Roasted Tomato Basil Soup
As a kid, I was a really good skier. However, I took an extended hiatus from the sport between the ages of 14 and 24, and when I returned to the slopes in 2011, it was with a healthy fear of death. Call me crazy, but I no longer enjoy racing through the trees or “shredding the gnar pow” in the back bowls. Instead, I prefer to take a couple runs that are clearly marked with a friendly blue square before hitting the après scene. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
Unfortunately, my roommate has a difficult time accepting my lack of enthusiasm when it comes to skiing, and he mistakenly believes that if I just ski more, I will eventually fall in love with it. So, for the past few years, he’s dragged me onto various mountains (his parents conveniently live in Vail, CO) and patiently tried to turn me into the all-star skier he “knows I can be.”
To Logan’s credit, he is an excellent coach, but I don’t think he understands what I want out of skiing (i.e. to survive and then to drink cocktails). Therefore, he consistently makes absurd suggestions like, “Bend your knees more. You’ll go so much faster!” Why the EFF would I want to go faster??!! I’m already going at the speed of light, and if I go any faster, I may not live to thank him for the helpful “tip.” Jesus.
In addition to the fear of meeting my maker with helmet hair, I also suffer from frostbite-related anxiety. My notoriously bad circulation causes all kinds of issues when skiing, since I tend to lose feeling in my fingers, toes and nose before I’ve even made it through the first run. The hand warmers strategically shoved into my gloves and various pockets of my one-piece rarely make a difference, and dear God, I HURT. My face was so painfully cold last winter that I was forced to buy one of those black facemasks with a tiny hole for your nostrils and a perforated mouth. I wore it for a couple days and it helped, but my roommate kept calling me “Bane,” which I did not like.
Despite the aforementioned drawbacks, I do appreciate some elements of skiing, specifically, one-piece ski suits and lunch on the mountain. In terms of the latter, I find that there’s nothing quite like thawing one’s extremities over hot chocolate and a steaming bowl of soup after a long morning of near-death experiences. I live for lunch.
While I’m always down for a good chicken posole or veggie chili, this winter I’m all about the tomato basil soup. Vail Mountain does tomato basil right, and I’ve been meaning to recreate that glorious soup for a while. As luck would have it, the polar vortex returned yesterday, giving yours truly the perfect opportunity to tackle this cozy comfort food. So, without further ado, I proudly present my latest triumph: Roasted Tomato Basil Soup.
There are infinity incarnations of tomato soup in the universe, and I love a good creamy version, bisque, and those with cheese, pasta or rice involved. That said, I’m partial to rustic simplicity when it comes to my tomato soup. This recipe requires only a handful of ingredients, yet it still manages to blow your mind with its badass flavor profile. The lingering acidity of the hearty tomatoes is perfectly balanced by the subtle sweetness of fresh basil and roasted garlic, crushed red pepper flakes give it a slight kick, and a drizzle of good quality olive, basil or chili oil adds extra depth to each bowl. Honestly, this stuff is like a Snuggie for your soul, friends.
Since we’re not exactly in the midst of tomato season right now, I was forced to use whole peeled tomatoes of the canned variety for this creation. I had never attempted to roast canned tomatoes prior to yesterday’s domestic venture, but I’m pleased to report that it worked like a charm (and cut out the tedious peeling of a bazillion tomatoes). I simply halved the “fruits” lengthwise, arranged them on a baking sheet with a little olive oil, and popped them into a 400-degree oven. After 35 minutes, the tomatoes were lightly browned and had developed a richer, more concentrated flavor. It was thrilling.
My favorite aspect of this ridiculously flavorful soup is that it happens to be a guilt-free vegan wonder. It makes an excellent lunch, light dinner, or healthy snack, and it freezes like champ, which is great if you want to make a big batch to keep on hand for weeks to come. (You should.)
For those Logan-esque individuals who panic without meat, cheese or carbs, I’ve obviously got your backs. While it certainly doesn’t require any accoutrements, this soup can easily be dressed up six ways to No-Calorie Sunday. Feel free to add browned Italian turkey sausage or roasted shrimp to each bowl, or mix in some cooked farro, quinoa, orzo or tortellini. I also recommend experimenting with different cheeses, such as Asiago, sharp cheddar, goat, or mozzarella if you want a little more heft. Personally, I like to serve this soup with some fancy grilled cheese fingers for dipping (as pictured) because there is nothing in the world more comforting than grilled cheese and tomato soup. Fact.
If you insist on a creamier tomato soup, you can mix in ½ a cup of heavy cream at the end, but please be advised that beach season begins in T-2 short months. Do with that what you will….
Roasted Tomato Basil Soup: (Serves 4)
2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
4 large cloves garlic, unpeeled
½ Spanish onion, finely diced
2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
3 whole sprigs basil plus ¼ cup coarsely chopped basil
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1-1½ teaspoons crushed red chili flakes
½ cup heavy cream
Extra fresh basil
Asiago, Cheddar or Mozzarella Cheese
Basil, olive, chili or other fancy oil of your choice for drizzling
Grilled Cheese Sticks (Just slice your favorite grilled cheese into sticks for easy dipping. Duh.)
Preparing your Roasted Tomato Basil Soup:
-Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
-Drain the tomatoes and reserve the liquid.
-Halve each tomato lengthwise and arrange them in an even layer in a roasting pan or on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with a little kosher salt and pepper.
-Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium Dutch oven or saucepan. When hot, add the onions and sauté for 3 minutes until translucent.
-Remove the whole basil sprigs from the pot.
-Puree the soup using an immersion blender, food processor, or regular blender. No need to get it completely smooth, a little texture is a good thing.
NOTE: If you are using a regular blender, remove the cap or stopper from the lid of your blender. Puree the soup in batches, never filling the blender more than halfway full, and hold a dish towel over the hole in the lid when you turn the blender on. I tell you this because if you simply pour a bunch of hot soup into a blender, put the lid on, and let it rip because your blender will most likely explode and splatter scalding soup all over you. Trust.
-Return the pureed soup to the pot and stir in the chopped basil. Taste your fabulous creating and season with salt and pepper to taste. If you want a creamy soup, stir in 1/3 cup of heavy cream over low heat.
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