Normally, to stave off cabin fever this time of year, I go out and roam the yard to enjoy my favorite harbingers of spring. The green tops of both snow drops and daffodils are ususally poking up through the earth by now, reassuring me that, yes, the first perennials survived and their blooms will be back brightening the garden soon.While the hardy little snowdrops are up through the ice in some spots, so far I see no signs of the daffodils.
This year winter has been relentless, with snow storms constantly blowing in and repeatedly burying my treasures. Desperate for warm weather, I've turned to the seductive images in the new seed and plant catalogs. The shots of picture-perfect blackberries and raspberries have set me to reminiscing about tasty cobblers and my sunny summer days out foraging in my local woods. Both catalog portraits of glorious, vine-ripened tomatoes and my own shots have gotten me imaging the ones I purchased last summer from the farmers' market all season long. The thought is making me drool for some now.
My hunger for an honest, earnest homemade tomato soup actually seemed to intensify with the failure, and so I pressed on and two tries later came up with this version, which features quality canned tomatoes (of all things!). Finally, my yearnings have been satisfied, and I think I can make it through to summer. I hope the recipe will help tide you over, too.
Winter Larder Roasted Tomato Soup
I was pretty astonished at how flavorful and fragrant a very simple tomato soup made with canned tomatoes could be. Choosing high-quality, vibrant-tasting canned tomatoes and roasting them to concentrate their juices and bring out their sweetness yielded a much more savory result than using fresh hothouse tomatoes. (Sad to say, the latter were watery and insipid and not worth the trouble.)
The canned tomatoes were also less expensive and more convenient—I just cracked open the cans, drained off the juice, and popped the peeled whole tomatoes into the oven dish. BTW, the smell of tomatoes, onion, and garlic roasting with a little olive oil is just fabulous!
2 medium onions, peeled and halved
1/2 small cored and seeded red sweet pepper, optional
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes in puree
1/8 teaspoon each ground allspice and freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 pinches hot red pepper flakes, optional
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 to 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, to taste
1/4 to 1/3 cup heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a 9 by 13-inch glass baking dish with non-stick spray. (This helps keep the tomato juices and vegetables from burning onto the dish sides.) Add the onions, sweet pepper (if using) and garlic to the dish.
Drizzle the olive oil over the vegetables, then stir until they are coated with it. Thoroughly drain the tomatoes through a sieve, reserving the juices. Add the drained tomatoes, allspice, black pepper, and hot pepper flakes (if using) to the dish, stirring until they are coated with the oil. Sprinkle the sugar over top; don’t stir.
Place the dish on the middle oven rack. Roast, stirring two or three times, for 50 to 60 minutes, until the tomatoes have cooked down, the onions are soft and browned, and the vegetables are extremely fragrant. Let cool slightly. Peel the skin from the sweet pepper and discard. If any onion pieces look burned or dry, discard them.
Scrape out the tomato mixture into a blender or food processor. Add the reserved juice from the canned tomatoes. (If the blender or processor is small, blend or process only half the mixture, then repeat.) Blend or process until completely smooth.
Put the blended mixture in a medium-sized non-reactive pot. Stir in the cream and balsamic vinegar to taste. For a slightly thinner soup, stir in a little water. Heat the soup to piping hot, but not boiling, stirring occasionally. Taste and add salt, if desired. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for later use. Soup keeps, covered and refrigerated, for up to 5 days.
Makes about 1 quart soup.