A perfect taste of summer~Roasted Tomato Soup

As summer sadly wanes and fall is creeping up on us, this is prime time to savor the delicious summer bounty. I had a few pounds of gorgeous tomatoes sitting on the counter waiting to be eaten and today, with a little rain outside and a chill in the air, it was the perfect day to make Roasted Tomato Soup.

As a kid, I HATED tomato soup. The stuff in the can doesn’t taste like tomatoes at all and add to it a grilled cheese sandwich with the ubiquitous American cheese and it was one of my worst nightmare dinners! But homemade tomato soup is completely different. Made with fresh tomatoes that are concentrated down to their perfectly delicious essence, a bowl of fresh tomato soup is really just sublime.

This recipe is so fast and easy, it makes a perfect meal on a busy weeknight, and of course you should make extra and freeze it so in the middle of snowy January, you can dig it out of the freezer and remember that summer will, in fact, come again!

For this recipe, you begin by roasting your tomatoes. If you have never roasted a tomato, you are really missing something! It is simple to do and you can use any type of tomato to roast. (You can even do a bunch of cherry tomatoes left on the vine, they make a great presentation as a garnish on a vegetable plate or a grilled salad!) Just crank the oven up to 450º, slice your tomatoes in half (or quarters if they are large) drizzle with olive oil, add some garlic cloves and roast them for 20-30 minutes until they begin to caramelize. You can roast them and freeze them, make a simple sauce out of them for pasta, or make them into soup! Oven roasted tomatoes, onions and garlic
We had a three cheese crouton to accompany the soup tonight and my eleven year old son decided that dunking the bread into his soup tasted just like pizza! Alrighty then, dunk away!

Roasted Tomato Soup
(adapted from Tyler Florence)

2 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes — (if possible use a mix of fresh heirlooms, cherry, vine and plum tomatoes)
6 cloves garlic — peeled
1 large sweet onion, such as Vidalia — sliced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher or Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 quart chicken stock
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Wash, core and cut the tomatoes into halves. Spread the tomatoes, garlic cloves and onions onto a baking tray. If using vine cherry tomatoes for garnish, add them as well, leaving them whole and on the vine. Drizzle with 1/4 cup of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, or until caramelized.

Remove roasted tomatoes, garlic and onion from the oven and transfer to a large stock pot (set aside the roasted vine tomatoes for later). Add 3/4 of the chicken stock, the bay leaves, and the butter. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until liquid has reduced by a third.

Wash and dry basil leaves and add to the pot. Use an immersion blender, or transfer in batches to a food processor or blender and puree the soup until smooth. Return soup to low heat, adjust consistency with remaining chicken stock, if necessary. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Garnish in bowl with 3 or 4 roasted vine cherry tomatoes and a splash of heavy cream.

Serves 4-6.

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Eggplant, Tomato, and Chicken Stacks

Last week a friend called asking if we could use some produce.  The frost was coming and they still had plum tomatoes, peppers and eggplants coming on.  Would I ever say no to the freshy freshest of tomatoes? No way!  Many thanks to Elise and her family for the ingredients for this gorgeous bounty!

I began with a fresh tomato sauce.  If you’ve never had fresh sauce, it is so easy to make, and just incredibly delicious.  Begin by cutting the tomatoes.  These were smallish Romas, so I cut them into quarters.  If they are large, then cut them into a nice chunky dice.  Put a few tablespoons of good olive oil in a pan, and chop up 2-3 cloves of garlic and throw it in, saute for a minute or two and then add the tomatoes, and some salt and pepper.  Allow that to cook for about 10 minutes.  Once the tomatoes seem to be breaking down, you can throw in a few tablespoons of chopped fresh herbs like basil and oregano.

While the sauce simmered,  I cooked some Farfalle pasta that I had, and then I pounded a few boneless, skinless chicken breasts until they were about 1/4″ thick overall.  It made the breasts huge, so I was able to cut them into thirds and stretch the portions!  These were simply seasoned with salt and pepper, brushed with a little olive oil and put on the grill.

I also got started grilling the eggplant.  Nothing fancy, just sliced it about 1/4″ thick, brushed it with olive oil and put it on a hot grill for about 4 minutes on each side.  It was nicely browned, a little char on it, but not too much.

Now it was ready to plate!  I layered two slices of eggplant, then a piece of chicken, two more slices of eggplant and then a slice of fresh Buffalo mozzarella.  Top it all off with a nice big ladle full of fresh sauce and some fresh basil!

This was so wonderfully fresh and delicious.  Dinner came together in about 30 minutes and was spectacular.  All three of my children and my husband devoured it!

This is my homage to the bounty of a late summer garden!