March 18, 2012

A Winter Cheat: Roasted Tomato Soup

Just about this time of year, I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. The symptoms are all there: lack of energy and the ability to concentrate; slow, lethargic movement; social withdrawal; irritability. Except the cause is not what you might think. I'm perfectly fine with grey skies, and every day after the winter solstice gets reassuringly longer.

No, it's not the weather, tempting as that may be to blame. The cause of my winter doldrums is quite simple. No tomatoes. After the glory of late fall's harvest, I'm left leaden by the hard and unyielding, artificially red orbs in the produce section. Mexico's harvest doesn't tempt me, and even the baby tomatoes that grow up in greenhouses seem somehow wrong and out of place next to the kale and cabbage.

While it's noble to wait until the seasons spin around again, I still imagine there must be some easy way to extract a kernel of flavour from what's at hand. And just as the secret to a summer tomato is the heat of the sun, so too is heat the trick to bringing life to the seemingly lifeless winter tomato. This delicious soup almost manages to make you think that the sun shining outside is smiling down on leafy tomato plants and not a blanket of snow.

Roasted Tomato Soup
from Gourmet Today
serves four to six

4 lb tomatoes, halved lengthwise
6 garlic cloves, left unpeeled
3 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1 medium onion, finely chopped
½ tsp dried oregano, crumbled
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
½ cup heavy cream

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. 

2. Place tomatoes and garlic in one layer on a rimmed cookie sheet, tomatoes cut side up. Drizzle olive oil over the tomatoes and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Roast for one hour, and allow to cool.  Once garlic is cool enough to handle, peel and set aside.

3. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over moderate heat.  Add onion, oregano, and sugar and sauté, stirring frequently, until onion is softened, about five minutes. Add tomatoes, garlic, and stock and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

4. Let soup cool slightly and then purée in batches.  Put the soup through a sieve, discarding solids, and place in a medium saucepan. Stir in cream and salt and pepper to taste and simmer two minutes.  Sprinkle with some grated Parmigiano Reggiano, if desired, and garnish with a fresh sprig of basil.

The addition of cream gives this soup an almost carroty colour

If the thought of using winter tomatoes still doesn't appeal, wisely do what the Italians do and use canned tomatoes, sourced at their height of juicy goodness.