tomato + brown rice soup with crumbled sausage

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Yesterday was a dark day. The sort of day where you want to draw all the blinds and burrow under the covers. I was at work when I received the results of my initial bloodwork (celiac coming next week, kids!) and my food sensitivities have been confirmed: gluten, dairy, yeast. Essentially, every food product in AMERICA. I spent the bulk of the day despondent, in a fog, trying to make sense of this–how I went from monthly stomach pains and sickness to hives and food elimination–and more importantly, trying to wrap my head around the fact that this seismic shift affects me in ways I never imagined.

I’m a baker. I love yeasty loaves and plump muffins. Baking gave my hands something to do, kept me occupied during my darkest hours. The alchemy of it, the wonder I felt watching dough rise through the small window of my oven, gave me comfort. And now, all of it, is in ruins. My kitchen appeared tainted, bruised, having just survived a purging of all gluten products, and now this. I needed to spend yesterday mourning the loss of the simple joy that only white flour, sugar, and butter can bring. I didn’t need to hear: there are options! you are strong! be positive!

Why is it that we always race to brand a smile on someone’s face? Why is it that we’re afraid to watch someone sit quietly in their sadness, albeit for a little while? There is always this curious rush to solve, to correct, to fix, when all I wanted to do was sit in front of my computer, work, and say, this sucks for a few hours. Allow people trespass to their sadness–you’re not helping if you try to immediately diminish the weight of it.

I came home defeated, and decided to make this soup. It was delicious, comforting, filling –until I discovered that the chicken stock I used contained yeast extract, and so began the nighttime itch.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to slowly sit with this adjustment. I’m going to have to be more diligent about reading labels. I’ll have to be inventive, patient, and curious. I’ll have to buy books and read new blogs. I’ll have to play this as it lays.

No gluten, dairy, and yeast for at least nine months. I’m going to need to sit with this.

INGREDIENTS (all local/organic)
2 large beefsteak or vine tomatoes
1 28oz can of San Marzano crushed tomatoes
1 quart of chicken (or vegetable) broth
1 Italian sausage link, crumbled out of the casing
1 large yellow onion, rough chop
4-6 fat garlic cloves, rough chop
2 cups of basil (in season only; tonight I opted to nix this)
1 tbsp of olive oil
1/2 cup brown rice
Salt/pepper to season and taste

DIRECTIONS
De-seed and dice the tomatoes (no need to get all exact about this. My rule of thumb is to cut everything the same size so as everything cooks evenly). Chop the onions & dice the garlic. In a large saucepan, add the olive oil. Add the onions, garlic with pinches of salt & pepper. Cook for 3 minutes on medium-high heat. You’ll notice that the onions are translucent and soft. Add the sausage and cook for another 5-6 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

Once the mixture has softened, add the can of San Marzano tomatoes and the broth. Bring the mixture to a boil. Add the salt and pepper to season, and stir for 1-2 minutes. Bring the heat down to medium. Cover the pot with a lid and cook for 15-20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, add the fresh basil. You are ready to blitz! I have an immersion blender (one of the best investments I’ve made since I cook a lot of soup), which I recommend. Blend to smooth. Alternatively, you can blend this in batches in the blender. Warning: when blending hot liquids make sure you fill the blender only half-way & cover the lid with a towel and press down. This will prevent a steam/liquid explosion. After the soup is smooth, return the mixture to the pot. It will look watery! No worries, the starches released from the brown rice will serve to thicken the soup. Add the brown rice and cook for another 20 minutes.

In a medium skillet or grill pan, grill up bits of a sausage until well-done.

Ladle into bowls + serve with the crumbled sausage, olive oil and fresh basil. The soup will store wonderfully in an airtight container for a week.

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