Roasted Tomato Soup


Several years ago my friend Chuck turned me on to this truly magnificent recipe from Smitten Kitchen for Roasted Tomato Soup with Broiled Cheese. Seriously. It’s even better than it looks in that post, if you can believe it. It’s like tomato soup and grilled cheese had a baby. A delicious, delicious baby.

Unfortunately, that first year, it was late in the season, and I only got to make a couple of meals worth, and then I had to wait eight long months until tomato season rolled around again. Ever since, every year between August and October, I make it a point to buy up as many tomatoes as I could afford, and store away as many jars of this soup as I can. It’s become my standard sauce for pretty much anything using tomatoes. In addition to making that delicious soup with broiled cheese, it’s my go-to sauce for a quick pasta meal all winter. Yum!

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Instead of using paste tomatoes, I prefer to use more flavorful heirloom beefsteak or slicer tomatoes. The drawback is that they’ve got a higher water content than paste tomatoes, and reduce down to a smaller amount of tomato with more liquid. That’s easy enough to fix, though. I just skip the step of adding stock to thin the soup. And since they’re getting roasted right away, I’m happy to buy up bruised or ugly tomatoes, which discounted at my CSA. (Honestly, is there really such a thing as an ugly tomato?)

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I slice them and salt and pepper them liberally, and then drizzle them with olive oil.

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I place them in a 325-350 degree oven and cook for about an hour to an hour and a half, until they begin to caramelize. You can see how much liquid they give off. Because of that, I roast them in a casserole dish rather than a cookie sheet. I also include a whole onion cut into wedges in one of the pans.

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Once they’re done roasting, I pour them into a large stock pot and let them simmer while the next batch is roasting.

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I also roast up a whole head of garlic (peeled) in a foil packet, drizzled with a little olive oil. I mean… look at this gorgeousness! Can you imagine how heavenly the house smells while this is going on?

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At this point, I add basil and oregano, and let things simmer. Actually, this is a good place to note that I often do this in stages. The roasting going on one evening, and the simmering, blending, and canning happening sometime during the next day or so.

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Once I feel like everything has had a chance to simmer and let the flavors mingle, I send everything through the blender until smooth.

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Which is almost a shame. Look how pretty this looks, with the colors jostling up against each other. I especially love it when I’ve got a good mix of tomato colors in there.

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OK. So, I also think this uniformly red-orange mix is beautiful too. But more because I know how delicious it is.

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Then, pretty quickly, while the soup is still hot, I put it in jars and drop them into my canning pot with the water already boiling. Fifteen minutes in the canning bath, and then out onto the counter to cool while I enjoy the tell-tale pop of the seals sealing.

As of this writing, I have set a new record for how many jars I’ve put up in one season. My count stands at 20.5 quarts, in a mix of quart and pint jars. That’s from four batches, with each batch about 13 pounds of tomatoes each. I’m already dreaming of all the things I’m going to cook up this winter!


More info:

Can I freeze this instead of canning? 
Yes! Absolutely! If you use the jars, be sure to leave extra room at the top and keep the lids very loose. Or, you can use freezer bags or other containers. I can it because I can. Which is why I don’t put any meat or cheese in the sauce when I’m cooking it before canning, although I often do when I use it in meals later.

Can I change up the recipe? Add more veggies or other things?
You bet! I was toying with the idea of making some with mushrooms and other spices, but decided this time around to stick to the original plan of just tomatoes, onions, garlic, and herbs. If I get more tomatoes next week, I might make a roasted tomato and pepper mixture to can, using up a lot of the peppers I’ve been meaning to cook up over the last couple of weeks.

Can I make it chunkier?
Certainly! I like it smooth, but chunky would be just as delicious and easy to can or freeze.

Do I have to save it for later?
This is the question I ask myself every time I make this. And the question Eric asks me as well. I don’t always can up all the sauce I’ve made. Sometimes it’s too good to not eat right then. The original recipe from Smitten Kitchen is not for preserving, but for cooking and eating that night. The reason I put away so much is because I want to enjoy it all winter long, and refuse to buy tomatoes out of season.

The year without


It was one year ago today that my beloved Mr. Bob left us. Not a day goes by where I don’t think about him or miss him deeply. And while my life has been filled with so much excitement and joy this year (graduation! wedding! new kitten! new job!) there have been more than a few nights where I’ve cried myself to sleep missing him.

His preferred spot in the bed.

His preferred spot in the bed.

The grieving process is an interesting one. For weeks I blamed myself. I admit, sometimes I still do, until I remind myself I did the best I could. Then, the sweet and sad memories come. And then, finally, the truly happy ones. Like the many post-workout naps he shared with Eric in the sun.

Post-ride, post-lunch afternoon nap in the sun.

Post-ride, post-lunch afternoon nap in the sun.

I knew it was true love when Bob and Eric became buddies. I used to joke that Bob loved Eric more than me. I know that’s not really true, but it warmed my heart to see the two of them together. Among my favorite memories are those of the evenings I’d come home from a long day at work and commuting and find Eric in the kitchen cooking with Bob perfectly perched on his shoulder.

But this is his most favorite spot: my lap.

But this is his most favorite spot: my lap.

And of the many hours I’d spend sitting, watching TV and working, with my laptop precariously balanced on my knees to make room for this adorableness. Choosing which photo of this pose to share was actually difficult, as I’d apparently taken dozens.

Mr. Bob enjoying some afternoon sunshine in "Grandpa's chair."

Mr. Bob enjoying some afternoon sunshine in “Grandpa’s chair.”

The hardest moments are those that sneak up on me. When I come downstairs and see the light hitting the chair just so and half expect to see him curled up there. Or when I wake in the middle of the night to the jolt of a cat jumping on the bed, but it’s not him.

I was blessed to have spent nearly 16 years with my beloved. I would give just about anything to have more time with him.

I miss you, my sweet boy.

Veggies!


Another week of beautiful vegetables, all from my farmer friends at Tierra Vegetables!

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Here’s the main haul: cabbage, carrots, parsley, acorn squash, an enormous celery, strawberries, potatoes, and cauliflower. So much food I couldn’t fit it all in my canvas bag! Such a bounty of beauty!

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So, I bought more stuff! More kale, basil, garlic, serano peppers, and persimmons.

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Oh, and more tomatoes! Although I didn’t really buy these as much as barter for them. But still… YUM! So many vegetables I’m feeling almost a bit overwhelmed by what to do with them all. But I have a few ideas.

This Week
Pot Roast. Still on the list. Our dinner with friends got pushed back again, but seem pretty definite for next week. Regardless, I will be cooking pot Roast next week, even if it’s just for me and Eric. Using the potatoes, some carrots, and the fennel left over from last week.

Cabbage Soup. Eric has yet to have the time to make his famous cabbage soup, although I suspect it will happen tonight. If it doesn’t use up this third head of cabbage, then I’ll have to come up with a back-up plan. Probably something to do with sautéing and using for breakfast. Or another type of soup. Fortunately, cabbage keeps for a long while in the fridge.

Tomato Soup. Yes. More. This will be my fourth batch. I’m hesitant to call it the last, because this warm autumn is keeping the tomatoes coming, and once it’s canned, it’ll keep for a long time! Right now I have something like 12 quarts put away. That’s one quart a month until next year’s tomato canning season!

Roasted Cauliflower.We’ve got a whole lot of cauliflower and broccoli (and zucchini) in the freezer for use in the winter when the weekly boxes turn into bi-weekly boxes. I’m tempted to use this cauliflower to make some kind of garlic, cheesy cauliflower thing that’s roasted and then puréed and topped with cheese. Oh! Maybe served over some seasoned ground beef! I’ll keep you posted!

Sautéed Kale. With onion, garlic, and mushrooms. And eaten with breakfast. Yum!

The celery is the sticking point, really. While I’m tempted to do up some really yummy cream of celery soup, I’ll probably just chop it up and add it to the celery in the freezer for use in soups later this winter. Boring, I know. But there’s only so much fresh-cooked food two people can make and eat in a week!

The acorn squash is going to be stored for later. Maybe for stuffing. 

The parsley is being dried in the kitchen window and will be added to my currently-running-low jar in the cupboard. The basil will be chopped and frozen in an ice cube tray with olive oil (my favorite way to save basil).

The strawberries are being eaten one by one every time we walk through the kitchen. And the persimmons are being sliced and eaten with breakfast.

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Last Week
Despite the lingering funk I’ve been experiencing, it’s been a pretty productive week. I got through quite a few things on the list from last week. I made the cream of broccoli soup, my third batch of tomato soup, roasted beets, and Eric made a huge batch of delicious salsa!

It’s fun to get back in to the kitchen again after taking so much time off for school. I still cooked, of course, but it wasn’t often that I had time to do anything more than just cook and eat the same go-to meals I seemed to rely on for years: pasta and sautéed veggies, happy bowl soup, and “clean out the fridge” frittata.

I fell in a hole


I fell in a hole. Again.

I guess the good thing is that I’m familiar with the sensation and can kind of brace myself when falling, and then keep myself calm while I’m down there looking for the way out.

I don’t know exactly what triggered it, but I suspect it had a lot to do with a combination of biochemistry (I have been struggling with anemia for several months now), and the stress of having to go to the dentist and have a root canal on a tooth that had already had one years ago, and the waning sunshine and returning rains. I just ran out out of the ability to navigate around the hole and resist the pull.

Anyway, I’m slowly pulling myself out of this one. After spending a couple of days of sleeping as much as possible and not much else, I knew I was on the way out Sunday night when I couldn’t sleep because I was so excited about my cooking project for today (cream of broccoli soup — recipe coming, I promise!). I don’t doubt that the brief return on sunshine on Sunday helped as well.

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Another factor is that I have so many ideas, I feel a bit overwhelmed when I sit down and try to get stuff done. I am having some trouble finding a way to streamline much of my blogging work. I always feel like I’m just barely making my self-imposed deadlines and sometimes even missing them. When I’m tired or stressed (or tired AND stressed), it’s harder to stay positive in the face of what can sometimes feel like failure. The failure to keep up with the schedule that I created to support my goals. The failure to find the easy way around the tedious parts of the work. The failure to instantly be a super star blogger.

“The deepest fear we have, ‘the fear beneath all fears,’ is the fear of not measuring up, the fear of judgment. It’s this fear that creates the stress and depression of everyday life.” Tullian Tchividjian

I know (today) that I will eventually will sort it out. It’s like a kind of puzzle, and I love puzzles. And one of my greatest work-related skills is the ability to do more in a day than others because I’ve created a streamlined process. So, I just have to keep reminding myself that I will eventually find the right system for this new career.

I also know that I will find my way out of this hole, just like I’ve done in the past. And I know that I will fall into another hole in the future. And another. And probably another. But, with each hole I exit, I gain more confidence in myself. Which, for me, is quite comforting when I need it most.

Veggies!


First, a quick check in on last week’s veggie plan. It went great! Frittata? Check! Tomato sauce? Check! Sautéed kale? Bean salad? Salsa? Check. Check. Check!

We didn’t make a roast chicken or a pot roast, as our dinner plans with a friend was postponed. But carrots and potatoes store well, and now that we have some fennel, that’ll make a perfect pot roast!

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Friday Faves


Swedish Corningware

It’s no secret I have an obsession with serving dishes and cookware. We host parties and game nights at least once a month, and sometimes more often, and I’m always looking for more plates and bowls to serve snacks in.

But I don’t just use these fun pieces for parties. Nope. Most of them also get daily use for my own snacks, or storage for fruits and veggies.

One of my all-time favorite finds is this 1975 Country Festival Corning Ware dish. It didn’t have the lid, but that’s OK. It’s not going in the oven. I found it at the local Sutter Care at Home Thrift Store, which isn’t a place I visit very often. But every time I do, I find something I love.

I just adore these little birds and flowers. They bring me a kind of simple joy that I cannot really describe. I’m not kidding. Even in my darkest funk, I get a little glow of happiness when I see them on the counter.

Do you have any favorite dishes? Is this a silly thing to get excited about?

Veggie Day


OK, so normally Tuesday is Veggie Day, but I wasn’t feeling very well on Tuesday, so I pushed it off until today.

First, let’s check in on how things went veggie-wise last week. No new or exciting kitchen creations. Oh well. We were out of town for a long weekend, so there weren’t many dinners at home last week.

Pretty much everything went into the freezer (celery & broccoli), pantry (onions), fridge storage (beets), or put on display (pumpkins).

Or got eaten (tomatoes). Nothing fancy. The green tomatoes were made into a jar of salsa. The orange cherry tomatoes were washed. Both were taken on our trip to Redding and enjoyed there with Eric’s mother and step-dad.

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This week’s haul:

  • potatoes
  • carrots
  • tomatoes
  • zucchini
  • green onions
  • kale
  • shelling beans

It’s definitely starting to feel like autumn here, but we’re still enjoying the end-of-summer produce, as you can see from this photo.

In addition to the huge bag of veggies, I also bought more tomatoes! Tomato season is drawing to a close, and I don’t feel like I have enough jars of tomato sauce on the shelves for winter. These’ll get roasted and canned tomorrow. I’ll even take photos and share them here once it’s all done.

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And, because I have some cash in my account again, I also splurged and bought some more of these little cuties. These little orange cherry tomatoes are my all-time favorites. So sweet and delicious. Like eating candy.

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This week’s veggie plan:

Frittata: We’ve got some great wild caught salmon in the freezer, and I love cooking it up in a frittata with baby potatoes, a diced carrot, and whatever else is on hand. I think this one will have some sautéed kale, zucchini, and topped with little orange cherry tomatoes and finely chopped green onions. Stay tuned for the recipe!

Tomato Sauce: Years ago, a friend shared this fabulous SmittenKitchen recipe for roasted tomato soup, and ever since, I’ve made a point to cook up and can as much of this soup recipe as possible, to enjoy over the winter. I don’t always use to make the soup, though. It also makes a wonderful pasta sauce. I just love having several jars of it on hand to use for quick winter dinners. So far, I have six jars. This weekend I’ll be making six more.

Sautéed Kale: We like including greens with our breakfast of black beans and eggs. It’s a great way to get some extra vitamins in, and they’re delicious. I just rinse and chop the kale and add it to a pan with some bacon fat, chopped onions and garlic, and sauté until softened. Yum!

Bean Salad: I’ve seen some intriguing recipes for bean salads, and plan to try one of them out with these shelling beans. They’re black coco beans, so I think they’ll make a pretty dish with the orange or yellow tomatoes and green onions.

Salsa: Any tomatoes that don’t get eaten with breakfast or snacked on during the day, or made into sauce, will be made into Eric’s fantastic salsa fresca. Probably one of the last batches of the year. Which means it will be enjoyed with much pomp and circumstance.

Pot Roast OR Roast Chicken: While the daytime temps are still in the mid-70s, the evenings are cool and that makes me start thinking about using my oven again. I have both a pork butt and a whole chicken in the freezer. Which one I decide to roast up will probably be determined by how I feel on the day I go pull one or the other from the freezer to thaw. I’m leaning toward the pot roast so I can use up these cute little potatoes and a couple of carrots. But, you never know.

Zucchini: Honestly, we’re about done with summer squash. I’ve been freezing it to include in pasta dishes and soup all winter. If there’s anything left from these, they’ll get added to that stash.