Soup shouldn’t cause this mayhem

  • By J.M. Hirsch / Associated Press
  • Tuesday, February 14, 2006 9:00pm
  • Life

Making soup and baking bread shouldn’t result in multiple physical injuries.

It was supposed to be a simple lunch, bread and soup with a friend, all timed just right for my 1 1/2-year-old’s nap.

Of course, that timing relied on my ability to get the bread in the oven and the soup on the stove before rocking Parker to sleep.

The timing worked, but I was a bit surprised by the bloodshed and bruises involved in it.

8:30 a.m.

Breakfast eaten and dishes cleaned. Parker insists I read Dr. Seuss’ “The Foot Book” three times end-to-end. Left foot, right foot, foot, foot, foot. Oh how many feet we meet. Please make it stop.

Falling behind already, I plop Parker on the island counter and gather my bread ingredients: whole-wheat flour, oat bran, ground flax seeds, rolled oats, sesame seeds, salt, sugar, water, yeast and olive oil in a big, heavy glass bottle.

Parker helps by grabbing fistfuls of flour and tossing them in the air. They gently sprinkle down onto our increasingly perturbed (and formerly orange) cat. Not wanting to discourage any interest in cooking, I try to direct his hands over the bowl. Bad idea.

With a squeal, Parker flails his arms. More flour everywhere, the cat runs off and the big, heavy bottle of olive oil gets knocked over. Miraculously, it doesn’t break – or break any bones. It lands on top of my bare foot. Parker wasn’t the only one squealing.

10:30 a.m.

The cat has been dusted off and the bread is rising. We made a quick run to the grocer for ingredients. Plop Parker back on the counter (this time in a corner so he’s hemmed in) and gather the soup fixings.

Keeping one eye on him and another on my chopping doesn’t make for good knife work. A nice clean cut removes the tip of my left index finger, nail and all. Thankfully, the soup is red anyway.

No sooner am I bandaged and back at the cutting board – albeit cutting a bit more slowly – than Parker discovers the spice cabinet just above the counter where he is sitting. These, too, are stored in heavy glass bottles.

Foolishly, I indulge him, letting him pick them up, clumsily remove the corks and sniff. It’s just so cute.

Suddenly, spices in heavy glass jars are flying. I’m yelling, grasping for him, the jars, anything to make it stop. Dried basil and onion powder are everywhere, and Parker thinks it’s hilarious.

One of the jars whacks me on the forehead and I feel that warm sting of swelling. Swell!

11:15 a.m.

The spices have been cleaned up, the bread is baking and the soup is on the stove. The house is quiet except for the creak of the rocking chair my great-grandmother, my grandmother and my mother used to lull their children.

Parker is curled in my arms, eyes drooping. The cat is asleep in a patch of sun next to his crib.

And the fingers and toes and the forehead and mess and the noise and inane rhymes all seem to have made for a pretty good day.

Creamy tomato soup

2tablespoons olive oil

1large yellow onion, diced

4cloves garlic, minced

2teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

128-ounce can crushed tomatoes

6oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped

2tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/2teaspoon baking soda

1cup regular or fat-free half-and-half (see note)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute, stirring often, until just tender, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and saute another 2 minutes.

Add the crushed tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low and stir in the baking soda. Add the half-and-half, stir well and bring to a simmer. Do not boil.

Use an immersion blender to puree the soup in the saucepan. Alternatively, use a ladle to carefully transfer the soup, in batches if necessary, to a blender and puree until smooth. Return to pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Note: This recipe works equally well with regular and fat-free half-and-half, but the latter produces a lower-fat version.

Makes four servings.

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