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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

October 17: Garden Tomato Soup with Cheesy Bread

The weather has finally turned and I couldn’t be happier. I enjoy the brisk temperatures and I love sweater weather! In fact, this weekend I completed a little sweater shopping spree and as I type this post, I’m sitting here in one of my new purchases and I feel quite snappy and pleased with myself. So there.

That might also have something to do with the fact that I just finished eating my lunch—leftover garden tomato soup from the batch I made Friday. All these happy feels made me realize today is the perfect day to share that recipe with you.

Now, tomatoes are technically a summer fruit, but if you’re like me, the end-of-summer/start-of-fall means a garden overflowing with a bumper crop of tomatoes. And while a fresh bruschetta or slices of beautiful vine-ripened heirlooms drizzled in olive oil and balsamic and dusted with sea salt are perfect summery ways to enjoy tomatoes, I think autumn has its own shiny methods. For instance, put them in a soup!

There’s nothing quite as homey and comforting as soups, stews, and chilis when the air gets nippy. They warm you from the inside out. Plus, they’re a great way to repurpose leftover ingredients or use up what you've got in stock.

The recipe for today’s soup is one of my own creation, a mashup of pieces of three different recipes I found online combined with twists of my own based on family taste preferences and ingredients I had on hand. 

From this one by The Recipe Rebel, I used the process of roasting my own fresh tomatoes since I had over 4.5 pounds of tomatoes to use up. Plus, I liked the idea of adding some creaminess from evaporated milk. From this one by Pinch of Yum, I borrowed the addition of carrots—I figured they’d add a nice sweetness to balance the tomatoes’ acidity without needing to add sugar. That recipe also adds bacon to the soup but I didn’t want actual bacon in mine. I didn’t mind bacongrease, though, so I sautéed my onions, garlic, and carrot in the pan in which my husband cooked our breakfast bacon not long before. A win! Finally, from this one by Robust Recipes, I was drawn to her inclusion of roasted peppers. I remembered my younger daughter fell in love with a soup from Bonefish Grill several years back that was Tomato-Roasted Red Pepper bisque, so I knew it was a flavor combination she’d enjoy. The thing is, I only had one pepper in my fridge at the time—a yellow bell pepper—and an assortment of very ripe banana peppers from the neighbor’s garden. I did a search to find out about roasting banana peppers (you can do it, but they’re more often enjoyed raw or pickled) and then decided to give it a whirl. And can I just say? It turned out great!

I do a lot of baking which requires more strictness and precision when it comes to adding ingredients and following recipes (because each ingredient has a certain job to do.) Making this soup was a different kind of cooking experience for me, because I was able to experiment and adapt and do what I wanted with what I had. 

So enough about how it came to be. Let me show you what I did.

Garden Tomato Soup
Yield: 8 cups


4 ½ pounds garden fresh tomatoes, halved or quartered (depending on size)
6 ½ ounces of roasted peppers (I used 1 yellow bell, and 5 very ripe -i.e. red/orange- banana peppers)
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon bacon grease (you can use EVOO if you don’t have any)
1 small onion, diced
2 carrots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced, divided 
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
12 ounce can 2% evaporated milk
½ cup parmesan cheese, grated
3 Tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
½ Tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
Salt & pepper to taste


1. Roast tomatoes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Clean, dry, then halve (or quarter if they’re huge) tomatoes (no need to peel or remove seeds, though I did cut the stem nub and any yucky bits off of mine) and place cut side up on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with oil, add 2 Tablespoons of the minced garlic to the tops of the tomatoes, and liberally season with salt and pepper. 

Before roasting 
Roast for 50 minutes. 
After roasting 
While they cook...

2. Roast peppers.

Preheat broiler. Clean and dry peppers. Cut bell pepper in half and remove seeds. Leave banana peppers whole. Place bell pepper skin-side-up and whole banana peppers on rimmed baking sheet.
Broil until charred. Start with 3-5 minutes and then check them. Turn banana peppers as needed so all sides of skin get charred. The whole process can take up to 15 minutes. 
Once blacked on all sides, remove from oven and place in a bowl with a lid. Allow to rest, covered, for 5 minutes. Remove from bowl, and use a butter knife to scrape off the charred skin. Use your fingers to peel off remaining pepper skin. For the banana peppers, gently remove the stem and seeds as well as the skin. Cut into strips and set inside a deep bowl or pot. 

Flavor Note: For me, the very ripe banana peppers worked. The ones that started off red and orange achieved a similar roasted sweetness to roasted bell peppers. However, the green banana pepper, when roasted, tasted a little bitter. Therefore, I'd generally steer you away from substituting roasted banana peppers for roasted bell peppers. And, if you must, be sure the banana peppers you use are very ripe. Roasted red, orange, or yellow bell peppers work much better for the sweetness. Regardless, remember you're looking for about 6.5 ounces of cooked peppers, which I'd estimate is about 2 large roasted bell peppers.

3. Sautee carrots, onion, and garlic.

In a skillet with bacon grease, add carrots, onions, and 1 Tablespoon minced garlic. 
Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until veggies are tender and fragrant. 

Stir in tomato paste and allow to cook for 1-2 minutes, as the paste begins to caramelize. 
Remove from pan and add to the deep bowl or pot with your roasted peppers. 
It's a happy veggie family in there, waiting to be joined by the tomatoes!
4. Chop herbs.

Clean, dry, and chop your fresh herbs. Set aside until step 5.

5. Blend it all together.

Add the roasted tomatoes and all their pan juices to the same bowl/pot as the other veggies. 
Add herbs. 
Pour in evaporated milk. 

Using an immersion blender, puree the soup. (Mine took about 8 minutes to fully puree some of the tomato skins floating around in there. Be persistent.) 
Add the parmesan cheese and give it another quick blend. 
Taste, then add salt and pepper to taste. Blend after each addition.

If you don’t have an immersion blender, you could also do this in a real blender or a food processor. Just keep in mind that you may need to work in batches and/or that you’ll need to vent the lid of your blender/processor because the ingredients are hot and that heat creates steam. So be careful. For those reasons, and because I loved the smooth texture I achieved on my apple butter through using my immersion blender, I used the hand blender instead. 

If applicable, pour blended soup into a pot and heat over medium heat until warmed through. (If, like me, you make this in advance to serve later that evening or the next day, wait until the soup comes to room temperature before refrigerating. When ready to enjoy, heat in a pan over medium heat or microwave.) 

6. Ladle into bowls and enjoy!

I served ours with homemade cheesy bread. (I unrolled refrigerate pizza dough onto a piece of parchment and stretched it until it was about 10x9. Then I spread a thin layer of butter over the raw dough, sprinkled it with garlic powder, then topped it with shredded mozzarella cheese. I baked it on a rimmed baking pan according to package directions— 9-15 minutes in a 425 degree oven—then cut into strips.) The bread sticks were easy to dip into the soup and reminded me of an Italian grilled cheese. Delicioso!
This meal (especially if you serve my Dutch apple pie for dessert, as I did!) is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face and there's also good chance it'll leave you feeling pretty pleased with yourself, too! 

**I have no affiliation or relationship with any of the brands mentioned or linked in this post. All opinions and experiences expressed herein are my own.**

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