Sunday, February 14, 2016

Roasted Garlic Tomato Soup

For the last number of days, we've been having a cold front hovering over us. Now a cold front for Belize means the nighttime temps can drop into the mid-50s, and the daytime temps may make it to the low 80s. Factor in gusty winds and most folks here have donned long pants, hoodies, and even put on socks! I know many of you in the States are suffering the effects of an epic cold snap, and will roll your eyes at our weather, but trust me, once you get acclimated to heat and humidity, the dip in the temps comes as a shock.

It's just this type of weather that screams for something warm and comforting to eat. And when I think of comfort food, homemade tomato soup comes to mind. The fact that I would be near the stove also helped, in order to get warm.

Casting around my pantry and fridge, I decided to do a bit of a riff on just plain tomato soup. The first thing I did was cut off the top of a head of garlic, placed it in some foil, drizzled olive oil over it, then wrapped it up and put it into a 400-degree oven for about 30 minutes. Within no time, our kitchen smelled of garlicky goodness.

With the garlic baking away, I warmed a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot and added some chopped onion, salt, and crushed red pepper flakes.

When the onions were tender, two 28-ounce cans of diced tomatoes (with their juices) were added to the pot, along with the now soft and delicious smelling baked garlic cloves, and about a cup of homemade chicken stock.

Everything got stirred around and was left to simmer for about 1 1/2 hours, then tasted for seasoning. It needed just a pinch more salt.

I dug out the immersion blender and whizzed it through the diced tomatoes. We like a bit of texture in our soup, so I left some of the tomato chunks.

At this point, about a 1/2 cup of unsweetened condensed milk was added (cream or half & half would also work), along with some grated Parmesan cheese. The soup then simmered for about another 20 minutes.

While the soup was doing its thing, I julienned some basil and fried up some slices of bread. Boy, is fried bread awesome!

I put a thin slice of Parm on top of the soup, along with the strips of basil.

In spite of using canned tomatoes, this soup was packed with flavor. The roasted garlic permeated every spoonful, and brought a back note of sweetness. The crushed red pepper flakes offered up their zing, but not in any sort of overwhelming way. And the cheese lent a saltiness that balanced everything out. 

All in all, a great soup for chilly weather no matter where you live.

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