Saturday, February 13, 2016

Roasted Tomato Soup

     The temperature outside is below freezing today, so I wanted to spend my late morning huddled close to the oven with a cup of tea, and maybe a book, as the kitchen got toasty warm, and filled with the aroma of something delicious. I thought maybe a casserole, or a stuffed squash. But I was also craving soup- you know- a big bowl of hearty soup to warm your bones on a cold day kind of soup. So I turned on the oven, and I made this.

Roasted Tomato Soup With Basil Oil

     This soup is so easy to make. There isn't a lot of chopping, because it's pureed. And there isn't any need to stand at the stove stirring or sautéing, because it's all done in the oven. 
   Roasting the tomatoes concentrates their flavor and sweetness, turning their fresh juiciness into something much more comforting in this kind of weather. It's the perfect soup to go with a crusty piece of bread, or if you're like me (wheat free), a side of salad greens with some warm quinoa on top.
   And since the prep for this soup takes almost no time at all, I have a few minutes to tell you about my retreat, which I mentioned last week. 
   It was a 5 day silent meditation retreat at Insight Meditation Society (IMS). It ran from Friday to Wednesday.
   I left my house in a bit of a rush on Friday in order to arrive promptly at  the beginning of the registration period- so that I could get a good seat. I know this sounds crazy. It's not like I was going to the ballet, where things like that matter. This was a meditation hall. You know -eyes closed, silence, nothing happening. But like movie theaters, and airplanes, I hate getting stuck in the middle. 
   I don't know much about Buddhism, but right there I am sure I have broken some Buddhist precept, or strayed from the path in some way. I mean, I came undone by the dread of being stuck in the middle. I was so attached to the need for an aisle seat, that I suffered at the thought of not getting one. Luckily the hall was empty, and I was able to reserve the aisle seat/cushion of my choice. Okay-now I can relax.
   At registration I was greeted warmly by people who seemed genuinely happy to see me. My room was in a convenient location (not too far from the bathroom or refrigerator). I was at ease, and happy to be there.
   When the first seated meditation started, and we were all in our seats, I realized I hated where I was sitting. I had chosen a cushion towards the back of the hall, and everyone else was huddled together towards the front of the room. I thought, this sucks. I'm all alone back here. I started feeling left out and rejected (where did that come from?), even though I chose that seat myself. Fortunately there was an aisle seat towards the front that was still open. I moved as soon as the closing bell rang. Now I was happy.
   Of course there were several other small annoyances that day, but since I do have some self awareness, I was able to recognize that I was getting annoyed because I had not yet surrendered. I still held some resistance to having a strict daily routine. I was also fearful that this may be more difficult than I wanted it to be. These are old patterns for me. I recognize them pretty quickly, so I am able to move through them without getting stuck there.
   Meditation is a way to strengthen your mind against the temptation to grasp onto good feelings and avoid bad ones. It helps you to take things as they come. It helps you to realize that we can't always control our thoughts and circumstances, but that we have a choice in how we react to them.  And with practice we can strengthen our minds against the suffering that is inherent in being human.
   I don't call myself a Buddhist. I have never really studied Buddhism. But I do know that everything passes like a wave. And that calmer waters are easier to swim in. When you see a wave coming, don't fear it, or fight it. Watch it, and find the moment when you can sink into it, and let it wash over you.
   It didn't happen immediately. It took a few days for my mind to settle, and my body to relax, but by the end of the retreat, I left IMS with a deep sense of calm, and an open heart. It was a beautiful experience. For this I am grateful. For this I am willing to continue to practice meditation and mindfulness.

Roasted Tomato Soup
Serves 4

1 1/2 lb. of roma tomatoes cut in half lengthwise
1 medium onion cut in quarters (unpeeled)
5 cloves of garlic (unpeeled)
1 red pepper (avg. sized) cut in half and de-seeded
2T.olive oil
salt and pepper
1c. of water or vegetable stock
pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

   Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
   Place cut vegetables on a baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil.
   Sprinkle with salt and pepper- about 1/2 tsp. salt and a few grinds of pepper.
   Bake until tomatoes collapse, and onions are soft -  about 40-50 minutes.
   Remove the sheet pan from the oven. Peel the onions and garlic.
   Put all the vegetables, with the water, in a blender. Blend until smooth.
   If the soup needs reheating, do it gently in a heavy bottomed saucepan.
   At this time you can adjust for salt and pepper, and add more water if you like a thinner   
   Top with a spoonful of either basil or rosemary oil, and stir. Serve with extra herbed oil and
   ground black pepper.

Basil oil 
1 c. packed fresh basil leaves
6T. olive oil

   Puree in a blender.

Rosemary oil
1T. fresh rosemary
8T. olive oil

   Puree in a blender.

You will have more oil than you need, but they are great to drizzle over vegetables, or a grain dish. You could also freeze the extra for up to a month for future use.

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