Here at The Ordinary, we have an institute devoted entirely to the study of winter light. Though time is flying and the days are short, the season can feel very long. It is easy to succumb to feelings of sleepiness or downright discouragement, this time of year. But in our extensive field research, we have discovered a certain light that feels hopeful. We have, of course, taken samples, and we have them percolating in our underground laboratories, where they bubble and glow in test tubes and petri dishes, illuminating the gloom. We feel that we are approaching a breakthrough in our studies that will allow us to declare that this hopeful light is instrumental in helping us all make it through the winter months. You can keep your “golden hour,” and your “tropical sunsets” and your showy, “aurora borealis,” we’ve got a few minutes of clarity in a murky season, and we’ll take it, dammit! This light can occur at different intervals throughout the day, late in the morning, when the sun finally breaks through the dull grey blanket of clouds and washes the world with light. It might show up in early afternoon and lure you out of your house, cheering you with a brief moment of something very close to warmth. In late afternoon it’s the most fleeting, raising your spirits almost as they fall and follow the sun into dusky pink shadows. The light is cold and clear and slanting, like pale white gold, and you almost feel that if you watch it long enough you’ll see it grow warmer and stronger. It’s a memory and a promise. Attempts to bottle this light for use as a restorative tonic have proven fruitless, so you’ll have to take it as it comes, and rejoice in the fact that it comes more often, and longer, as the days creep by.
This soup is also like a memory. It’s got the flavors of summer – tomatoes and herbs and arugula, juicy, piquant, and warm. It will remind you of ripe rich tomatoes with basil and mozzarella, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic, that you ate every single day in August. But it’s made with wintery supplies such as you might amass if you were snowed in, living in a cabin on the edge of a mountain – a good can of diced tomatoes, some dried herbs, baby arugula from a bag, some frozen green peas. I made it with a mix of fresh and dried herbs…I had some fresh tarragon and rosemary, and I cut back the sad thyme plant in my garden and used the last of those fresh leaves, but I used dried oregano and sage. You can use any herbs you like or have growing in your windows. The soup is light and pleasant, and if you top it with a bit of grated mozzarella, it’s comforting and filling, as well.
Here’s A Summer Wasting from Belle and Sebastian
Summer in winter,
Winter in springtime,
You heard the birds sing:
Everything will be fine.
2 T olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
rosemary, thyme, basil, sage, tarragon, oregano, or any herbs you have and like, fresh or dried, to taste (as a suggestion, about 1 t dried or 2 t fresh) If using fresh, you can save them to add at the end.
2 cans good diced tomatoes (I suggest hunts fire-roasted diced)
1 cup frozen tiny green peas
2 T butter
2 t balsamic vinegar (or to taste)
2 cups baby arugula, chopped
salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper
grated mozzarella, to serve
In a large soup pot over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the shallot, stir and fry for about a minute, then add the garlic and the herbs and stir and fry for half a minute more. Add the tomatoes, stir to mix everything, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for ten or fifteen minutes.
Add the butter and balsamic and puree till smooth but still with a little texture.
Return to the pan. Add the peas. Cook till warmed through, about five minutes. Add the arugula, cook till warm and wilted, after a minute or two, and serve.
Garnish with grated mozzarella and eat with warm crusty bread, if you have it.