Friday, September 23, 2011

Happy Autumnal Equinox

I like soup. There is something downright homey about a pot of soup simmering away all day on the stove, tantalizing everyone with its aromas, and the occasional rattling lid. Whether it is for a first course, or just served with a grilled cheese sandwich as dinner, I am really quite fond of soup. It changes so easily, and can accommodate so many extra ingredients. Just a dash of this, a dab of that, and a handful of chopped vegetables (that would otherwise be left to eventually meet their end in the compost pile) and you can change a soup entirely. Add some cream or noodles, voila. A bit of shredded beef or some shrimp, some beans and fresh herbs and you are crossing continents. I cannot say I had anything to do with this recipe. I wish I could say I altered the ingredients, or improved upon it in some way, but you can see it in all its glory right here, exactly the way I found it.
There was a large pile of fresh, ripe tomatoes sitting on the counter, wondering if they would be left to shrivel or turned into something marvelous. I wanted to redeem them, I truly did, but I was trying my best to use what was in the fridge.
But, I was in one of those moods. The mood where I don't leave the kitchen until the sink is full of dishes and the counters are lined with cooling racks, loaded with goodies. The unfortunate part was, its not quite cool enough to do that so the entire house was a bit warmer than was appreciated. It always happens when the mornings start getting cooler, and I get that fall itch to start making soups, roasts, and sweet goodies.
I wanted to blog about this, not so I could share some wonderful recipe I developed, but so next fall, when I feel like defying the last of summer's heat, I will know just where to find the perfect recipe to use up the last of those fresh, garden tomatoes.
Serves 4
3 pounds plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large or 4 small cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
4 cups chicken  stock
6 1-inch slices from a large loaf of sourdough or bread of your choice, buttered, cut into cubes and toasted until hard.
1 tablespoon grated raw onion
1 cup coarsely grated cheddar (or more to taste)
Make soup: Preheat oven to 400°F. Wrap garlic cloves in a tight foil packet. Place tomatoes, cut side up, on large baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Drizzle tomatoes with olive oil. Add foil packet of garlic to tray. Place on center rack of the oven and roast until tomatoes are brown and tender (garlic will be very tender), about 1 hour. Cool slightly.
Unwrap garlic packet and peel cloves. Transfer cloves, tomatoes and any accumulated juices to a blender or food processor and pulse machine on and off until tomatoes are a chunky puree. Transfer tomatoes to medium pot and add thyme, crushed red pepper and stock and bring to a boil Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 25 minutes. Remove from heat and adjust seasonings to taste.
Create cheddar lid: Preheat oven to 350. Arrange four ovenproof soup bowls, crocks or large mugs on a large, foil-lined baking sheet. Stir grated onion into the warm soup. Float bread cubes in each bowl and divide grated cheese generously over top. Bake soups on tray for 15 to 20 minutes, until cheese on top is bubbling and brown at the edges. Serve immediately.

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