Monday, October 19, 2009

Domatosoupa

Domatosoupa: If you split the word in two you will have domata, or tomato, and soupa, or soup. Hence, tomato soup. This soup tortured me throughout my childhood. Although I had no problem eating tomatoes, and although I especially loved them in a salad, there was something about the idea of consuming liquid tomatoes that inspired the gag reflex in me. If tomato soup was on the menu, come dinner time, I would exhibit a heretofore nonexistent piety by declaring that I was in the midst of a religious fast. Was I believed? No! Was I forced to eat the soup? Yes! Actually, and ironically, and unbeknownst to me at the time, domatosoupa is a great dish to eat when you're fasting, and in our family circle it was often made for such an occasion. It was a favorite of my aunt Catherine's, who had taken over the cooking duties at my grandparents' farmhouse. During Easter and summer vacations I would be sent to stay at that farmhouse, which was located in Northwestern Greece, in the busy little village of Prosotsani.


Prosotsani, situated at the foothills of Mount Phalakros (photograph from wikipedia.org). Mount Phalakros means bald mountain, because only a limited amount of vegetation can grow there. It's made up of a thin layer of soil underneath which there is solid marble.

I loved to spend time there and I have innumerable blissful memories: running in the fields with cousins and friends, hiding among the tobacco plants, riding horses, riding donkeys, feeding chickens, bringing freshly laid eggs into the kitchen. Yet, next to all the blissful memories, I have an unpleasant one that still haunts me. It is that of being forced to eat my aunt's domatosoupa. There was something acutely atrocious about that tomato soup. Could it have been the fact that my aunt never peeled her tomatoes before she threw them into the pot? Yes!!! During cooking the skin would separate from the tomatoes and swim in the pot, becoming an extra and totally unnecessary ingredient. At dinner, pieces of tomato skin would be ladled into my bowl along with soup. It was impossible to eat a spoonful without swallowing those evil tomato skins. As they slid into my mouth and slithered their way toward my pharynx two things would happen. I would gag and then I would scream while simultaneously spitting out my food. Not a very pleasant dinner companion was I. My aunt would insist that I finish my meal. Looking down at my bowl I would realize that the tomato skins were still there. They would be floating next to a collection of rice kernels, another key ingredient in my aunt's domatosoupa. Even though I love, love, love rice now, as a kid I stayed away from it. Tomato skins and rice? A double curse! Starve me, banish me, just don't feed me domatosoupa, was my philosophy back then. I hadn't eaten domatosoupa in ages. Furthermore, any tomatoes I use in cooking must be meticulously peeled. I avoid tomato soup and tomato juice. I do, however, enjoy the occasional Bloody Mary! Recently, while leafing through the pages of an old Greek cookbook, I came across a recipe for domatosoupa. I wondered if I should make it, just to see if I will like it now. I decided to give it a try, and I was pleasantly surprised.  I loved it!  But, after all, I cooked it without tomato skins.

Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 bunch of scallions chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, chopped
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 4 cups low salt chicken broth
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 1/2 cup orzo
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
Directions
  1. Cook the orzo according to package directions until done "al dente," and reserve.
  2. In a large pot, heat the olive oil and saute the scallions, celery and onion, until the onion is translucent. Add the tomatoes, garlic, salt and pepper.  Cook for two minutes, stirring.
  3. Add the all the broth and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Add the rice and continue simmering for another 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender. 
  5. Once the rice is tender, add the cooked pasta and parsley and ladle into bowls. Sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese and serve.

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