Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

It's easy to be a locavore during the summer. Right now, our backyard garden is pumping out tomatoes, bell peppers and herbs. My CSA and the farmers market are overflowing with late summer's bounty. Everything seems to be in season, from melons to winter squash. Much of my meat and some cheese comes from a farm ten miles down the road. My milk comes from a dairy in Chambersburg, PA, via the Princeton Whole Foods. As a locavore, I think I'm getting pretty high marks right now.

It's actually fairly easy to maintain this through the end of the year. Last year I was continually surprised at how much was available at the farmers market in December and even January. (Fortunately, I love winter squash and sweet potatoes!) In February and March, things get tough, as expected, but I was surprised how this extended into spring - even in early May there's not much available, as plants need time to grow (the cold spring we had this past year didn't help!). I realized, as our ancestors were clearly aware, that nature's bounty can only take us so far. A few quarts of frozen tomato sauce won't cut it.

This year, I began preserving in earnest. My boiling water canner has produced rich tomato and barbecue sauces, pickles and even lemon curd. Several batches of tomato sauce have been frozen, as well as a big container of pesto. But more is necessary in order to decrease our reliance on produce trucked a few thousand miles in the middle of winter. This weekend, I told Jeff to prepare himself, because we were going to fill the freezer with summer goodness!

Saturday's tasks? Vegetable stock, roasted bell peppers, blanched and frozen green beans, and roasted tomato soup. I've been making my own stock from vegetable scraps since this past winter, according to these instructions. It's a great form of recycling! This time I got about a gallon of stock out of two gallon-sized bags of scraps. I freeze it in ice cube trays and in two cup increments in tupperware. Once it's fully frozen, I remove it from these containers and put the frozen cubes in freezer bags, to use at my leisure.

I also had about half a dozen red peppers to roast. At the last minute, though, I figured that while the grill was going, we might as well fill it up, so I sent Jeff out for more. He came back with a giant bushel of peppers, so we ended up with two dozen to roast. Jeff charred them on the grill (no oil needed!), steamed their skins off, peeled and seeded them. We then froze the strips in batches on baking trays, then transferred them to freezer bags. I have a gallon bag plus a little extra filled with red, orange and yellow pepper strips. We also filled a quart bag with blanched green beans and froze them. And while all this was going on, we were making roasted tomato soup.

Now that September's here and the nights are getting chilly, I've been craving soup. With a large basket of tomatoes in my kitchen, this roasted tomato basil soup was the perfect solution. This was the perfect recipe for the tomatoes I had, too. These were Plum Dandy tomatoes, one of the sauce varieties offered by my CSA. These are delightful sauce tomatoes because of their firmness and fleshiness, which you can see in the picture below. They held up beautifully to roasting, and this added a delicious flavor to the final product. This is definitely going to be my stand-by tomato soup recipe for a while. I plan on making a few more batches for the freezer before tomato season ends, to enjoy during the depths of winter!

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup
From Annie's Eats.

3 lbs ripe tomatoes, halved and seeded
1/4 c and 2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp butter
2 c chopped onion
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
28 oz can whole tomatoes
2 c fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme
4 c stock

Preheat oven to 400° F. Combine tomato halves, olive oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl and toss. Spread on a large baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes. (Try not to eat too many, but they're really delicious just like this!)

In a Dutch oven over medium heat, combine 2 tbsp olive oil and 2 tbsp butter. Add the onions, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook 7-10 minutes, until softened, stirring periodically.

Add the canned tomatoes, roasted tomatoes, basil, thyme, and stock. Stir to combine, then bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 40 minutes. (I stirred it occasionally, breaking up the tomatoes a bit as they softened.)

When the mixture is finished cooking, puree it for a minute or two with an immersion blender, or let the soup cool and then pour it into a blender to puree. Enjoy right away, or freeze for later!

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