May 8, 2012

Other People's Recipes: Roasted Tomato Soup

I'll come right out and admit it; I don't mind the taste of most healthy foods.  My mother always tells people as a point of pride that I loved salad as a child, and I still do.  I like to snack on carrots and almonds just as much as I like to snack on Doritos and French fries.  But I've been learning, as Wife embarks on a quest to improve her health, that one thing is missing from most healthy dinners I've come across on the Internet. 


To be fair, Doritos aren't decadent.  It's not usually the disposable snacky foods I find myself craving as we plan our menu each week to meet certain caloric demands.  It's pizza with white sauce and pepperoni and cheese.  It's steak with a loaded baked potato and asparagus that is grilled and then coated with a slab of butter and big chunks of sea salt.  It's turkey pot pie or a three-egg ham and cheese omelet with multiple pieces of toast.  That sort of "oh my yum" reaction seems to be missing from the food we've been making lately.  It's not that it isn't good; I've never been so hyperbolic to suggest that healthy food can't be good.  It just seems to fail to capture the imagination in the same way as the things that are bad for us can. 

This is what I am talking about.  Bad for you.  Very decadent.
Since most of my feverish food dreams involved some sort of melting cheese, I hardly expected the solution to my craving to be a soup, let alone tomato soup.  But then again, this isn't any congealed red gel from Campbell's.  What first drew me to the recipe on Eating Well was the onions.  Wife and I love French onion soup, from the super cheesy little cups at Red Robin to Mother-in-Law's beefy brew, to the sweeter version our friend Luna made for us.  So a tomato soup that begins with caramelized onions?  I was on it. 
First, preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  The bulk of the hour and a half this soup takes to prepare happens inside the oven rather than on top of the stove.  While everything is warming up, thinly slice four cups of onions.  If you are so fortunate as to have one, you'll want to use a mandolin slicer for this process.  While they are convenient for any application where you have to create lots of thin slices, your eyes will be especially grateful if you can circumvent the onions in this way.  Not only did I use a mandolin, but I took advantage of Boy's eagerness to help and placed him on onion duty.  Not too shabby. 
 Take your onion slices and toss them in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and 1/4 t. each salt and pepper in a roasting pan.  Then toss them into your oven for twenty minutes. 

While the onions are beginning to roast, chop up four cups of tomatoes.  The original recipe calls for cherry tomatoes, halved, and the soup will definitely taste better if you shell out a couple more dollars to get the tiny fruits.  Still, I used Roma tomatoes this time around and the drop-off in quality wasn't that significant.  If you are using larger tomatoes, just imagine halved cherry tomatoes as you chop to get the appropriate size.  You'll also want to mince (and this isn't a misprint) a 1/2 cup of garlic.  Because it's roasted, the garlic in the soup is actually fairly mild, and you'll want every last piece to make it in.  As soon as the twenty minutes are up, mix in the tomatoes and garlic with the onions (just beginning to turn translucent) and put them back in the oven for another twenty. 

This time you can relax.  Place four* slices of good artisan bread (or eight, if they are particularly small, like a baguette) onto a baking sheet, and then put your feet up.  Read something or play a game.  When the twenty minutes are up, scrape all of that caramelized goodness into your soup pot and put it onto the stove at medium heat.  Add three cups of vegetable broth and bring it to a simmer.  Meanwhile, toast your bread for ten minutes.  The Eating Well recipe didn't call for turning the bread halfway through, but I did, and was rewarded with bread that didn't have any burned bits.  When it is done toasting, take an additional clove or two of garlic(!), smash them, and rub them onto the slices to help infuse just a little extra garlic flavor.   

The buttered ends are for my helpers. 
They also suggest turning the soup off once it reaches a simmer and covering it.  I found this step to be unnecessary.  I just dropped the heat until the simmer was incredibly gentle, and let it stay hot while I completed the last few steps.  Divide your bread between four bowls.  Then chop 2/3 of a cup of basil and grate 4 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese.  Ladle the soup directly onto the bread, and top with the basil and cheese, then serve.  
Girl was too busy to help much, but really wanted to be in the blog.
*If you go to the original recipe, you will see that it calls for six slices of bread, and 6 tablespoons of cheese.  In my experience, there is no way you are getting six servings out of this soup even if you stick to the tiny 1 cup portions they suggest; I've gotten five cups at best.  It is my opinion that you are much better suited to ditching a couple slices of bread and the extra cheese, and dividing that extra cup of soup between the four people at the dinner table.  After all, the slow cooked onions and tomatoes combined with the fresh basil and Parmesan create a truly decadent soup; why spread it too thin?

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