July 27, 2009

Roasted tomato and garlic soup

I had a dinner party this weekend and I wanted to keep things simple. I also wanted to feature some of the beautiful vegetables I have right now-- from my own garden, from our farmer's CSA and to round things out, from our local farmer's market. My farm share comes on Monday and I hit the market on Saturday. These tomatoes were from my garden, left on the counter to ripen in this cool bamboo screened basket a friend gave me...

This year I have Brandywines, Cherokee Purples and an heirloom called Mortgage Lifter in my garden, all shown here in their various shades of purple, red and green.

I wasn't sure if I should cook these, they were so beautiful, so I bought a few more local tomatoes at the farmer's market in case I decided to keep my heirlooms for eating raw. It's hard to beat the taste of a homegrown tomato sprinkled with salt and a drizzle of olive oil. In addition to the soup, I also served little cheese puffs (gougéres), Sicilian zucchini "alla povera"- with chili pepper and mint- and a light summer pasta with cherry tomatoes, yellow squash, hot peppers, celery and tomato purée.

zucchini 'alla povera'

In thinking about tomatoes and how to best feature them, I thought about ways to cook them that would enhance their raw flavor, and what better way to do that than to roast them, which makes them intensely sweet and tangy. This soup had a depth of flavor like no other tomato soup I've ever tasted. It didn't taste acidic at all, like the kind I think of in winter accompanied by grilled cheese sandwiches. I have never made my own tomato soup, but sometimes buy a can of Annie's all natural soups when I want a quick weeknight winter meal.

But this is a tomato soup for summer using the juiciest tomatoes when they're in their prime. It has a delicately nuanced flavor that makes it work in hot weather. And, even though it has a bit of heavy cream swirled in at the end, it's actually quite light. I took my inspiration from the August Gourmet recipe for "Roasted tomato soup with parmesan wafers" and even though I have no evidence of the wafers in the photo, I did make them and they were unbelievably good--and easy!

Roasted garlic and tomato soup

4 lb tomatoes, halved
6 garlic cloves, left unpeeled
3 T olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 t dried oregano
2 t sugar
2 T unsalted butter
3 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream

Arrange tomatoes on baking sheet cut side up, then drizzle with some olive oil, salt and pepper them, and place the garlic cloves on the sheet around them. Roast in 350 degree oven for one hour. Let cool.

In a pot on stove, cook onion, oregano and sugar in butter over med heat until softened, about 5 min. Peel garlic and add along with tomatoes, stock and simmer, covered, 20 min. Puree soup with immersion blender or in batches in blender, stir in cream and salt and pepper to taste, heating for 2 min. Can be made ahead and reaheated before serving. Serve with parmesan wafers* floating in each bowl.

Parmesan wafers

1.5 cups parmesan or pecorino cheese, roughly grated
1 T flour

Mix cheese and flour in bowl, then scoop by spoonfuls onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread each round into a flat circle, trying not to leave any holes. Bake in 350 degree oven for about 10 min. Let cool completely before delicately scraping off with spatula.

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