Monday, January 27, 2014

Craving Tomatoes, and Roasted Tomato Soup

I know it’s still winter, and tomatoes aren’t in season.  But, I still crave tomatoes—on pizza, in pasta sauce, in a caprese salad, on my egg in the morning.  And today, in soup.

Tomatoes are a nutrient powerhouse!  High in vitamin C and potassium, they are also rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that may help reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.  Choose deep, dark red tomatoes, as these have more lycopene and overall antioxidant activity than yellow, gold, or green tomatoes.  Another tip for getting the best nutrition out of your tomatoes—go small!  The smaller the tomato, the sweeter it is and the higher the lycopene content.  Store fresh tomatoes at room temperature, since chilling tomatoes makes them less delicious.   

Also, don’t be afraid to go for the canned tomato.  Out of season, canned tomatoes can be more flavorful than fresh tomatoes, since canned tomatoes are picked at the peak of season and immediately processed.  Cooking tomatoes (including canning and processing) actually makes them more nutritious, as cooking converts the lycopene into a form that is easier to absorb. 

 This is my favorite recipe for tomato soup.  Roasting the tomatoes bring out their sweetness even more, and the fennel just gives it that special something.  It doesn't taste like licorice--it's just good.  And it’s perfect with a grilled cheese sandwich.  There’s a reason classic combinations work.  They’re delicious and satisfying.

Roasted Tomato Soup
3 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 fennel bulb, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
Pinch of sea salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 sprig of fresh thyme
3 strips of lemon peel
1 bay leaf
8 cups homemade chicken stock
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. 
  2. Place the tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for about 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes start to blister and release their juices.  Remove from the oven and immediately pour the tomatoes and their juices into a bowl.
  3. While the tomatoes are cooking, heat a stockpot over medium heat.  Add the olive oil, fennel, carrots, salt, crushed red pepper flakes, thyme, lemon peel and bay leaf.  Sauté for about 15 – 20 minutes, or until the fennel and carrot are tender and starting to brown. 
  4. Add the oven-roasted tomatoes, including the liquid, and the chicken stock.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer uncovered for about an hour.  Remove the thyme sprig, lemon peel and bay leaf.  Puree the soup with an immersion blender or a regular blender.  Return to pot and taste for seasonings.  Adjust, if necessary.  Serve hot or cold.
Enjoy, preferably with someone you love!

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