I am, in my soul, a gazpacho addict. I love the concept and all the flavors that gazpacho, made with fresh ingredients, can deliver to my table.
Funny thing, after thinking conventional tomato soup was ghastly, any tomato soup on a menu now captures my attention. Even roasted tomato soup. From canned tomatoes. I must admit that for this recipe, roasting the tomatoes in brown sugar may have something to do with my new found preferences. Just maybe.
This lovely soup has this key advantage: it is available year round. No need to wait for Jersey tomato giants in August. This generously flavored soup has a peasant food heritage: diced bread and grated cheese merged with half-and-half. This soup can be your introduction to a full meal, but it has the body to, on its own, be the centerpiece of your evening. Just pair with a salad. And, of course, finish with a clever dessert. [Need a clever idea? Try our earlier post on Cutie Pies!]
- Nonstick cooking spray
- 2 (28 ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons dark or light brown sugar
- Half a medium loaf of focaccia bread, cut into a 1/2″ dice (about 3 cups bread cubes)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup finely grated sharp cheddar cheese (use a Microplane grater)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (see note above)
- 4 large shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 large or 2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and chopped (about 2 teaspoons)
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves (optional)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- About 3 cups water
- 1/2 cup half-and-half
Adjust oven racks to middle positions and preheat oven to 375°F.
Prepare the tomatoes: spray a large rimmed sheet tray with an even coating of cooking spray. Add drained tomatoes and space evenly. Season tomatoes to taste with salt and pepper, then divide brown sugar over tops of tomatoes. Roast tomatoes in oven until sugar is browned and tomatoes have shrunken slightly, about 45 minutes. Remove tomatoes from oven.