I used to think that the mother in Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak was quite cruel. Sending a child to bed without any supper? Even for a “wild thing” like Max that seemed kind of harsh. But as an adult, I’m drawn more to the last page and the last 5 words of the book – “and it was still hot”. Even though Max’s mother is clearly exasperated with his behavior, and runs out of patience just around dinnertime, (what mother hasn’t been there!?), she still makes sure he gets a nice, hot supper. In fact, I think now that this hot supper, this tangible evidence of his mother’s love for him, is what draws Max back to his very own room from the land of the wild things. Now I love this book, mostly because of that last page and the way that food is used to represent a mother’s never-ending, life giving love for her son. I also like that this hot supper is a sort of second chance for both Max and his mom. They had a hard day; he misbehaved, she got exasperated, called him a name, and sent him to his room. But in the end, they both know she wouldn’t really let him go to bed without anything to eat, and she even includes a piece of cake with his dinner. If that isn’t a peace offering, then I don’t know what is!
It’s hard to tell from the book exactly what Max’s hot supper is, but it looks to me like a bowl of soup. I never really liked tomato soup growing up, probably because the canned variety tasted too sweet and smooth to me. But since making tomato soup from scratch, with fresh tomatoes, I’ve changed my mind. Using exclusively fresh tomatoes seems to make a soup that is too watery in flavor and texture so this recipe uses a combination of fresh tomatoes, roasted in the oven to get them soft and slightly caramelized, and some canned, crushed tomatoes. I like this combo because you get the flavor of fresh tomatoes, while the crushed tomatoes add some thickness and texture. Roasting the fresh tomatoes releases even more intense tomato flavor and softens them so that they melt right into the soup. I like to add garlic and fresh basil for an extra punch of flavor, but you can easily leave either of both of those out, to fit your family’s tastes.
Roasted Tomato Basil Soup
Yield: 6 servings
Time: 1 hour
1 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes, quartered
4 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
- Preheat oven to 400ºF. On a large sheet pan, toss the quartered tomatoes with 2 Tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon Kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Roast tomatoes in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, stirring once or twice, until they have released a lot of liquid and are starting to brown.
- Once tomatoes are done roasting, heat the remaining 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the roasted tomatoes, canned tomatoes, fresh basil, broth and water to the pot. Cover the pot and bring soup to a simmer. Decrease heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.
- Once soup is done simmering, remove it from the heat and use a stick blender to blend the soup in the pot until it is smooth. Alternatively, use a conventional blender, with the lid vented, to blend the soup in 2 batches until smooth. Serve hot. This is wonderful with sourdough toast covered in melted cheddar.