There are many great things about summer, including sleeping late and not having to worry about the kids’ homework, but at the top of the list for me is the abundance of fresh produce.
One of my favorite go-to dishes to make during the summer is soup. It’s easy and quick to prepare, and makes a dinner packed with delicious nutrients. Paired with a deli sandwich, grilled cheese, or a salad, it’s a perfect light and healthy summer meal that everyone will enjoy.
I can make soup out of just about any vegetable, but my all-time favorite is roasted tomato and basil soup (which, yes, I know, is actually a fruit, not a vegetable). First, I love tomatoes. Most likely you will see dozens of recipes on the blog involving tomatoes as the summer progresses. Tomatoes not only taste incredible at the height of their season, but they are truly a super food with health benefits galore – they are packed with vitamin A, vitamin C and folic acid, as well as other beneficial nutrients and antioxidants, such as lycopene, beta-carotene and potassium.
For this soup, I doubled the recipe and used about 10 pounds of a variety of tomatoes, including cherry, on-the-vine and beefsteak. I like to make a large batch of soup at one time so I have left overs on hand and can freeze some for dinner on nights when we’re crazy busy.
Use fresh local tomatoes whenever possible – not only will they taste better, but you’re supporting a local farmer at the same time. Using a mix of tomatoes gives several flavors to the soup – not all tomatoes taste the same, and even the same variety of a tomato from different regions will taste slightly different. This soup also is a great way to use those tomatoes you have on hand that may be a little past their prime, so to speak, as they will be just fine blended in a soup after roasting.
I like to roast the tomatoes to give them a nice smoky flavor. Adding fresh basil, a little smoked sea salt, onions and garlic to the tomatoes before roasting them will intensify the roasted flavor of the soup.
I use a smoked sea salt form a local company here in Louisville, Bourbon Barrel Foods. Check them out sometime – I love using their products in just about anything I make.
This recipe includes the addition of a small amount of heavy cream to finish off the soup. If you prefer to keep the soup dairy-free or do not want to add any additional fat, you can easily leave out the cream and add extra vegetable broth to the soup if needed. For a dairy-free version, add any dairy-free alternative, such as soy or coconut milk.
I like to serve this roasted tomato and basil soup with grilled cheese – it’s a perfect pairing. These days, my family loves a more rustic grilled cheese. I thick slice a hearty grain or sunflower seed boule or other fresh baked bread, and use a variety of cheese such a smoked Gouda, sharp Wisconsin cheddar and Colby to make the grilled cheese.
For myself, I like to go a little rogue and try something different – like Moroccan Olive Bread with smoked Havarti, Mozzarella and sliced cherry tomatoes. Dipped in this fresh flavored tomato soup there’s nothing better for dinner.
Roasted Tomato & Basil Soup
5 pounds of tomatoes, any variety, cored and halved or quartered (depending on size)
1 large yellow onion, sliced
6-10 peeled garlic cloves (depending on taste)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Kosher sea salt
1 teaspoon smoked sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup freshly chopped basil
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 quart vegetable stock
1/2 cup heavy cream, optional
Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees
Toss tomatoes, garlic, onions and basil leaves with olive oil. Spread mixture on lined baking sheets and season with salts and pepper. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Roast for approximately 20-30 minutes, or until charred and carmelized.
Transfer tomato mixture, including any liquid on the tray, to an 8 quart stock pot over medium heat. Add enough vegetable stock to fully cover tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Use an immersion blender to puree until smooth. You also can puree the soup in a blender. Working in small batches that only fill the blender to one-half, pulse on slow speed. Increase the speed slowly to puree until smooth. Hold the blended soup in a separate bowl until all of the soup is pureed, and then return the pureed soup to the pot.
Increase heat to low. Add heavy cream (or dairy free alternative) if adding and stir to blend. Add thyme and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve warm. Yields approximately 8-10 servings.
This soup can be stored in the refrigerator in a container for up to a week, or in the freezer for 1 month.
Roasted Vegetable Soup:
I also have used the same general recipe as above to make a roasted vegetable soup. You can use any variety of roasted vegetables you like, and follow the same method and ingredients as above, except omit the balsamic vinegar and add a teaspoon of oregano to the roasted vegetable soup.