Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Super Natural Tomato Soup

I recently reviewed 101 Cookbooks food blogger Heidi Swanson's new cookbook Super Natural Cooking: Five Ways to Incorporate Whole & Natural Ingredients into Your Cooking (published by the Celestial Arts imprint of Ten Speed Press.)

My overall impression in my Paper Palate review was very favorable although as is my way I had a few quibbles. I also discuss some of the non-recipe attributes of the cookbook (including the wonderful photos by Heidi). Here's a link to the review itself.

I really enjoyed the recipe I tried, Roasted Tomato and Paprika Soup.

Roasted Tomato and Paprika Soup
(Adapted from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson)

Olive oil
5 tomatoes, cored and quartered (I used a medium-sized ripe heirloom, beefsteak/slicing variety. If using plum tomatoes, use about 8-10 depending on size)
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and quartered
3 yellow onions (I used medium sized onions), peeled, quartered
5 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
Fine-grain sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cups vegetable stock or water (I used a very light vegetable stock.)
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Grease two baking sheets with rims with some of the olive oil. On one sheet put the quartered tomatoes, skin side down. Coat the bell pepper, onion and garlic with olive oil and place on second baking sheet. Sprinkle both baking pans with salt and pepper.

Have two oven racks positioned in center of oven. Place one pan on each rack. Cook until tomatoes are softened and onions have become golden brown (about 45 minutes). Turn onions if they start to get very brown on the bottom. Pull garlic if it looks like it will burn. When the vegetables are roasted, remove from oven. Peel garlic and then put garlic and the other vegetables in a tall pot. Add a bit of your stock and use a hand blender to puree to the desired consistency. (If you don't have a hand blender, process in batches in your food processor of blender and then return to the pot.) Add the rest of the stock and the paprika. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Heat if desired. Can be served cold, room temperature or hot. (Note, seasonings lose a bit of their punch if served cold and you'll need to add more than if you serve the soup hot, so correct the seasonings at the temperature you plan to serve it at. If you are like me and serve it both hot and cold, correct for hot. You can always add more seasonings by the bowl when you serve it cold.)

I think the soup would be great with a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt and/or with a bit of very dry Spanish sherry swirled in and maybe a bit of chopped parsley, fennel frond or cilantro sprinkled on top. A cheese-topped crouton would be a nice way to dress it up as well. One wonderful lunch was half of a grilled brie sandwich with a bowl of the soup. My husband enjoyed pouring some cold into a small glass and slurping it as a kind of tapas or starter.

This recipe was a hit in my house and I plan on making it again soon. I love to make tomato soup, I often use roasted vegetables as a base for other dishes and smoked paprika is one of my favorite seasonings, but I never thought to combine them all, so for me this dish was perfect. I did have some quibbles. For example, the recipe was not originally written with enough direction as to the size of some of the ingredients and directions were not given for those who might not own a hand blender. I have to say if these were complaints I had about a recipe written for a blog I wouldn't have even commented, but somehow when a recipe is printed in a cookbook, I look for a different standard. But in the end, it does come down to how a dish tastes, and this recipe came out just wonderful, so these are just nitpicks on my part and I look forward to using this cookbook often, especially for everyday family meals, and as a resource for natural/superfood ingredients.

Update: Jumbo Empandas wrote about her experience with Heidi's Espresso Banana Muffins here.

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