Originally published in quality newspapers the week of March 27, 2011
There is a fine art to flirting and frankly I was never very good at it. The most effective arrow in my flirting quiver was that of humor. I could almost always make a girl laugh; but hey, so could Rodney Dangerfield.
Author Fran Greene wrote the book on flirting. Actually, she wrote the Bible. In The Flirting Bible she reveals all the flirting secrets: the smile, eye contact, maintaining a proper distance, body language, and the flirtatious touch with tips for both men and women. I could have used this book back in the day.
Springtime, it seems, is a time of year where flirting is at its peak and not just among humans. In my neck of the woods, the earth itself flirts with us during these early days of spring, teasing us a bit with a warm day here and there and giving us just a peek of color.
Warm spring days have me anticipating the bounty that will soon be growing out of our small backyard garden and a day in the 70s last week had be standing in the yard envisioning the tomatoes that will go into the ground in a few weeks. Unable to get tomatoes out of my mind, I settled for the next best thing to garden tomatoes, the canned versions at the grocery store.
One of my favorite ways to eat tomatoes is in a BLT but I will only eat them when tomatoes are in season. The produce-isle versions just don’t match up. Canned tomatoes, on the other hand, usually have great tomato flavor but you can’t exactly use them on a sandwich. I decided on a BLT soup instead, incorporating all the elements of the sandwich.
A conventional BLT is still a few months off but in these early days of spring, this soup fills the void.
- 6 strips of bacon
- 2 28-ounce cans of diced tomatoes
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 2 stocks of celery, chopped
- 2 medium carrots, chopped
- 1 quart of canned chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 8 thin slices of a baguette
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking pan with parchment paper and place a wire rack on the lined pan. Lay the slices of bacon on the rack and place in the oven to cook for 20 minutes or until the bacon is crisp. Remove the bacon and the rack. Once cooled, crumble the bacon and set aside. While the bacon is cooking open the two cans of tomatoes and pour of the juice, reserving it for later. Using the same baking pan and parchment used for the bacon, pour off all but about a tablespoon of the bacon fat (you may not have more than a tablespoon). Dump the diced tomatoes onto the parchment-lined sheet and spread out into a single layer. Add salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Place back into the 375-degree oven to roast for 30 minutes.
While the tomatoes are roasting, heat a Dutch oven to medium-high. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the chopped onion, carrots, and celery. Add salt and pepper and sauté until beginning to turn golden. Add the chicken stock and reserved tomato juice and bring to a boil then reduce to simmer. Once the tomatoes are done add them to the pot along with the tablespoon of sugar and the basil. Add additional salt and pepper if needed.
Use an emersion blender to puree the soup to a smooth consistency. Switch the oven to broil and place the bread slices on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and broil until golden. When ready to serve ladle soup into bowls, top with one or two pieces of the toast, a few leaves of arugula, and crumbled bacon. Makes about six servings.