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

BLT Salad

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The picture above is Suzen’s interpretation of this recipe.

“It’s raining,” she said. “I’m not grilling.”

And so, we did not grill the romaine lettuce but simple served it tossed with bacon, tomatoes and dressing. Either way, this salad is treat, familiar yet dramatically different. This dish easily forms a full meal. Miss the bread of your traditional BLT? How about a warm dinner roll with butter.

Particularly if you do not grill the lettuce, you can create this meal in minutes.

Chilled white wine. You probably want that along with the rolls.

This recipe comes from 365 Comfort Foods from Better Homes and Gardens. Just as that BLT sandwich is something many of us crave [I can do it daily], this is a salad you’d enjoy on a regular basis.

Finally, when baking the bacon, consider topping it with brown sugar or maple syrup. The sweetened bacon will contrast with the buttermilk dressing and give your dish an added lift.

BLT Salad with Buttermilk Dressing

Yield: serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices bacon
  • 2 tablespoons crème fraiche or sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise or salad dressing
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 head romaine lettuce
  •  Olive oil
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ½ cup shaved Parmesan cheese

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Arrange the bacon in a shallow baking pan. Bake about 15 minutes or until crisp. Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels. Rumble the bacon and set aside.

Meanwhile, for the dressing, in a small bowl whisk together the crème fraiche, mayonnaise, dill, vinegar, and garlic. Whisk in the buttermilk. Seaton to taste with salt and pepper.

Cut each head of the lettuce in half lengthwise. Brush lettuce with oil and sprinkle with additional salt and pepper. For a charcoal or gas grill, place the lettuce on the rack of a covered grill directly over medium heat. Grill about 2 minutes or until lightly charred, turning one halfway through grilling. For a grill pan, preheat the pan, add the lettuce and cook as above.

Place the lettuce on 4 plates. Sprinkle over the bacon and tomatoes. Pour over the dressing and sprinkle with the Parmesan.

Source: 365 Comfort Foods from Better Homes and Gardens

Photo Information: Canon T2i, 18-55MM Macro lens, F/2.8, 100th second, ISO 1000