Sassy Southern Cooking with a French Twist

Tomato Time

Many of us wait for it all year, the sweet season of summer when tomatoes are plentiful, plump and delicious. The time is nigh in the Lowcountry. I’ll be the first to concede that nothing tops eating a vine ripe tomato (ideally still warm!) fresh off the vine with a dash of salt and pepper, unless it’s the uniquely Southern decadence of a thinly sliced tomato sandwich on soft white bread with a generous slather or Duke’s mayo and more salt and pepper.

Either way you cut them, tomatoes are heaven, and on top of that, they’re chock full of heart-friendly Lipocene and other good things.  Even though the thermometer is registering some cruel numbers this time of year, I still love the concentration and sweetness that roasting gives tomatoes (and most vegetables for that matter). If you buy smaller tomatoes (in the case of the recipe to follow, baby Heirloom multi-colored tomatoes), they spend less time in the oven which means less heat in the kitchen. Because the tomatoes are roasted in the same pan as the garlic, and both get brushed with the gentle flavor of a rosemary bundle that cooks with them, all the cooking happens in one easy pan. The peppers are roasted separately over an open flame, and it all goes neatly into a blender or food processor. I cook the onions separately in a large sauce pan and add the puree. A bit of vegetable or chicken stock, a few more minutes on the stove, and this soup is ready to rock and roll, tomato style. It can be made a day ahead and re-heated just before serving.

I made this soup/recipe this week for an easy summer dinner party I held for some of my great neighbor friends. It’s spectacular with a drizzle of fresh basil and a few “balls” of tiny pearl mozzarella as a surprise melt at the bottom of the bowl. My neighbor Peter (pictured) loved it and even asked for an entire second bowl!

Get out there and enjoy those tomatoes before it’s too late. Happy cooking!

Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup

Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup

(Serves Six to Eight)

5 cups (about 3 pounds), baby multi-colored Heirloom tomatoes

5 cloves garlic, skin on, drizzled lightly with olive oil and wrapped with foil

5 stems fresh rosemary wrapped in a bundle with kitchen twine

Olive oil to drizzle

Sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 red bell peppers, flame broiled over an open flame or under the broiler, skinned, seeded and lightly chopped

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped

Generous pinch red chili flakes

Sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 – 2 tablespoons (local) honey or to taste

Adjust salt and pepper to taste

Garnish: 3 tablespoons fresh basil leaves cut into thin strips, 30 pearl mozzarella balls

Preheat oven to 425F. Rinse the tomoatoes and remove any green tops. Arrange in a single layer on roasting pan with the prepped garlic (in foil)  and the fresh rosemary bundle. Drizzle all of it with best quality extra virgin olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper. Toss to coat. Place in the center rack of the oven and roast until the tomatoes collapse and the garlic has softened, about 25 minutes, tossing occasionally. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, roast the red peppers over an open flame or broiler until the skin has completely blackened. Set aside to cool slightly. Run under cool water to remove all of the blackened skin, seeds and white flesh. Chop coarsely and add to the roasting pan with the cooling tomatoes. Discard the rosemary bundle and foil. Press the flesh from the roasted garlic cloves and also add to the roasted tomatoes, discarding the garlic skin casings. Pour the entire contents of the pan, including all the lovely tomato juices into the bowl of a food processor or blender, along with the water and the stock. Blend until chunky smooth. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large sauce pan, heat the 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the finely chopped onion, red chile flakes, and salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have just softened, about five minutes. Add the pureed tomato mixture and the white wine. Bring up to a low simmer and cook for about five minutes to cook out the acid flavor of the wine. Stir in honey and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another 10 minutes or so.  (Note: The soup can be made ahead, brought to room temperature, and chilled overnight in a sealed container . Reheat before serving)

To serve, ladle the hot soup into a shallow bowl, with about 5 pearl mozzarella balls on the bottom. Garnish with a flurry of fresh basil. Serve hot!!!!

 

 

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