Suzi's Blog

Brown Sugar-Roasted Tomato Soup with Cheddar Croutons from Serious Eats

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!]

Ingredients:

  • 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

Preparation:

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.

Meanwhile, prepare the croutons. In a large bowl, toss cubed bread with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and grated cheddar cheese. Massage bread so cheese adheres well. Turn out onto a rimmed baking sheet and bake, stirring occasionally, until well-browned and crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
Prepare the soup: Heat butter in a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven set over medium heat. Add shallots, garlic, and thyme (if using), and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots are translucent but not browned, about 6 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, until it browns, about 2 minutes. Add roasted tomatoes, reserved tomato liquid, and enough water to cover, about 3 cups. Bring soup to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until some liquid has evaporated, about 30 minutes.
Let soup cool slightly, about 10 minutes. Add half and half and use a hand blender to blend soup until smooth. Alternatively, blend soup in a blender in two batches. Check soup for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper to taste. Serve in bowls, garnished with a handful of croutons.

Source: Serious Eats

Really Simple Homemade Croutons

zv7qrnb

I can’t believe I’m writing this, but a trip down the aisle of a megamart has left me no choice. There were dozens of varieties of croutons. All nicely boxed up, all manufactured with enough “additives” to let them last for years. They tend to be rock hard with distinctively chemical tastes. For example, if they are “onion” or “garlic” those boxy scents simply do not ring true to your palette.

The solution? Just make your own. It’s wonderfully simple and you have the benefit of controlling flavor and texture. The basic flavoring here is garlic, but you can add onion, chili powder, or herbs. For texture, it’s really a matter of your preference and what uses you have in mind. Do you like your croutons soft in your Caesar Salad, then bake until you finger begins to feel some resistance. Want them crispy for a soup, then bake away until they are fully browned.

Seriously, those boxes on the shelves may say croutons, but they are not these are.

When making these, try to get fresh French bread. That megamart probably comes with a bakery that does turn out fresh bread. Look for a loaf still warm from the oven.

Or, go the next step. I make my own sourdough bread and I will modestly say it is wonderful. My bread is an expected contribution to any dinner party we attend, and I am delighted that so many people enjoy it. Like Carnegie Hall, good bread is achieve with practice. With that practice and perhaps a class or two, you can make your own bread and relish in the flavors that truly reflect your home. Talk about terroir!

Really Simple Homemade Croutons

Yield: 3 cups

Ingredients:

1 clove of garlic, smashed
Onions, chili powder, or herbs, optionally
3 tablespoons butter, softened
3 cups of diced French bread, about ¼ by ¼ by ½ inches

Preparation:

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Cover a half sheet pan with aluminum foil.

Place the garlic, butter, and any optional ingredients in a 5-cup glass bowl and microwave until the butter is almost fully melted, about 45 to 75 seconds. Stir to complete the melting of the butter and to make sure the garlic flavor is thoroughly infused.

Add the French bread to the bowl and gentle stir with a spoon to completely coat each piece of bread. Spread the croutons on the foil. Bake until you achieve the level of doneness you desire.

Source: Brian O’Rourke