I’m hardly the first person to believe that the kitchen is the soul of a home—a hub of activity, creation and, of course, sustenance. Many of my fondest memories have emerged from kitchens—those of friends, family and my own. I rarely remember the specific features of all those kitchens (aside from my mother’s Le Crueset collection; my mother-in-law’s sprawling, granite-topped island; my friend Andy’s Viking range; my grandparents’ selection of straight-from-the-garden produce, or the sight of my friend Brynn’s refrigerator, brimming with the preparations for her next great BBQ). But I always seem to remember the kitchen sink.
Perhaps that’s because I spent the better part of my kitchen days as a dishwasher. Growing up, washing the dishes was a party not to be missed, complete with singing and dancing (yes, Aunt Kathy, I’m talking about you) amid the steam rising from the scalding water. In college, dishwashing was more an act of trepidation, sorting through sticky beer mugs and mountains of God-knows-whose dishes (from God-knows-when). By contrast, the sink in my post-college, tiny D.C. studio apartment, allowed for no more than one plate and one (small) pot to stack up at time; doing the dishes there was simply imperative, unless I wanted to render the kitchen utterly useless. These days, as my role has evolved from dishwasher to cook, I’ve lucked into a live-in dishwasher. And after our wedding in August, I’m fairly confident the position is filled for good.
But I remember more than just soapy sponges and damp dishtowels when it comes to the sinks of my life. They have ranged from the familiar (my grandparents’ sink, with a view out to their greenhouse, garden, bird feeders and, of course, those up-to-no-good neighbors) to the fancy (here’s where I could brag about the gorgeous undermounted sink in our new condo’s kitchen—but I won’t); from the useless (after nine months in the aforementioned studio, I’m quite sure that a garbage disposal is a kitchen’s most under-appreciated feature) to the utilitarian (the sink in a family cabin in northern Minnesota features a giant red pump for a faucet). And there’s the sink in my parents’ home—with its funny drinking water spigot, its collection of wine corks atop the backsplash and, for much of the Minnesota winter, snow drifts and frost crystals lining the window.
In all of these sinks, I’ve piled dishes after satisfying meals. Sometimes the stack is staggering, leaving me to doubt whether the meal was worth its disaster-zone wake. But then there are the meals that are worth every single dirty utensil, pot and plate. Like this recipe—Ina Garten’s Roasted Tomato Basil Soup (dishes for which include: a baking sheet for the roasting, a cutting board and knife for the onions, a dutch oven for the soup itself and a food processor bowl and blade—let alone our own soup bowls).
This soup ramps up the classic tomato soup with the addition of oven roasted tomatoes (which lends a concentrated tomato flavor) and earthy herbs. On a cold early winter night, it certainly satisfies. For a light, pre-Thanksgiving meal last week, we made this soup (topped with a swirl of pesto) and served it with toasts lathered with a thin layer of ricotta cheese and a drizzle of white truffle oil. Yes, I’d say it was worth every dirty dish. I’m pretty sure even my dishwasher would agree!
Roasted Tomato Soup
3 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) canned plum tomatoes, with their juice
4 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 quart chicken stock or water
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss together the tomatoes, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the tomatoes in 1 layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.
In an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the butter, and red pepper flakes for 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown. Add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme, and chicken stock. Add the oven-roasted tomatoes, including the liquid on the baking sheet. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Pass through a food mill fitted with the coarsest blade.* Taste for seasonings. Serve hot or cold.
* I don’t have a food mill, but pulsing the soup in batches in a food processor works just fine.