Thanks to the warm weather we’ve had this September, the tomatoes are coming in full force. For the past few weeks in my CSA share from Farmer Kev, there has been a generous allotment of tomatoes. I hate to play favorites, but I can’t help it. I love tomatoes, and I never come to resent them the way I do, say, greens or zucchini, both of which can seem like a curse rather than a blessing when they are coming in with such vigor that you wonder what in the world you are going to do with them.
Not so with tomatoes. They can be eaten raw, which this time of year, is my favorite way of eating tomatoes. In fact for my lunch today, I had two poached eggs on top of two large slices of tomatoes. What a lovely, juicy mess.
Tomatoes, of course, can be cooked down into a sauce. Or added to soups. Or a casserole, which I plan on doing next week when I make a chicken, carrot, potato, and tomato casserole, held together with a sauce made from the chicken drippings and topped with buttered bread crumbs.
Then there is tomato soup, one of my favorite soups. (No surprise there, given how much I love tomatoes.) Finally, the weather has become cool enough for soup, and the other day, when I opened the refrigerator and surveyed the big bowl bowl of tomatoes, I thought, “tomato soup.”
But first I roasted the tomatoes, which give the soup a sweet, rich flavor. It only takes forty-five minutes or so to roast them, and then into the stockpot they go. Add a cup of water. Some onion and garlic. A bouquet garni of oregano, thyme, and parsley. (Alas, my sage succumbed to tiny marauding caterpillars.)
Bouquet garni—herbs tied in a bundle—is one of my favorite ways to use herbs with tiny leaves, such as thyme. All you do is clump the herbs together, wrap them with thread, and tie the bundle. Drop it into the soup stock, and let the herbs simmer with the onion and garlic. Then, when the simmering is done, use a slotted spoon to remove the garni. Voilà! You have the lovely infusion of the herbs without the tedious chore of plucking and chopping.
However, I didn’t totally escape the chore of chopping herbs because after the soup was blended and a cup of milk was added, I finished the soup with fresh basil, which added another dimension to this already flavorful soup.
Clif always likes soup to have “something” in it, and he duly added leftover macaroni to his bowl. Not me. I wanted to eat the soup just as it was—smooth, creamy, with the overtones of basil, and the undertones of the bouquet garni.
Roasted Tomato Soup with Herbs
For roasting the tomatoes
- 6 pounds of tomatoes—washed and dried and with the stems removed
- Olive oil for brushing on the tomatoes and the baking sheet
- Kosher salt, for sprinkling on the tomatoes
For the soup
- 1 medium onion, cut in half
- 4 cloves of coarsely chopped garlic
- 1 boquet garni—I used about 5 sprigs of thyme, several springs of oregano, and several springs of parsley
- 1 cup of water
- 1 cup of milk
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil
- Salt and pepper to taste
For roasting the tomatoes
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- Cut tomatoes in half and place cut side up on a baking sheet brushed with olive oil
- Brush olive oil on the tomato halves
- Sprinkle with kosher salt, about 1 tablespoon
- Roast for 45 minutes or until the tomatoes are very soft and can easily be pierced with a fork
- Let the tomatoes cool and then remove the skins
For the soup
- Put the roasted tomatoes into a large stockpot.
- Stir in 1 cup of water and 1 tablespoon of sugar
- Add the onion halves, the chopped garlic, and the bouquet garni
- Let simmer for at least 45 minutes, until the onion is very soft
- Remove the onion halves and bouquet garni with a slotted spoon
- Blend the soup so that it is smooth
- Stir in 1 cup of milk and salt and pepper to taste
- Heat until it is very hot
- Just before serving, stir in the basil
- Serves 4 or 6, depending on appetite