What’s the best part about writing? For me, it’s revision. Specifically when that one unexpected, tiny detail—an added comment in an exchange of dialogue or a freshly described physical gesture—just emerges in the process. It's so easy and obvious that it seems like it should have been there all along, and yet it instantly makes everything else on the page work. I’ll admit it: I love this moment because it’s nothing short of a straight-up narcotic rush. (Never mind that the rest of the ms. needs some serious overhauling, or that my sudden conviction that I’m a GENIUS is pure delusion.)
It's the same with cooking. Taking an existing recipe and adding a new flourish or twist to it can make you feel like a magician. A few summers ago, I came across this no-cook soup in a NY Times article by Melissa Clark. It basically involves salting tomatoes until they break down into a broth. Simple, and brilliant, right? Then she adds a scoop of ricotta cheese and some capers for added texture, color and interest.
The other day I had a bunch of tomatoes left over from my farm share, so I decided to make this soup. My revision was to add some basil oil instead of the capers, using the herbs from my yard that have exploded in the past couple of weeks. Small difference, but it changed the soup, making it more aromatic and brighter-tasting where the capers made it earthy and tart. Now I won’t say it was GENIUS, but it was pretty good.
Instant Tomato Soup
½ cup fresh basil leaves (packed)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound ripe tomatoes, cored and cubed
A large pinch of coarse sea salt
½ cup top-quality ricotta, lightly broken into clumps
1. Make the basil oil: Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add basil and blanch for 10 seconds. Rinse under cold water and pat dry. Transfer to blender, and oil. Puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
2. Make soup: In a medium bowl, combine tomatoes and salt. Let sit 5 minutes. Gently scatter ricotta on top. (Do not stir in.) Drizzle with basil oil and serve.