Oma’s Tomato Soup in a Flash

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There are days when I crave french fries, when all I want to do is stop by Yats, this yummy Cajun-Creole restaurant in town, and pick up some chili cheese etouffee. I have weeks where jet lag is clearly a real thing, but I refuse to admit it exists. I will not be weak. Winter starts to creep in, days get shorter, and by the time you get home, the sun has set, the dog still needs to be walked, and despite the fact that it’s only 6 p.m., it’s much too dark and late to make real dinner.

Do not give in to the urge to get french fries or your city’s equivalent of chili cheese etouffee from Yats. Instead make tomato soup. I bet you have all of the ingredients in your house. If not, this weekend stock up on canned tomatoes, buy a spice container of cloves and a jar of Better Than Bullion, and make a habit of always having an onion or two and some garlic in your house.

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This tomato soup is special. Twice a year we would see my grandparents who lived in Holland. My grandmother, Oma, would make this soup with little mini meatballs floating in it. I remember her standing over the stove in her green kitchen making this soup. We would have it or her chicken noodle soup before every lunch in wide bowls with wide rims. My grandfather would pick up his bowl and always slurp out the last drops. I looked forward to Oma’s tomato soup every time they visited us in Indiana. She’d make a big pot first thing and we’d have it before dinner every night.

Even now that Oma is gone, Opa still eats soup every night. When he was here over the summer he gifted me Oma’s cookbook. It’s an old green, hardcover notebook with pages of handwritten recipes. Oma took a cooking class when she was young. Each night she would come home and tell Opa the recipes of the day. He then carefully wrote them down in the notebook.

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This tomato soup is a cinch to make. It requires maybe 10 minutes of hands-on time and 40 minutes of simmering, flavor melding time. This tomato soup has been my go-to meal this fall on nights when I can’t muster up the energy to make a full-on dinner. Plus I happened to be given the glorious gift of a HUGE amount of tomatoes at the end of the summer, which I canned into 10 quarts of tomato awesomeness. Make a pot of this. Double the recipe. Triple it. Curl up with a bowl of it as the days grow shorter. For me, it tastes like childhood. I hope for you it tastes like an easy and healthy dinner on a night you just couldn’t squeeze out one more drop of energy.

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Fish Tacos aka summer.in.winter

Every winter I say the same thing. “This cold, I cannot stand it! I can’t live here another winter. Why haven’t I moved south yet?” And every winter I’m still here, freezing my butt off in Indiana. Now realistically I’d miss snow like crazy. I’d hate having a warm Christmas. I’d miss cozy sweaters and scarves. Regardless, I’m a good cold-weather complainer.

This winter has been incredibly mild as of yet, and I should really be keeping my whiney mouth shut. I’ve been able to run outside comfortably  in January. Like I can feel all of my fingers the whole run. Yet I still curse the frost on my car windows every morning and swear this will be the last winter I spend here.

So to brighten up even the mildest winter and to give you a breath of summer, I give you fish tacos. This dish is a favorite of mine to order at restaurants. A good fish taco starts with a corn tortilla, a small one please. It’s filled with a few strips of flaky fish, grilled or breaded, I’m not picky. It’s topped with a fresh, bright, tomato-heavy salsa, cabbage, and a dollop of sour cream. It’s like a fresh party in your mouth!

I’ve made the fish tacos in The Essential New York Times Cookbook twice now, and, in my humble and not highly refined fish taco palate opinion, these fit all of the above requirements. This meal is probably one of the only times I will cook out of season. You can totes find decent tomatoes at your local Whole Foods. They’re probably from Mexico, but this one time I say, you support that foreign food economy! Just be sure to buy extra butternut squash at the farmers market this week.

Make some fish tacos for dinner. Go. Remind yourself that winter does have an end, that warm weather will come, that even if you live in a cold locale you can still taste summer.

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