Do you remember the tomato soup of your childhood? I do. It came in a can, and the second ingredient was high-fructuse corn syrup. As a hungry 10-year-old, the sweetness of the soup was an ideal companion for my grilled kraft cheese sandwich. I had no idea, nor did many people in the early 1980s, the health risks associated with such a seemingly harmless product made by the iconic Campbell’s Soup Company.
Now that I know better, I make my own tomato soup. This one has dry-farmed early girl tomatoes and ciollini onions from a local farm, and aged balsamic vinegar for a little extra tang. If you can’t make this soup within the next couple of weeks, buy the tomatoes, blanch, peel and stick in the freezer for a cold winter’s night, when you’re craving a taste of summer.
Dry-farmed early girl tomatoes are intense. Intense like nectarines on their ripest day, or strawberries at their peak. They’re called dry-farmed because after the seedlings are transplanted to the garden, you basically stop watering them. The lack of water forces the roots to dig deep for moisture, and concentrates their flavor. This technique produces a sweetness unlike any tomato you’ve ever had – even heirlooms. I tested out early girls from a few different farms, and surprise surprise, the tastiest were from Dirty Girl Farms. If you’re unfamiliar with Dirty Girl, maybe you’ve heard of Alice Water’s Chez Panisse? Dirty Girl supplies them, and other top Bay Area restaurants, with their grade-A produce.
I blanched the tomatoes first to remove the skins and roasted them with cipollini onions, garlic and balsamic vinegar. You can roast, then de-skin, but I find you lose too much precious tomato with that method. Next I whisked together a roux with 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of flour, just to thicken it a tad. You can even skip this step and not miss a thing. Puree the tomatoes, add some vegetable stock (homemade), and have some crusty Parmesan croutons for dipping.
Before I divulge the recipe for the best tomato soup I’ve ever had, I have a favor to ask. Foodbuzz is giving out coveted awards to worthy food bloggers, and I would love your support. Please vote for Local Lemons for “Best Recipe Blog” and “Blogger You’d Most Like to See Open a Restaurant.” It will only take a minute–click here to vote. Don’t feel obligated to fill out the entire survey…
And, Kirsten from California Olive Ranch set up a special discount for Local Lemon readers, so if you want to try out their amazing olive oil (I suggest the Arbequina) do so before October 31st and type in coupon code LOCAL for Free Shipping. Thanks Kirsten! Now for that recipe…
3 ½ pounds dry-farmed, early girl tomatoes
4 cipollini onions, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons high-quality, aged balsamic vinegar
2 cups tomato stock (I used stock from my tomato sauce, but you can use vegetable stock)
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 rustic baguette, sliced
A few leaves of basil to garnish
½ – 1 cup Stella parmesan, grated (Stella is a softer, creamier domestic parmesan, and perfect for melting.)
*optional: If your tomatoes aren’t early girls, you may want to add 1/2 tablespoon organic sugar–but taste before adding it.
Preheat the oven to 400F. Lightly cut an “X” into the bottom of the tomatoes, just cutting through the skin. Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Remove the skins, cut each tomato in half and place in a deep roasting dish. Some people may want to remove the seeds, but seeds don’t bother me.
Add onions, garlic, balsamic vinegar and a generous swirl of olive oil to the roasting dish, stir to combine Add a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast for 20-25 minutes. Place tomato mixture in a food processor and puree until smooth.
Heat up a cast-iron dutch oven on medium heat and melt butter. When it starts to bubble, add the flour and whisk continuously until it turns a light golden brown. Add pureed tomatoes to the roux and stir. Add stock and turn heat to medium-low. Let cook for 15 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper.
Lower oven to 350F. Drizzle baguette slices with olive oil and sprinkle with grated cheese. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 7-10 minutes. Switch to the broiler and broil for one more minute, or until cheese is golden.
Dip toasty, cheesy bread in the hot soup. Garnish with chopped basil.
Where I Shopped:
Dry-farmed early girl tomatoes, cipollini onions: Berkeley’s Tuesday Farmers’ Market, Dirty Girl Farms
Aged balsamic vinegar, stella parmesan: Berkeley Bowl, Berkeley
Rustic baguette: La Farine Bakery, Oakland