When flowers begin to bloom and we can start peeling off our layers in anticipation of warmer weather, we get a little excited about fruits and vegetables we haven’t seen all winter, starting to appear at the grocery stores and farmers markets – okay maybe we get a LOT excited. And nothing is as fun as seeing vividly hued heirloom tomatoes.
Commercialized tomatoes have been genetically engineered to be perfectly symmetrical and red with a long shelf life, but in return for the convenience we must sadly give up any trace of real tomato flavor. Heirloom tomatoes are different than the mass-produced kind because their unique characteristics have been passed down for generations. There are countless varieties that differ in color, size, shape and flavor (ranging from large, irregularly shaped to tiny, firm and green). They are as a rule more flavorful, juicier, and richer overall. Plus, just looking at them can make anyone happier.
Heirloom tomatoes are great by themselves with some sea salt and fresh cracked pepper, but we also love to use them in recipes where the tomato is the star – like Roasted Tomato Soup.
We like to sauté the onions, garlic and tomatoes in the baking tray, using two burners to get the flavors going before putting everything in the oven.
We didn’t have any cream to garnish our soup, so we simply replaced it with a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Roasted Tomato Soup
(from Tyler Florence on Food Network’s Tyler’s Ultimate)
Yields 4 to 6 servings
2 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes (mix of fresh heirlooms, cherry, vine and plum tomatoes)
6 cloves garlic, peeled
2 small yellow onions, sliced
Vine cherry tomatoes for garnish, optional
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 quart chicken stock
2 bay leaves
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, optional
3/4 cup heavy cream, optional
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Wash, core and cut the tomatoes into halves. Spread the tomatoes, garlic cloves
and onions onto a baking tray. If using vine cherry tomatoes for garnish, add them as well, leaving them whole and on the vine. Drizzle with 1/2 cup of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, or until caramelized.
Remove roasted tomatoes, garlic and onion from the oven and transfer to a large stock pot (set aside the roasted vine tomatoes for later). Add 3/4 of the chicken stock, bay leaves, and butter. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until liquid has reduced by a third.
Wash and dry basil leaves, if using, and add to the pot. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth. Return soup to low heat, add cream and adjust consistency with remaining chicken stock, if necessary. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Garnish in bowl with 3 or 4 roasted vine cherry tomatoes and a splash of heavy cream.
(photos by Vicky)