Friday, February 20, 2009

You say tomato, I say.....let's make soup!

I'm a huge fan of those gorgeous, bright red stem tomatoes that are on sale this week. I'm a fan mostly I think, because of my love for all things red, and those little suckers grab me every time. They're so darned pretty, it's almost like they're calling me: "You know you want must buy us! You need to find a use for us!" I think it's kind of funny that they would speak to me that way, because I don't actually like to eat tomatoes. I just think they're pretty. I'm weird that way.

But, I do love to pick up a stemmed cluster of four or five tomatoes and have a long whiff -- even in February, they're pure summer. I'm reminded of my dad, a weekend warrior who used to spend hours in his Minnesota garden, yanking tons of weeds. When he was through, he'd stretch his aching back, plunk himself down in the dirt, and munch tomatoes off the vine just like they were apples.

Still, even with the childhood nostalgia, I don't really care for tomatoes in their raw form. It's only been in recent years that I've come around to appreciating their cooked version. However, this simple, savory Roasted Tomato Soup is something I can't get enough of. Slow roasting tomatoes and garlic together brings out the most delicious sweetness, which is balanced by onions, oregano, sea salt and the tiniest splash of cream.

Now, on to a different subject: on sale in the Bakery this week are loaves of Sendik's Artisan French Bread with Rosemary. I see these specialty breads all the time and always wonder what to do with them. Today, I've cubed a few individual slices, tossed them in a hot pan with a bit of olive oil, and voila: rosemary croutons! They add a happy little crunch to the creamy soup. And I have to confess: I eat them like popcorn when no one is won't tell, will you?

Serve this to your crew for a weekend lunch, or as a light dinner next week. Use the rest of the Rosemary Bread for sandwiches; I might toast a few slices myself, and pair them with roasted turkey, lettuce, and mayo.....hold the raw tomato, of course!
Sale ingredients are in Bold Green!

Roasted Tomato Soup with Rosemary Croutons
Serves: 6
Source: Based on this recipe from

4 lb. stemmed tomatoes, cut in half from top to bottom; core removed
6 cloves garlic, skins left on
3 T. olive oil
salt & black pepper
1 large onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1/2 cup heavy cream

Rosemary Croutons, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 425. Line two cookie sheets with foil for easier cleanup (I'm all about easy cleanup!). Place the tomatoes, cut side up, on the cookie sheets along with the garlic. Drizzle evenly with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for one hour. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Slip the garlic out of the skins.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add the onion, oregano, and sugar. Saute until the onion is tender, about five minutes. Slide the tomatoes, the garlic, and any accumulated juices into the onion mixture. Add the chicken broth; bring to a simmer. Cover and continue to simmer for 30 minutes.

Transfer half of soup contents to a blender, and carefully (and I mean carefully, unless you enjoy cleaning tomato soup off of your ceiling. Start out slowly, holding a dish towel loosely over the lid.) puree the soup until smooth. Repeat with the other half. Alternately, you can use a stick blender, as I did. This works great too.

Add the cream to the pan, and heat the soup gently. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with Rosemary Croutons.

Rosemary Croutons
4-5 slices Sendiks Artisan French Bread with Rosemary, diced
2-3 T. olive oil

Place a large saute pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. When it's hot, add the diced bread. Toss with the oil to coat, and saute until cubes are toasty on all sides, five minutes or so. Season with salt to taste; serve with the soup.

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