An unusual and mild Indian soup streaked through with bits of toasty, fiery dried red chilies makes a perfect starter for meals of any stripe. Serve in smaller portions due to overall richness (though we suspect guests will politely request second helpings). The photo below doesn't do justice to the soup's serene, lovely color. Best of you can whip this up effortlessly and in mere minutes. Note: if you don't have curry leaves on hand, for heaven's sake grab a few bags and store indefinitely in freezer.
If you can find amazing tomatoes in the peak of their seasonal prime, by all means use 4 large beefsteak ones. (You'll need to peel them first however). Otherwise start with 8 canned plum tomatoes and add them to a blender along with 1/2 t. cumin seeds (toasted first if you have the time) and 1 t. kosher salt. Blend until smooth. Now add the puree to a deep saucepan. Stir in 1 cup water and simmer on medium heat for 20 minutes. Add 1 14-oz. can of coconut milk, stir well and simmer for 5 more minutes.
While the soup simmers heat 1 T. vegetable oil in a small skillet until very hot. Add 14 or so curry leaves, 1/2 t. black mustard seeds and 2 dried red chilies, torn into small pieces. Cover the skillet and once the mustard seeds have finished "popping" add to the soup pot. Taste for salt and adjust if needed. Season with black pepper and serve hot. Chopped cilantro makes a nice but optional garnish.