I’d like to dedicate this post to my sister-in-law Manuela . . .
A few weeks ago my baby sitter was in a car accident. She is fine, though suffered a bit of whiplash from the impact of the airbag. While the pain abated pretty quickly, her doctor informed her that it would be at least four weeks until she could drive again.
Of course timing is everything, and my husband and I were schedule to fly down to Miami for our once yearly “alone” vacation. I have three kids, in three different schools and only one gets a bus. That means I need two drivers everyday just to get everyone home from school.
Some years if we had to cancel our trip it would be a bummer, but okay. This year I was desperately in need of some time away and had been counting down the last one hundred days, knowing that salvation was just around the corner. I sat down and cried when I realized the trip wasn’t going to happen. I really needed it. I was tired, overwhelmed, and unable to offer anyone anything but the worst version of myself. Then, in a cloud of magic dust, my fairy sister-in-law walks in.
Zio Christian, zia Manuela, and my delicious niece and nephew were in town visiting us for the Thanksgiving holiday. I am very lucky to have such wonderful family and truly love spending time with them.
I was in such dire straights I just blurt out one morning to Manuela “Please, please, please stay for a few extra days and take care of my kids. Please, help me out, please”! Yes, I was begging. She just chuckled, and like the loving person she is, smiled and said “of course”.
I could not be more grateful to her for her selflessness and generosity. She sent her husband home with her kids to LA, so that she could stay in New York with my children. Everyone ended up having a wonderful time (including my husband and I), and this storm cloud ended up having a silver lining. Even my baby sitter felt better (I think she was secretly thrilled to have me away for a few days and that alone made the pain more manageable). Even our friends pitched in to schlep my kids from activity to activity. So while my sister-in-law was definitely my savior, I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who helped us out. Manuela, please remember you have a free pass from me, anytime, anywhere. Grazie mille!
6-8 vine-ripened tomatoes, large dice
1 fennel bulb, reserve the fennel fronds (the leafy top that looks like dill), large slices
1 small, brown onion, large dice
2-3 cloves of garlic, whole
3-tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
½ cup heavy cream
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, Sriracha, or Tabasco sauce (you can always add more!)
1-tablespoon dill fronds, minced
2 slices bead, small dice
1-tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
Pre-heat the to 400 degrees. In a medium sized bowl add the tomatoes, fennel, onion, garlic, oil, oregano, salt and pepper. Mix it around so all the vegetables are evenly coated. Spread the vegetables onto a rimmed cookie sheet lined with a silpat. Roast them for about 30 minutes.
Remove the vegetables from the oven and add them to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times until you have a smooth consistency with a bit of texture. Be mindful that the vegetables are very hot. Add the balsamic vinegar, taste, and adjust the seasoning.
In a medium sized bowl add all the ingredients for the spicy whipped cream. Using a hand blender, whip until stiff peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Heat a medium sized frying pan. Add the oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. When hot, add the diced bread. Toss the bread a few times and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until the bread is toasted.
Serve the soup hot with the whipped cream, croutons, and bits of fennel frond.