Saturday, October 1, 2011

Slow Roasted Tomato Soup

Tomato soup can be blasé.
No character, no texture, just smooth pinkishness with a mostly indistinct flavor.
(Tomato soup tastes like tomato soup... but what does that taste like? Can you describe it?)

Yes, maybe it's nice for floating Goldfish crackers and dipping grilled cheese sandwich triangles that your mother has cut the crust off of, but you've got to grow up sometime.

(Ok, you can still have the grilled cheese, but please eat the crust.)

When I recently made this, some of the tomatoes were fresh, others were frozen.
The frozen ones were fresh once upon a time, but tomatoes can turn too quickly when you have a million and you're not eating them as quickly as they demand. And so, they're loaded into freezer bags for a long vacation in the freezer and will later make surprise appearances in soups. However, prior to summer tomatoes' re-appearance in your dinner, you must take care when opening the freezer. An avalanche of rock hard frozen softballs on your toes is not pleasant.

And this is why they now make fridge/freezer combos with a freezer drawer on the bottom. We can assume this kind of thing has happened more than once, in more than one home.

This version of tomato soup has a little more personality than a condensed and canned soup. Plus, it's got to be better for you and you know exactly what's gone into it.
I know the tomatoes roast a while, but it's one of those things that can be done and sort of forgotten for a while as you get other things taken care of.

It's definitely tomato-y, with it's intensified and reduced roasted tomatoes, but it's also got a kick from the red pepper (really, only 1/4 teaspoon will add some warm zing), and some fresh herbal notes from the last minute basil.

Slow Roasted Tomato Soup
Adapted from a Barefoot Contessa recipe
Serves 8-10

3 lbs. tomatoes (I used Romas and some unidentified tomatoes from the garden)
5 T olive oil, divided
1 T dried thyme
1 1/2 t kosher salt
3/4 t freshly ground black pepper
2 T unsalted butter
2 medium onions, diced
6 medium cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 t red pepper flakes
28 oz good canned whole tomatoes, in juice
1 bay leaf (preferably fresh if you have one)
4 c chicken or vegetable stock
1 c basil leaves, packed
1 c light cream (half and half)
Optional garnishes: julienned basil, sour cream, crème fraîche, cheese (Gruyère, Parmesan), croutons...

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
Slice tomatoes in half lengthwise (if larger tomatoes, quarter them). Place in a bowl with olive oil and thyme and toss to coat. Place cut side up on a 4-sided sheet pan and pour any extra oil and juice around the tomatoes. Sprinkle the cut sides of the tomatoes with salt and pepper.
Bake 3 hours, checking occasionally and turning or shaking the pan if necessary.

In a large pot, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat until the butter is melted. Add the onion and garlic and saute until the onion begins to caramelize. Add the red pepper, saute another minute, then add the canned tomatoes and juice, the roasted tomatoes and juices, bay leaf, and the chicken or vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook 40 minutes.

Add the basil, stir through the soup and remove the pot from the heat. Puree the soup with a stick blender, or in several batches in the bowl of a food processor. The soup will be thick and not completely smooth, but of course smoothness would depend on how well it was pureed. If using a food processor, you will need another pot or a large bowl to transfer the soup into between batches. Once all is pureed, place the pan back on the heat to warm gently. Stir in the light cream and season to taste with extra salt and pepper as necessary.
Serve with garnishes as desired.