Sunday, 6 July 2014

Andy Warhol | Roasted Tomato and Pepper Soup

As the story goes, it was American art expert, gallery owner and erotic author Muriel Latow who gave Andy Warhol the original idea to paint Campbell's Soup Cans by suggesting 'something you see everyday and something that everybody would recognize. Something like a can of Campbell's Soup.'

Warhol's artwork, consisting of thirty-two canvas paintings each depicting a particular tinned soup variety offered by the company at the time, was shown for the first time in July 1962 in Los Angeles, California. The exhibition marked the debut of pop art as a significant art movement. The semi-mechanised process of production, the non-painterly style and the commercial subject were in contrast to the fine art values but also the mystical idealism towards which abstract expressionism was veering.

Warhol's pop art changed the concept of art appreciation and showed that 'the most banal and even vulgar trappings of modern civilization can, when transposed to canvas, become Art'. What I find so interesting about Warhol's paintings is that they not only offer a positive view of popular culture, so often ignored or derided in so-called 'high art', but they also challenge the idealism of art and, for that matter, of food representation. 

It's the same idealism we find in food images today. Not content to remain on the surface, the image becomes an aestheticised and idealised promotional tool; it promises to uplift, to reveal lost meanings, to revert to obscure origins,  to offer an almost mystical understanding of life that is as puritanical as it is naive. And the paradox, or rather irony of it, is that it often is every bit as commercial as the industrial processes it professes to criticise.

When I started this blog, my initial intention was to bring together two great loves of mine, literature and food, creating so to speak a virtual symposium where fragments of thoughts and ideas would be interwoven with threads of culinary experiences. I have found the format I have adopted so far, that of linking a specific dish with its literary reference quite fascinating but somewhat restrictive, if not repetitive, and I would like to broaden the range by creating new alliances between food and different aspects of culture.

~ Roasted Tomato and Pepper Soup ~

This soup captures the intensity of summer when tomatoes are at their ripest and most flavoursome. It is one of my favourites and I love the vividness of its colour and the depth of its flavour. You can of course make it all year round but you should use fresh tomatoes rather than tinned. If you can't get ripe tomatoes, you can ripen them at home by leaving them at room temperature for a couple of days.

10-12 medium ripe tomatoes
5-6 cherry tomatoes
1 red + 1 orange pepper
1 red onion
2 shallots
1 garlic clove
6-8 leaves fresh basil
¼ tsp dried basil
Parmesan shavings
virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
700 ml vegetable sock
100 ml chicken stock*

(*You can replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock.)

Serves 4-6

Heat the oven to 200 C.

Cut the tomatoes in quarters or halves, leaving the skin on. Peel and cut the red onion in quarters, halve the shallots and cut the peppers in chunky pieces. Slice the garlic but not too thinly.

Arrange all vegetables in a roasting tin, drizzle with virgin olive oil, sprinkle liberally with dried basil, and season with salt and pepper. Scatter some Parmesan shavings.

Bake in the oven for about 45-50 minutes, taking care not to burn the vegetables, until the tomatoes and peppers are soft enough to have their skin  peeled off but they still retain their shape.

When the vegetables have roasted, put the vegetable and chicken stock into a large pot and bring to a light boil until it starts to bubble, then simmer.

In the meantime, take the roasted vegetables out of the oven. Skin the tomatoes and peppers carefully so as to retain the flesh and put aside.

Add the skinned vegetables to the stock together with what is left  the roasting tin scraping all bits and adding a little water to get all the juices. Add the fresh basil leaves. Place the skin from the tomatoes and peppers in a fine sieve over the pot and mesh to release any juices and flesh left.

Give the mixture a swirl and let it bubble a couple of times. Remove from the heat and, using a blender, whiz until coarse. For a smoother texture, whiz until finely blended. Taste for more seasoning. Return to the heat for a few more minutes.

Serve with bread and garnished with grated parmesan and a basil leaf.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post. Lovely dish. Looking forward to the future evolution of the blog and to suppers to come.