There is nothing like a fresh summer tomato, the sweetness they take on from the sun, and the delicate flavor that can’t be duplicated in the supermarket varieties available year round. I was a little bit late this year in realizing I could in fact relive the joy of summer tomatoes and produce as long as I got some soup in the freezer, but luckily found some beautiful organic heirloom tomatoes thanks to the long growing season here in the pacific northwest. If you are back east, I hope you canned, froze, or dehydrated some of your summer bounty (or the bounty of your local farmer) to warm you this winter as you dream of summer sun.
Now, remember what I said in the bone broth post– I love cooking but unless I am baking, or making something where a recipe is key, I take joy in estimating measurements, tasting as I go, and looking for inspiration if I can’t get it quite right. Let it all go, allow cooking to be an adventure and enjoy the process. Depending on your personality, this can be a much more fun way to spend time in the kitchen.
This week, my love of summer tomatoes prompted me to make a soup that would capture my favorite summer flavors. Sweet basil, juicy peppers, spicy rosemary, and pungent chive and red onion. When it feels like the rain and gray are never ending, I am missing the New England snow, and I am cranky and listless without being able to cavort in the sun I can pull this soup out of the freezer and be warm, nourished, and full of summer.
I did this recipe mostly in the crockpot, and if you are pressed for time you could eliminate the roasting and pan cooking of the onions/garlic but the slow oven roast imparts a deep, rich, subtly smoky sweet flavor that I advise capturing. I also made a huge batch so I could enjoy it in the present, and freeze in portions for future lunches and dinners, but adapt to your needs. This tomato soup is nothing like Campbells, and I have an inkling you will want lots!
- 6 pounds sweet, colorful love bombs (aka heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, plum tomatoes, etc)
- 3-5 sweet peppers (Red, yellow, orange, green- your call!)
- 4 big cloves of garlic
- 2 fat red onions
- Basil, chives, rosemary, parsley, oregano, thyme or whatever fresh herbs you want (smell and taste and have fun creating your flavors) Plus, a bay leaf
- Balsamic vinegar or a strong red wine (not cooking wine, you want flavor here!)
- Handful of shiitake mushrooms, or other favorite mushroom (adds nice depth and earthiness) (Hate mushrooms? Leave ’em out!)
- Olive oil (for roasting)
- 6 cups or so of chicken broth or your favorite veggie/seaweed broth
- Some dried chili pepper or fresh hot pepper to suit your tastes
- Raw honey to taste (add at the end)
- 1 28 oz. can of fire roasted diced tomatoes (flavor and texture element)
- Milk, cream, or your favorite parmesan cheese to finish if you want it creamy
Step 1: Cut up your tomatoes and peppers, size not terribly important as you’ll blend the soup at the end. Add to pan with some olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, and a healthy drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
Then roast for around 45 minutes at 400 degrees. Now, I cooked my onions, mushrooms, and garlic on the stove but for simplicity, and if you are going to throw this all in the crockpot there is no reason not to add your chopped onions, mushrooms, and garlic to your roasting pan. Save a step and cleaning a pan!
Step 2: Transport yourself to the Mediterranean inhaling the smell of your roasting veggies while you chop fresh herbs to add to the can of tomatoes and broth in your crock pot. Get your face in there, there is nothing like that smell! (Optional, add some herbs to some very hot water in a big mixing bowl and throw a towel over your head. Close your eyes. Breathe deep. Bonus facial steam!)
Step 3: Take your love bombs and peppers out of the oven,
add them to the crockpot with all of the other goodies. (Don’t forget a bay leaf!) Cook on low for a few hours. Really, flavors are just getting together and having a dance party at this point- don’t worry about cooking too short of a time here (But give them a couple of hours on low to find some chemistry). Taste and adjust your flavors as needed (More pepper, a little more chili pepper, some honey)
Step 4: Texture. It’s important, and also helps those flavors reaaallly get together and thickens your soup. If you have an immersion blender, awesome, this part is super easy. Even a regular blender (Someday vitamix, someday…). I have my itty bitty single serving size smoothie blender so blending my soup was a process and a half. Also (a note from my burned hands) for goodness sake don’t be impatient and let the soup cool before you blend!
I like just a little bit of creaminess so I stir a couple spoonfuls of yogurt or parmesan or non-dairy milk into my bowl when serving. Plus some extra fresh basil or parsley. I was so inpatient and excited to eat my soup (reasons I blended it while super hot…) that I didn’t take a picture of the final product. Just trust that it means it is delicious and get into your kitchen. When I take my next bowl out of the freezer I will try to contain myself and get a picture… but no promises.
Happy soup making everyone! Enjoy!