Creamy Grilled Tomato Soup

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It’s that time of the year again – the last few weeks of summer.  Today it’s not so bad; however, yesterday it was in the 90s outside with humidity to match. My husband was watching Michigan playing football on television.  Wait a minute, isn’t football watching weather supposed to be somewhat cool?  Something like it was a few weeks ago when we were in the Scottish highlands? 

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Well, even though the weather is not cooperating with my current frame of mind, summer’s end is absolutely the best time for tomatoes.  However, since I got sick with a nasty bug while in Scotland, soup seemed more appropriate for my situation than another salad.

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One of the things I love to do when I travel is go to a local bookstore and see what sort of cookbooks written by local chefs are available.  Note:  Scotland was no different.  Recipes for baked goods with lots of oats will be seen on Jeannine’s Cuisine in the future.

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When my husband and I went to Traverse City, Michigan, at the beginning of the summer I went on my usual cookbook scavenger hunt and found a winner.  It’s a beautiful little book called “Fork in the Road,” written by Okemos, Michigan chef, Eric Villegas.  The recipes make great use of the local produce, none are too time consuming and “restauranty,” but they all have a little twist to make them interesting.

tomatoes

This tomato soup is great made with seasonal summer tomatoes.  And don’t limit yourself to just the standard supermarket variety.  I imagine you could make this with any variety of heirloom tomato as well.  Just be careful when mixing colors so as not to end up with something weird.  It will still taste great, but the final color could be a little distasteful looking.  Sadly, I do not recommend this soup with anything but the ripest, freshest tomatoes, so you are pretty much limited to making it in the summertime.  Think of it this way – those tomatoes are what makes all this heat we’ve been withstanding worthwhile.

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Creamy Grilled Tomato Soup

4-6 Servings

Unlike traditional tomato soup, the color of this one turns out as a pastel version of whatever tomato you are using. Don’t begin to think that lack of a vibrant color means lack of tomato taste.  It’s smoky and delicious.

5 pounds of ripe Summer tomatoes, type your choice

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Tabasco or other hot sauce, to taste

2 cups heavy cream

Preheat your grill.

Place the tomatoes on the grill core side up and grill until they turn black, turning once.  Use tongs to remove the tomatoes from the grill, placing them and any charred bits you can peel off the grill in a large saucepan.

Use a spoon to break up the tomatoes as much as possible.  Season with a little salt, pepper, and hot sauce.  Continue to taste and season while preparing the soup.

Bring the tomatoes to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are reduced to a thick puree, about 20 minutes, but adjust cooking time as needed. 

Puree the soup in batches in a blender.  Note: a Vitamix is great for this, but any blender will do.  Be very careful when blending hot liquids so as not to splatter the kitchen and yourself with molten tomatoes.  Fill the blender container no more than two thirds full at a time and take out the removable center of the lid and cover with a towel with your hand firmly on top.  The towel will keep the liquid in the blender, but allow the steam to escape. You can also use an immersion blender to puree the soup, but the texture won’t be as smooth.

Return the soup to the pan, add the cream and cook until warm, about 5 minutes.  Check seasoning one more time and serve.

Adapted from Fork in the Road, by Eric Villegas

Roasted Tomato and Fennel Soup

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Some people may question the sanity of posting a soup recipe in the “dog days” of summer, especially those in places where the temperature normally exceeds 90 degrees. We’ve been fairly lucky this year in terms of having a hot summer. The Washington, DC, area can usually be compared to a steam bath around this time, but this year has been different, and, I must say, there will be no complaints from me. I love fall and it’s usually this time of year that I start thinking about that first morning I walk outside to discover a telling crispness in the air.

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Meanwhile, we still have a couple of summer months left and lots of summer produce to use up – tomatoes anyone? Tomato soup is one of my favorite foods, and if you pair the soup with a grilled cheese sandwich, it’s a total win, win. How do you like your grilled cheese sandwiches? I prefer a fairly dense country style bread because it can hold more cheese that way. I spread the bread with a combination of mayonnaise and strong mustard and then add the cheese, usually whatever I have on hand. Lately it’s been cheddar slices, but any kind will do. I also add some ham, if I have some and maybe some thinly sliced pickles. Butter up the outside of the bread and fry it until crispy. Yum, yum!

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In this soup recipe, you roast all the vegetables before making the soup, which adds a wonderful smoky flavor. Don’t be afraid to get some char on the vegetables; it adds to the depth of flavor.

Tomato Soup 1

 Roasted Tomato and Fennel Soup

I kept this soup on the rustic side, by just giving it a spin in my Vitamix. But if you prefer a smoother creamier soup, you can put it through a fine strainer before adding the cream.

2 pounds ripe red tomatoes

1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs, approximately 1 pound

1 yellow onion, cut into 8 wedges

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste

4 cups vegetable broth

2 bay leaves

1/2 cup heavy cream, optional

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Halve the tomatoes, squeeze out the seeds and place cut-side up on half of a sheet pan or baking sheet. Trim the stalks and fronds from the fennel, reserving some of the fronds for garnish. Cut the fennel in half lengthwise then in half again and remove the core. Add the fennel and the onion pieces to the other half of the sheet pan. Drizzle the vegetables with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss with your hands to coat. Roast the vegetables for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender and carmelized. Remove pan from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Place the vegetables and the broth in a blender and puree until smooth. You may need to do this with half the vegetables and half the broth at a time.

Transfer the vegetable mixture to a large saucepan. Add the bay leaves and more salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat then lower heat to a simmer and cook 15 minutes. Hint: Now is the time to prepare your grilled cheese sandwich if you are making one. Remove the bay leaves and stir in the cream, if using it.

To serve, ladle the soup into individual bowls and garnish with fennel fronds.

Adapted from Vibrant Food by Kimberley Hasselbrink