So let me tell you about making soup in August.
I mean, who makes—let alone eats—soup in August? Except that, in August the garden out back is simply bursting with wonderful stuff, more than we newly empty nesters can possibly consume in a year when home entertaining is pretty much taboo.
Out back I have five varieties of tomatoes, both heirlooms from the Landis Valley Farm Museum Seed Project, and Camparis and San Marzanos I started from saved seeds. We simply can’t consume all these tomatoes ourselves as they ripen, so I have to be creative and productive, and be ready to squirrel away tomatoes for the winter months, when the tomatoes at the grocery store come from South America. Yech! Plus, there’s the herb garden—thyme, sage, oregano, parsley, chives, sweet and Thai basil…
Okay, okay. So I made copious quarts of sauce last week (recipe here: https://jeffskitchen.net/2013/08/25/canning-a-fabulous-marinara-sauce-quickly-and-simply/). And a batch of chutney. And admittedly, I will harvest, roast, peel, and can the last of the San Marzanos and Amish Pastes when the chill arrives—if it ever arrives—so that I have them to cook with in late fall and winter. And there is panzanella (recipe here: https://jeffskitchen.net/2018/07/02/authentic-tuscan-panzanella/ ) to be enjoyed while the big slicers are around.
This here recipe is about as good as soup recipes can get, especially if you like tomato soup. It’s not that “just-add-water-and-serve-with-grilled-cheese” creamy stuff from concentrate (although I have to admit, that’s pretty good too). And it’s not cold summer Gazpacho (although that’s pretty good too if you like cucumbers (recipe here: https://jeffskitchen.net/2013/07/16/cheffzillas-gazpacho-with-a-kick/).
But it’s a warm and flavorful chunky Mediterranean-style garden soup that tastes great, is completely vegan, freezes beautifully, and is even good cold.
So, if your garden is overflowing with tomatoes, if a bunch show up in the break room at work, if you can’t resist the huge piles of giant fresh tomatoes at the farmer’s market, or if you just want something sweet and swell, try this soup. It’s even one of the easiest soups you’ll ever make.
• 3 lb Roma tomatoes, halved, or whatever assortment you have on hand
• 2 to 3 carrots, cut into small chunks
• 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil (I used home made garlic-infused EVOO)
• 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
• 5-10 garlic cloves (to taste), smashed (I used a whole head of garlic)
• 1 14-oz can crushed tomatoes (Muir Fire-roasted, if you can find them)
• 1 cup packed, fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
• 3 to 4 sprigs fresh thyme, or 2 tsp dried thyme leaves
• 2-3 sprigs fresh oregano, or 1 tsp dried oregano
• 1 tsp sweet paprika (you could use smoked paprika if you like, but I think it’s one too many flavors)
• 1 tsp ground cumin
• 2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
• Juice of 1 fresh lime
Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
• In a large mixing bowl, combine tomatoes, garlic, and carrot pieces. Add a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Toss to combine.
• Transfer to a large baking sheet and spread well in one layer. Roast in heated oven for about 45 minutes. When ready, remove from the heat and set aside for about 10 minutes to cool.
• Transfer the roasted tomatoes, garlic, and carrots, and all the juice to a food processor fitted with a blade, and blend till just barely chunky.
• In a large enamel or stainless (NOT ALUMINUM!!!) soup pot, heat 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add onions and cook for about 3 minutes, then add salt and pepper and cook briefly until golden. Don’t let the onions burn.
• Pour the roasted tomato mixture into the cooking pot. Stir in canned tomatoes, vegetable stock, basil, thyme, and spices. Season with a little kosher salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and cover part-way. Let simmer for about 30 minutes or so.
• Remove the thyme springs, squeeze in the lime juice, and transfer tomato basil soup to serving bowls. If you like, add a generous drizzle of olive oil. Serve with your favorite crusty bread or grilled pieces of French baguette. Enjoy!
We’ve come round the bend and into the Mediterranean Sea. We’re stopping in Alexandria, Egypt, on our way through the canal to India. We’ve been traveling by steamer all night, and are in need of a hearty late breakfast/early lunch meal that includes both lots of veggies and some protein, but not a heavy protein. The answer is shakshouka.
The word comes either from the Berber word chakchouka, which means vegetable stew, or from the Hebrew leshakshek, which means shake. Its origin is somewhat disputed; some think it is originally an Israeli dish, others insist its origin is Tunisia, and some of those think that it originated with Tunisian Jews. Whatever the origin, it is highly popular throughout Mediterranean Africa, especially in Egypt. The upshot throughout the region is that it is sort of a shaken mixture. That defines it quite well.
In any case, it is a mixture of fragrant spices, and is served with an egg poached in the vegetable stew and cut-up pitas, to soak up the juices and the egg yolk.
And it is really tasty. Here’s the recipe:
1/4 cup olive oil
3 Anaheim chiles (or 4 or 5, if you like it spicy) stemmed, seeded, and coarsely chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 head of garlic, top trimmed off and roasted*
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes with juice, crushed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
Warm pitas, for serving
*Roasted garlic: preheat the oven to 350. Slice off the top of the garlic head, drizzle 1 teaspoon olive oil over the exposed cloves; leave the head otherwise intact. Wrap the garlic in aluminum foil and roast for 45 minutes; remove from oven, cool until warm but safe to touch.
Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add chiles and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic (squeeze the garlic from the skins), cumin, paprika, and fennel, and stir to mix well and heat throughout, about 2 more minutes.
Crush the tomatoes in a bowl by hand and add with the liquid to skillet along with 1/2 cup water; reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes. Season sauce with salt and pepper.
Crack eggs over sauce so that eggs are evenly distributed across sauce’s surface. Cover skillet and cook until yolks are just set, about 5 minutes. Using a spoon, baste the whites of the eggs with tomato mixture, being careful not to disturb the yolk. Sprinkle with feta and parsley and serve with pitas, for dipping.
Thanks to Deb Perelman at Smitten Kitchen for the foundation of this recipe, with which I started, but then altered just a bit after trying several varieties.