Beet & Radish Greens with Rice Vermicelli
Pork Larb Letttuce Wrap
Once a month I walk into my office to find a Food & Wine magazine on my chair.
You may be wondering how this magazine mysteriously appears every month…
A good friend, who shall remain unnamed, moved into an apartment where the last tenants never transferred their subscription to Food & Wine - so she has bestowed upon me this monthly gift.
I’m trying to get in the habit of using more recipes to cook, so I’m not drawing everything from past meals with my family and our four star Southern Italian peasant food (which I do love to make and share).
Why not use this stolen, rather, found (stolen is harsh and it’s not really stolen), magazine subscription to do so?
I took the liberty of tweaking the Food & Wine recipe for Thai lettuce wraps by adding radishes and cucumbers so there was more crunch with my meat (since boston lettuce is so buttery and soft, and the red onions were the only item to add different texture alongside the meat). I also added more lime to the dressing to balance the sweet of the sugar and heat from the chiles.
Using leftover beet and radish greens from the farmers market (I never waste my greens, they always make their way into a meal) I cooked up some rice noodles; infusing those with similar Asian flavors of fish sauce, sugar, chiles, garlic, shallots and lime - to tie it in to the lettuce wraps.
A refreshing meal for a 90 degree night.
*The meat from the lettuce wraps was spooned a top the noodles so as to combine leftovers and make a tasty lunch.
Rice Vermicelli with Beet & Radish Greens
1/2 pack of rice vermicelli (cooked until soft)
Greens (spinach, diced bok choy or any left-over leafy greens work - I used beet and radish greens)
2 T. sunflower oil
6 cloves of garlic (thinly sliced)
2 shallots (minced)
2 chiles (minced - do not discard seeds)
2 tsp. sugar
1 T. fish sauce
Juice of 2 limes
-In a large skillet, heat oil and cook garlic and shallot until light brown
-Add chiles and saute for an additional 2 minutes
-Add sugar and fish sauce, mixing with ingredients until sugar dissolves
-Add greens and saute until cooked down
-Salt and remove from heat
-Add noodles to the greens and top with lime juice
Pork Larb Lettuce Wrap
*I doubled the Food & Wine recipe and added 3 diced radishes and half of a cucumber - also diced.
Every Sunday, after church, my dad and I would go to Landi’s Pork Store. After church, this was the place to be - as women in their Sunday best lined up, shoved and shouted orders over one another; flirting with the young deli men behind the counter.
Jerry Corrado, silent and strong - no pushing or shoving, but giving a steady nod to the owner across the store - would grab a ticket and get in line to order up the usual round of goods to accompany our dinner.
My dad swore by Landi’s pin-wheel sausage, grizzly, speckled with parsley, and perfectly coiled so it could easily rest on a barbecue grill rack. Their potato croquettes, stuffed with ham and mozzarella, rolled in breadcrumbs and deep fried can make my mouth water just upon conjuring up the memory of them - pudgy, oily and squished in their little rectangular foil container awaiting a date with my maw.
To the right of the meat case was the antipasto display. I stared (and can still stare) at that antipasto case for hours. Oily mushrooms sitting in fresh herbs and vinegar, crunchy antipasto salad coated with little yellow pearls of oil, tomatoes and olives, doused with lemon juice and parsley. Olives so round, wrinkly, and speckled with red pepper flakes - pitted and sitting in individual pools of black salted water - they were all beautiful in their own right. I listened to my father order each and every item. He always went over board. Everyone in there loved Jerry Corrado, and I stood quietly next to him. His smaller chubby shadow, the little girl he made and fed well.
The guys behind the counter would smile at me in my too tight Sunday dress, and I would look down at the saw dust covered tiled floor - concentrating on my my muffin top feet as they burst out from top of my little white flats. Getting lost in the eyelet trim around my socks; I always begged my mom for eyelet socks. My dresses and skirts were often too tight, but I could always look down to spy pretty ankles.
I was shy. I couldn’t look any of them in the eye, as they sliced, smiled, laughed, cursed and sounded so Brooklyn - wiping their hands on their white smocks, adding to the sauce, oil and meat stains that were already there.
I was offered tastings of mozzarella and soppressata over the counter. The deli man would reach, meet my hand with a salty treat and I would smile, accept, fill my mouth and dart my eyes directly back to the floor. I would chew in silence, without muttering a word.
Every Sunday this process excited me, although I’m sure I came off as being Jerry’s mute daughter (things have certainly changed since then).
I would help my father carry his bags out to the car. Sometimes one of the deli guys would help, open the door, take my hand - lead me into the van - and prop plastic bags, donning a giant pig logo, all around me. As my father drove away from Landi’s I would crane my neck - as if wanting to extend my whole body through the glass of the back window - so I could have one more moment with man behind the counter who passed me my salty snacks.
Toto Cutugno was playing on cassette, and I could see my dad moving his lips and mouthing the words to his L’Italiano. While he sang I would sneak my hands into each bag, feeling around for a container to open. Once my fingers met a lid, I’d pop the cover off and grab what I could. An olive, a piece of celery, a tomato. My father was lost in his music and had no clue what I was up to as I sat in the back seat lost in my own world of salt, snacking, and crunchy celery - wishing I’d said thank you to the deli man who graciously sated my mind and belly.
This salad works as a refreshing antipasto. Add pieces fresh mozzarella and/or soppressata to the mix and eat as a meal with warm crostini or a piece of bread.
Simple, salty, satisfying and delicious.
6 ribs of celery (chopped, including leaves)
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes (halved)
1 roasted red pepper (sliced)
1/2 can of artichoke hearts
3-4 cloves of garlic (minced)
20-30 olives (pitted and halved)
1/4 flat leaf parsley (coarsely chopped)
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 c. olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Optional (not pictured here because I’m detoxing from momo, milanese and taco overload from this past weekends eating explorations)
4-6 oz. fresh mozzarella (cubed)
4 oz. soppressata (cut into thin rounds)
-Add first 6 ingredients to a bowl and toss with salt and pepper
-Optional: add mozzarella and soppressata for a more satisfying starter, side or meal
Roasted Asparagus with Fried Shallots & Pecorino
There’s this little panini spot in my neighborhood that makes a killer fingerling potato salad topped with crispy fried shallots and finished with a snowy mountain of pecorino. Not only does it look beautiful, but it packs a little salty hit and crunch in every bite.
I often enjoy this potato salad with a panini, when I like to get freaky with my carb on carb action. Consuming bread and potatoes in one sitting makes me feel like it’s 1990 and I’ve just crawled out of my grandparents basement, my shorts too tight, my little thighs rubbing together, my belly - healthy and swollen with noms so naughty but tasting so nice. Now I just wear a loose fitting skirt and no one knows any better.
The potato salad is wonderful when shared on a beautiful, breezy evening, dining al fresco …
BBQ season is ramping up, and I do try to attend all events before sweating season begins (July-August can be dicey if access to a hose or sprinkler is not within reach). It’s not all about the shvitzing, and my inability to carry on a conversation when doing so - it also has to do with showing up with a food item that looks appetizing. Mushy pies, blech. Warm fruit salad, heave. Leave those items up to the host.
Summer BBQ’s are fun, there’s no doubt, but who likes hot potato salad? Coleslaw? Macaroni salad?
Dubious you just whispered to yourself, “why I do.” And if you did, that’s pretty gross.
Eating hot, mayonaise laden summer salads is only something I thought about doing because I wanted to get violently ill the night before my parents were shipping me off to Born Again Christian sleep away camp. I was 9 and we were and are not Born Again Christians. It was free to send me away. More on that later.
I know this is going to sound crazy when it falls on the ears and eyes of my fellow Americans, but mayonaise - when applied to any food item in bulk - grosses me out - particularly in the summertime.
Creamy white, thick and tangy lobs of mayonaise coating vegetables that will be subject to sit outside on a picnic table, showered by the strong summer sun for hours …
No thanks, I’ll pass.
Roasted asparagus became my side salad alternative for the last BBQ I attended. I topped the asparagus with fried shallots, pecorino and lemon zest - it was simple to plate and bring along. As I watched folks dig into the asparagus, I wasn’t cringing - no, no - I was delighting in my fresh side salad choice. No one would be food poisoned, not on my watch.
If you’re equipped with a grill, you’re in luck. If you’re not so fortunate, this will only take 10-15 minutes of oven time. Using a cast iron grill pan on your stove top is also an option. The asparagus should not grill/roast for too long, no one likes mushy, long green things in their mouth.
The secret to a smart summer side is below.
Roasted Asparagus with Fried Shallots & Pecorino
1 lb. bunch of asparagus (trim/shave down the ends)
2 T. olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3-4 shallots (sliced)
Vegetable oil (enough to fill the bottom of a wok to deep fry)
1/4 c. grated pecorino
2 tsp. lemon zest
-Preheat oven to 450 degrees / place grill pan on stove top over medium high flame
-Coat asparagus in olive oil
-Roast / grill for 10-15 minutes, asparagus should be crisp
-Put aside and toss with salt and pepper
-Heat vegetable oil, deep frying shallots in small batches - total fry time is about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes
-Drain shallots on a paper towel
-Plate asparagus, top with shallots, pecorino and lemon zest
-Applaude yourself for even attempting to cook in the heat and not taking the easy way out by going to some bootleg deli to pick up some crappy side no one would want to eat anyway
Eggplant & Potato Curry
Recipe follows story
Inspired by my gastronomic jaunt to Canarsie, and many amazing conversations with a few shop and restaurant owners, I prepared a Guyanese holiday dinner. The main portion of my meal was meaty, which wouldn’t necessarily work as two of my guests were vegetarians.
Orin Small, owner of Smally West Indian Market in Canarsie, gave me quite the education in Guyanese cuisine, how it was influenced by colonization as well as other cultures that made their way in. He noted lo mein and fried rice as being two mainstays in Guyanese home cooking and vegetables such as eggplant, Chinese long beans along with okra and cassava are also popular. I had no shortage of vegetables to choose from, but I needed to figure out a recipe that would qualify them under the umbrella of this meal. Smally orchestrated my Guyanese meal and gave me the makings for solid vegetarian sides of plantains and coconut rice, but I was left to my own devices for the main fare.
A trip to the Tastee Pattee Bakery & Grill, led me to opening my dessert choice to Jamaican rock cakes so the recipe for my vegetarian dish needn’t be exclusively Guyanese.
I broadened my recipe search and found inspiration on caribbeanpot.com.
Chris, of caribbeanpot.com, is cooking up food memories from Trinidad and Tobago and his recipe for potato and eggplant curry looked promising.
Eggplant is hearty and meaty and, when coupled with potatoes, makes a completely soul and belly stuffing meal. It’s no hot pepperpot stew, but I hoped this vegetable pairing would provide my non-meaty friends with a substantially satisfying substitute.
I took Chris’ recipe and improvised based on ingredients I had in the house and bits of the main meal that I already had prepared.
I swapped out water for coconut milk and instead of cooking the eggplant down with the potatoes, I scored it, stuffed it with garlic and roasted it in the oven until it was completely broken down. Roasting any vegetable greatly increases its flavor. The browner and more caramelized a vegetable, the more intense flavor you will get from it, so I started there.
And here’s where I landed …
Potato & Eggplant Curry
makes 5-6 servings
1 large eggplant
6 cloves of garlic (peeled and each clove sliced in thirds)
1/4 c. vegetable oil
3T. curry powder
2 tsp. all spice
1 large sweet onion (diced)
6 white potatoes (peeled and cubed)
1 14 oz. can of coconut milk + equal parts water (use water if necessary)
1 T. green seasoning
2 wiri wiri peppers (de-seeded)
Salt to taste
-Preheat oven to 400 degrees
-Score eggplant and stuff with garlic
-Place eggplant on a baking sheet and roast for 45-50 minutes until eggplant is collapsed
-Put aside to cool
-Once cool, slice eggplant open and scrape out the flesh and garlic and put aside in a bowl
-To a large skillet (that has some depth), over medium heat, add oil, curry powder and all spice and mix until a paste is formed
-Add onions and coat with the curry, cooking for 7-8 minutes
-Add potatoes and toss to coat, cooking for an additional 10 minutes
-Add eggplant and toss to coat
-Pour in coconut milk and additional water if necessary (potatoes should be covered)
-Add green seasoning and spices and allow pot to simmer
-Lower flame, being careful to watch the pot so the potatoes do not stick to the bottom of the spot, and cook for 40-45 minutes until potatoes are fork tender
-Serve over plain rice or eat alone
Coconut Peas and Rice
Fried fish with green seasoning
Recipes follow story
One of my biggest crushes in this life, bigger than my crush on Kate Winslet, Hugh Jackman and apple crumb pie a la mode …
Aubrey Leander DeSilva.
Who is Aubrey Leander DeSilva?
My first crush. Aubrey lived across the street from me and his house directly faced my back yard. From his garage, and from my grandpas garden, we would talk on the phone, every day, after school. He was 14 and I was 12. He was Guyanese, he dj’d, he could dance - and I was chubby and self-conscious. He would tell me I had beautiful hair, he would always ask me what I was reading whenever he saw me shuffling around with a book. He was a dream.
When I stepped off of the L train and set foot on Rockaway Parkway 2 weekends ago, I wondered where Aubrey was. I wished he would be waiting in front of the library for me, where he used to pick me up after school, but no such luck.
I walked past the library, past Canarsie High School, past bodegas where I would buy cigarettes for 10 cents a piece.
I arrived at Avenue L, where I would go to the movies, eat a slice, then eat an icey, then gobble down a pastry.
This time around I didn’t have a slice, icey or pastry, my friend and I closed in a little West Indian market between 94th and 95th Street - that is after we stuffed ourselves on Jamaican food for lunch.
Orin Small is originally from Guyana and has lived in Canarsie for the past 16 years and he opened his specialty West Indian Food Market 12 years ago. His motivation; one day his wife sent him out to purchase mixed essence, and there was none to be found in the neighborhood. Mixed essence contains vanilla, pear oil, almond oil, pineapple and caramel - among some other flavors - and from what I learned, it’s a key ingredient in black cake or rum cake a traditional holiday treat enjoyed in Guyana and throughout the Caribbean. Orin Small saw this as an opportunity to build a go to market in Canarsie, where residents could seek out ingredients to make meals they would always enjoy at home.
Standing close by Orin was his son, Roland. Roland Small may only be 15 years old, but he knows a thing or two about making a sale and giving cooking tutorials.
For the child who is raised among family meals and a culture rooted in the tradition of cooking, sharing memories of food will always be the first thing on their mind. Well, at least that’s the case for me and Roland.
I walked out of the store on Saturday night, learning how to make the Small’s version of Guyanese green seasoning, as they prepare it in their own home.
It was recommended that I use this green seasoning on any kind of white fish and then fry it up, until the rub gets crispy. The Small’s enjoy their fried fish with coconut peas and rice or plantains, and they also shared their recipe for brown gravy.
Going back to Canarsie didn’t land me in the arms of my childhood crush, it brought me back to my only love - my kitchen.
*makes 2 cups
1 T. oil
1 medium onion (diced)
1 bunch scallions (diced)
1/2 pint grape tomatoes (halved)
3 cloves of garlic (minced)
3 wiri wiri peppers (minced)
3/4 c. water
1 c. Miracle Seasoning
-In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium flame
-Add onions and scallions, sauteing until fragrant about 5-7 minutes
-Add garlic, tomatoes and wiri wiri pepper - and cook for an additional 10-12 minutes, stirring frequently
-Add Miracle Seasoning and bring to a boil
-Put aside until fish is fried and ready to serve
*rub for 8 filets
1/3 c. dried broad leaf thyme
1/3 c. dried fine leaf thyme
1/2 c. fresh basil
2 cloves garlic
3 wiri wiri pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
8 pieces of butter fish (or any white fleshed fish filet)
3 T. vegetable oil
-In a food processor, fit with a steel blade, add first 7 ingredients and pulse until blended
-Rub green seasoning on fish and put aside
-Add oil to a large skillet, and place over medium flame, frying rubbed fish - in batches - cooking for approximately 3 minutes on each side (depending on thickness/size of filet)
-Top with brown gravy or serve on the side
5 green plantains
Vegetable oil for frying
-Soak plantains in scalding hot water for 7-10 minutes, for ease of peeling
-Fill a medium sauce pan, halfway, with oil and place over medium flame - allowing to reach 375 degrees
-If you do not have a thermometer or a deep fryer, test the oil by tossing in a piece of plantain, and if it floats to the top within moments - you’re good to start frying
-Trim top of plantain, make a slice through the skin of the plantain - lengthwise - and remove skin
-Cut plantains in half
-Using a mandolin, if you have one, slice lengthwise into long strips
-If you do not own a mandolin, make lengthwise slices or slice plantain into thin rounds
-Add plantains to the hot oil, frying in batches, until deep golden brown
Coconut Peas and Rice
2 c. parboiled rice
1 c. yellow split peas
1 14 oz can coconut milk
1 1/4 c. water
1 small onion (diced)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
-To a large stock pot, add peas, rice, diced onion, coconut milk, salt and pepper
-Place pot over a low flame and cover
-Cook until all liquid is completely absorbed
-Serve with fried, herb rubbed, white fish
Split Pea Soup
Rich in memory are those places from the past that can never be revisited. -Rilke
Every Saturday, pretty much religiously, throughout childhood and my more formative teenage years, I would go grocery shopping with my mom and dad. Mom would leave to start her day of work at the bakery at 6:30am and got off at 1pm. Full of flour and wearing a Bread Box smock or a John’s Bakery three button polo shirt, depending upon where she worked, she would come barreling out of said bakery bearing loaves of bread, cookies, and my absolute favorite - the concha roll.
The concha roll: A Mexican, shell shaped sweet roll topped with sugar paste.
The sugar paste is textured and is of a dough like consistency, and it is delicious. And while my father drove - all over creation - my mother didn’t drive and still doesn’t - from one end of Brooklyn to the other - I picked on the one concha my mother would allow me to have. One by one, I removed the sugar paste dough patches from the top of the sweet roll my mother gave me. After 20 minutes, the roll was naked, stripped bare of it’s sugary coating. I held a roll topped with holes, which then meant it was time to gobble up the remains of the actual roll. I would no doubt finish my concha in 5 solid bites.
There was a lot of driving involved on these Saturday food shopping expeditions. I didn’t spend much time with my mom and dad during the week - between my mom working at the bakery and running to hospital appointments with Thomas and my dad’s late nights as a truck driver. I went food shopping because I wanted to be close to them, and the conchas were a serious bonus. And there was another very alluring food item that I couldn’t wait to slurp up and I knew it would always come mid-way through our Saturday grocery shopping expedition.
We traveled from the fuit and vegetable stands on Ave. U to 14th Ave. and 18th Ave. to make individual stops for pastas, bread (because we needed more bread) and dad’s coffee. Queen Ann Ravioli, Pastosa Ravioli - it’s all melded in my mind as one giant flour based blur.
After all of this running around from store to store, climbing in and out of the ‘91 Plymouth Voyager, one lone concha was not holding me over. Shopping with Evelyn was what I imagine shopping with Mussolini would be like. I was never on any formal sports teams, but climbing in and out of that car and carrying grocery bags in the pouring rain was aerobic and quite athletic for my very tired, very chubby appendages.
By 3pm I would crash. Two hours of in and out of stores. My mother hadn’t eaten since breakfast at 5:30am, I wondered: how does she do this? She can’t be real, she’s a machine. She was running on buttered semolina toast and a mug of milk tea. She never ate at work. She didn’t even touch a concha on our car ride from store to store. I didn’t think this was normal. I still have trouble believing this is normal. Mid-way through breakfast I’m usually talking about or planning lunch. My mother worked, and still works, like a machine.
And just when I would hit my hunger wall, Dad would pull into the parking lot at Patrina’s Diner.
I knew, soon enough, I would be sated.
Patrina’s Diner on 18th Ave and New Utrecht. How I wish it never closed down.
Saturday was split pea soup day at Patrina’s. I knew a cup, or a bowl of pea soup was almost in my tummy the moment we pulled into that rinky dink parking lot. Surely my dad wouldn’t not go. My dad had a hunger fury much like I did, so I knew we would stop in at the diner at some point, but the difference between getting that pea soup in my belly at 2:45 vs. 3:15 was epic. My mom, dad and myself, would sit - us 3, no brothers or mean comments about my tubbiness - and each eat our prized bowls of Patrina’s pea soup.
Last Saturday, I made a large pot. I imagined I was a kid. I imagined myself in a cotton turtleneck and sweatpants, my Saturday best. I sat down to soup, after racing through Astoria, buying my meat, my bread, my pasta and my fruit. All at separate stores, just like I was taught. As I sat down at my kitchen table, exhausted but so much stronger than I was as a child, I ate my pea soup with Nancy.
I pictured my mom and dad sitting in the empty chairs that occupied the space around the table on either side of us.
Split Pea Soup
1 bag Goya green split peas
1 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
8 oz. bacon or ham steak (cut into bite sized pieces)
2 large onions (diced)
2 cloves of garlic (minced)
5 medium carrots (cut into rounds, not too large)
10 c. water
3 large sprigs of thyme
3 dried bay leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
-Place a large cast iron pot or stock pot over a medium flame and add butter, olive oil and bacon
-Cook for 10 minutes, add onions, carrots and garlic and saute for an additional 10-12 minutes
-Add peas and coat with vegetables and bacon
-Add water, and herbs and bring to a boil, lower heat and let simmer with the cover on until peas are completely broken down - about 1 hour - and add salt and pepper
-Remove bay leaves and thyme stems
-Serve hot, with buttery croutons, in tiny cups, and pretend you’re young again
Pumpkin & Acorn Squash Soup
This soup is the brain child of a large, uncarved pumpkin - and one too many acorn squashes I bought at the market. I don’t carve pumpkins. What was I thinking? I cook things, I don’t carve them. Often times I purchase food with the best intentions, and many of my meals come by way of items lying fallow in my fridge or on my kitchen counter. Much like myself, these bodacious beauties were waiting to be loved. I relate to my vegetables. I relate to the roundness of a pumpkin and the misshapen nature of the acorn squash. I feel for all vegetables large, awkward and in need of a little butter and sweetness to make them come alive. This kitchen concoction was made with a lot of love, 1/3 cup of maple syrup, shallots and freshly grated nutmeg.
Details right here.
3 medium acorn squashes (peeled and cubed)
1 pumpkin (4-5 lbs + flesh removed from skin and cubed)
6 shallots (minced)
6 T. butter
1 qt. chicken stock
1/3 c. maple syrup
1 whole piece of nutmeg
1/4 c. half & half
1/2 can of pumpkin (for added thickness if you feel so inclined)
-Heat the butter in a large soup pot over medium-high heat and add the shallots, stirring occasionally, until soft and fragrant, about 8 minutes
-Add in the acorn squash, pumpkin and broth and bring to a boil
-Add maple syrup, nutmeg and canned pumpkin
-Lower the heat and simmer for 45-50 minutes
-Remove from the heat and, using an immersion blender, or working in batches, transfer the mixture to a blender and puree until smooth
-Whisk the half & half and salt into the soup and season with pepper to taste
-Divide among warm soup bowls and NOM immediately - with homemade buttery croutons and spiced pumpkin seeds
Recipe was adapted from Food Network Kitchens
For this round of tomato bisque, I cut out the bacon and substituted the heavy cream for half & half. I love bacon. Life is better with bacon, but it’s not always necessary. I didn’t think this soup warranted bacon flavor/undertones, nor did I want it to be too creamy. Sometimes the overuse of heavy cream really freaks me out and screams heart attack at my formerly even larger booty. I know, it’s a bisque and bisques are supposed to be rich, but even I have limits. I wanted the tomato to be the hero for this here soup - and the tweaks did the trick.
4 T. unsalted butter
4 shallots (chopped)
1 carrot (chopped)
1 stalk celery (chopped)
4 cloves garlic (minced)
5 T. Wondra flour
5 c. low-sodium chicken stock
1 28 oz. can whole, peeled tomatoes (with liquid and roughly chopped)
6 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
1/2 c. half & half
1/2 c. fat free half & half
1 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
-Heat the butter in a large soup pot over medium-high heat and add the shallots, carrots, celery, and garlic and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until soft and fragrant, about 8 minutes
-Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes
-Pour in the broth and tomatoes and bring to a boil while whisking constantly
-Tie the thyme and bay leaf together with a piece of kitchen twine and add to the pot
-Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes
-Remove from the heat and allow to cool
-When the soup base is cool, remove and discard the herb bundle
-Using an immersion blender, or working in batches, transfer the mixture to a blender and puree until smooth
-Using a sieve over a large bowl, strain the tomato puree
-Return the puree to the pot and reheat over medium heat
-Whisk the half & half and salt into the soup and season with pepper to taste
-Divide among warm soup bowls and serve immediately