Creamy Tomato-Balsamic Soup and Pimiento Cheese Toast

After you’ve been on the road for a week what you really need is a meal that always tastes best at home.  It’s a cool Fall day with a tiny bit of rain so there couldn’t be a better choice than grilled cheese and tomato soup, grown-up style.  Excellent choice.  Warm and creamy and sweet on one side.  Sharp and tangy with a little kick on the other.  And it gave me a chance to use some tomatoes I peeled and tossed in the freezer at the end of the 2010 garden season.  All good.

I’ll admit that I made this a lot harder than it needed to be.  If I had used canned tomatoes, home or store canned, it would have been easier.  If I had saved more liquid it would have been easier.  If I had read the directions it would have been easier.  That said, it was completely worth it to get those frozen tomatoes out of the overfull freezer and make something this yummy with them.  There are 2 key elements to this recipe.  First you roast the vegetables to enhance their flavor.  Second you have to use a good quality balsamic vinegar.  Remember that when you cook things down the flavor intensifies so start with good stuff. 

I used about half yellow tomatoes and half red.  I put them in the roasting pan while they were still frozen.  When a bunch of liquid accumulated in the pan I dumped it in my large cast iron skillet and started cooking it down.  Once the tomatoes were roasted, about 40 minutes I added the tomatoes and garlic and put the pan back in for another 25 minutes.  That’s when I noticed that the liquids called for in the recipe were supposed to be added to the roasting pan at the beginning.  I added them and put the pan back in for another 30 minutes.  So, instead of the 50 minutes all this should have taken it took me more than an hour and a half.  Most of that time you aren’t really doing anything, but still.

Then it’s into the blender.  Remember to do this in batches.  It’s too hot to do all at once without blowing hot tomato soup all over your kitchen.  This is when the liquid issue comes into play.  I cooked down the roasting liquid to about half its original volume so it was like tomato sauce.  And it turns out I was supposed to reserve half the stock to add to the blender.  Oops.  My tomato mixture was pretty thick even after I added the cooking liquid from the skillet.  Then I added some extra stock and the half and half.  Still really thick.  I had some tomato juice thawing so I added some of that.  If the soup is a little thinner that will make it easier to get it through the sieve.  In the end the soup was a tiny bit thicker than my ideal so it was a pain to put through the sieve.  Thus, I only put half of it through so there are a few seeds in my soup, but I’m willing to overlook them since it tastes so good.

The flavor is very intense and pretty sweet.  Using the yellow tomatoes probably added to the sweetness some.  Next time I’d probably cut the sugar by half and the balsamic vinegar by a third just to get a little more of the savory part of the tomato flavor.  Of course since I served it with pimiento cheese toast the sweet soup was a nice balance.

Note that this is not a vegetarian soup as it calls for beef broth, but it would be really easy to substitute vegetable broth.  Also note that the recipe I have included below is the one from Cooking Light rather than one that includes all of the machinations described above.

Good? Warm deliciousness.
Easy? If you follow the directions.
Good for company? Absolutely. Try it as a first course with a beef dish or a frittata.
Special shopping? Nope.

Creamy Tomato-Balsamic Soup

Ingredients

1 cup less-sodium beef broth, divided
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
5 garlic cloves
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, drained
3/4 cup half-and-half
Cracked black pepper (optional)

Preparation

Preheat oven to 500°.
Combine 1/2 cup of broth, sugar, vinegar, and soy sauce in a small bowl. Place onion, garlic, and tomatoes in a 13 x 9-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Pour broth mixture over tomato mixture. Bake at 500° for 50 minutes or until vegetables are lightly browned.
Place tomato mixture in a blender. Add remaining 1/2 cup broth and half-and-half, and process until smooth. Strain mixture through a sieve into a bowl; discard solids. Garnish with cracked black pepper, if desired.

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