel six cloves of garlic. Toss all the vegetables with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread vegetables evenly onto a baking sheet, and roast for 20 minutes. On top of the stove, warm one quart of chicken broth and season with freshly chopped oregano, basil and thyme. When the vegetables are roasted, place them in a blender with the broth and half a block of cream cheese and blend until smooth. Return soup to the pot and simmer until ready to eat.
For the cheddar biscuits, mix two cups flour, one tablespoon baking powder, two teaspoons sugar, half a teaspoon cream of tartar, one quarter teaspoon salt, four minced cloves of garlic, and one teaspoon paprika. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add half a cup of melted butter, three-quarters cup of milk, and one cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Stir the mixture until ingredients are just combined.
According to all the cooking books, you only want to stir biscuit makings until “just combined.” I don’t know what that means. I always imagine a bored chef with a poofy white hat and button-up apron mixing a batch of biscuits until “just combined” then shrugging and saying, “eh, good enough.” He does “just” enough to get the job done. Apparently, that’s how you do biscuits — just combined is good enough. When your biscuit mixture is just combined, drop by the spoonful on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 15-20 minutes or until the tops are brown. Melt two tablespoons of butter with two minced cloves of garlic and chopped fresh parsley. Brush the tops of warm biscuits with the melted garlic butter. It will be just good enough.
A colorful winter salad with this soup is kale with roasted squash, topped with cranberries and walnuts. Cube a sweet winter squash like delicata, butternut or kabocha. Toss with olive oil and seasoning salt and roast at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes. De-stem and roughly chop the kale. Soak kale in a bowl of cold water for 15 minutes to remove the bitterness. Unfortunately, this does not work on humans. Drain kale and drizzle with olive oil, the juice of one lemon, and sprinkle with salt. With clean hands, massage the kale with the oil, lemon juice and salt. Massage it vigorously, with meaning, to tenderize the kale. Top the kale with roasted squash, dried cranberries and chopped walnuts.