Wednesday, March 17th, 2010
There is something very special about the friends, and the foods, of our youth. We tend to carry them close to our hearts, and it is often these tastes, and these friends, that in old age if someone were to ask, “What meal do you wish to be your last?” or, “What friend do you want near?” that would prompt thoughts of cherished dishes from childhood, and of the dear friends kept close from our youth. During a time when we were more naive, more vulnerable, and exploring our identities without the expectations of adultishness holding us back, someone saw something raw, something beautiful, something lovable about us – and chose us. A friend. An Amy.
The story of this soup, of Amy, and of my interests in cooking and art intersect in a beautiful weave that I am happy not to unravel. Although I was acquaintances with Amy early in college, it was not until she lived a few dorm rooms down the hall during our junior year that I truly got to know her. I can still remember her room – light, with a pale soft sea green comforter and white billowy pillows, everything perfectly in its place, it breathed beauty and effortlessness, so unlike my own room – always struggling to keep its clothes in its drawers, and with papers overflowing binders and tucked every-which-way into book sleeves.
Everything about Amy breathes artistry. Art comprises the essence of her being, and always has, from what I can tell. Wherever Amy goes, whatever Amy does, she creates beauty. She is purposeful, methodical, deliberate, inspiring. Very few people have influenced me like Amy. She is a photographer, a designer and painter, a video editor, a world traveler, a uniquely creative cook, and most importantly, and often undeservingly on my part, a lifelong friend.
And it is Amy who first made me this soup about a decade ago when we became roommates the summer after that junior year in college, and I still make it several times a year. I’d say this is a lifelong soup.
The base of the soup is a simple garlic broth created by crushing and sautéing a whole head of garlic in a bit of olive oil, just until the garlic has infused the oil and is no longer raw, but not yet brown, and then vegetable or chicken stock is added, along with a few sprigs of fresh herbs such as thyme, sage, and a handful of fresh parsley.
We keep an herb garden not far from our kitchen out the back door, where I tend to use whatever fresh herbs are thriving and available. In this case, rosemary, oregano, and sage.
From here, the soup can take many forms. You can add a wide variation of vegetables, greens, beans, pastas, chicken or tofu, or even a bit of saffron, but the addition of tomatoes and tortellini is how Amy introduced it to me, and thus it has become my way.
At its heart, it is a variation of the classic Italian dish “Tortellini en brodo” or “tortellini in broth” and it is one of the most satisfying meals I can imagine. Chewy al dente tortellini filled with little wedges of soft cheese are nestled next to a savory broth, richly flavored from the infusion of garlic, ripe tomatoes, and fresh Italian herbs. Finished with sprinklings of fresh parsley, gratings of a nice aged parmesan reggiano, and a hot out of the oven tear of crusty bread, and at this moment I cannot find room beside my adoration for this soup to think of a meal I love more.
At an influential time in my youth, it was Amy who first introduced me to such things as making homemade pasta, cooking with and growing my own fresh herbs, using lavender as a spice, and unique twists on traditional favorites such as sweet potato quesadillas and mango salsa.
It was Amy who sparked my interest in photography, it was Amy who made up crazy silly songs with my brother and me and then animated my stuffed bear to sing along, and it was Amy who was there when my father died at the end of that summer in college; it was Amy who was still there six months later, not afraid to stand in the shadow of death or look me in the eye, and hold me as I cried… And it is still Amy who is there. Thank you, friend.
Amy in field of flowers. Photo courtesy of Amy’s sister in law, Cara Lavarone.
Simple garlic broth with tortellini, tomatoes, and garden herbs
adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home (Tomato garlic soup with tortellini)
8 cups vegetable or chicken stock
3 cups diced tomatoes or 5 medium fresh tomatoes (about 4 cups chopped)
12 ounces fresh cheese filled tortellini
3 tablespoons minced fresh garlic (1 large or 2 small heads)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 sprig fresh sage
1 sprig fresh thyme
several sprigs fresh parsley and more, chopped, for serving
sea or kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste
freshly grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
In a covered pot, bring the stock to a boil. In a soup pot on low heat, gently saute the garlic in the olive oil until golden, taking care not to let it brown. Add the boiling stock. Stir in the paprika. Tie the sage, thyme, and parsley into a little bundle with string, and add the “bouquet” to the pot (you may also chop the herbs and add straight into the soup – this is what I do). Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, add tomatoes, and simmer for an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Adjust for salt and pepper to taste.
In a separate pot, cook tortellini until al dente, usually 4-5 minutes (check package directions) for fresh tortellini. When ready to serve, place tortellini in individual bowls and ladle the soup over them. Serve topped with grated cheese and chopped parsley.
Note: You may omit the tomatoes and/or the tortellini and add other pasta, vegetables, greens, potatoes, peas, chicken – so many possibilities! Also, this easily serves 6-8 people, so I often freeze just some of the broth to pull out and cook with a new package of fresh tortellini for an easy and delicious last minute meal.
Tags: broth, garlic, italian, Moosewood Restaurant, Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, simple, tomato soup, tortellini, tortellini en brodo, tortellini in broth, vegetarian
Posted in Main Courses - Vegetarian | 16 Comments »