Michael Chiarello's Roasted Tomato Soup

We went to a football party today and I thought I’d use some more tomatoes from our garden. I originally was going to take bruschetta, but since our weather is a little cool, I thought I’d make soup instead. I used a recipe that I had seen Michael Chiarello make on the TV Food Network. It was easy to make -- I was glad I didn’t need to seed and peel 12 tomatoes! It was smooth, thick, and hearty, and people were surprised that it’s also healthy. I made a few minor changes. Here’s the way I made it:

Roasted Tomato Soup with Bruschetta Croutons

Yield: 8 one-cup servings

For the soup:
12 large (about 4 pounds) tomatoes, stemmed and quartered
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/4 cup good-quality balsamic vinegar
12 large garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped yellow onions
2 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves
2 cups cold water

For the bruschetta:
1 loaf country-style bread (I used a Wegmans’ batard)
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt (I used roasted garlic gray sea salt)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Prepare the tomatoes. In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, 1/4 cup of the oil, the vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper. Spread the tomatoes on a nonreactive* baking sheet. Roast the tomatoes in the oven until very dark in spots, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove and allow to cool.

Prepare the bruschetta. Cut the bread crosswise into slices about 1-inch thick. Lightly brush the slices on both sides with oil and season with salt. Place the slices on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until the bruschetta are golden brown and just beginning to crisp, about 7 minutes.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine remaining 2 tablespoons oil, the onions, and a pinch of salt. Cook until the onions are very soft, 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the 2 cups basil leaves and saute with the onions for about 1 minute.

Add the roasted tomatoes and water to the saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Puree the tomato mixture in a blender (start at slow speed and increase gradually) or use an immersion blender right in the pot (that’s what I did). The mixture should be smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings.

You can prepare the soup to this point and refrigerate it. When ready to serve, pour the soup into a medium saucepan and warm it over medium heat. I served it in a crock pot. Heat it on high, then turn it down to low. Because it is thick, it can burn in the crock pot, so keep checking it and stirring it. I’m also going to try freezing it – I don’t see why it wouldn’t work.

I served the soup with bruschetta on the side. People dipped the bruschetta into the soup. The original recipe called for the bruschetta to be put in the center of a shallow soup bowl, with the soup poured around it.

* Do not use aluminum or cast iron when cooking with tomatoes or wine. Stick with non-reactive cookware such as enamel, Pyrex, or stainless steel. I know this is a rule, but I don't really know why...