Well, turns out, I've changed my tune. Redemption comes in many forms, dear friends, and soup is one of them.
After the passata fiasco, I took a wee tomato time out, got my head back on, and then jumped back in the game. Visited a few blogs and sites on canning. Toned down the cursing. Generally sorted myself out. You know how it goes.
And I learned a few things. Namely, that I don't have to can all of these tomatoes. I read here on SouleMama, that she freezes her tomato sauce! Freezes the sauce! I have a freezer! And I don't need to worry about acid levels and botulism, or even buying more lids and jars! (Although I still may, because mason jars are so cool.)
So there was that bit of inspiration, thanks to SouleMama. She's just so lovely, and homey, and serene, isn't she? I suppose that kind of serenity really stands out to me, considering it is often something I am distinctly lacking. Life's a learning curve, though, and I'm not finished learning yet.
Right. So then, there was the soup. I again drew inspiration from Amanda Soule's Carrot Tomato Soup recipe. (I truly was all over the place, seeking tomato ideas...SouleMama's just where it's at, I guess.) The main features that I kept was using carrots, and to roast the tomatoes. Which really deepens and sweetens the flavor. I did change it up quite a bit though, to suit what we have going on in the King pantry. I had a bunch of fennel, so I used that, along with onion and carrot. Oh yum. And some fennel seeds to further bring out that gorgeous anise hit to the soup. Fennel and tomatoes complement each other perfectly. I also threw in a tablespoon of sugar, which perhaps may sound redundant with fresh, seasonal, local tomatoes...but hear me out. Tomato soup often has a strong acid level, which the sugar mellows, smoothing and rounding out the soup. Amanda's recipe also called for cream, and believe you me, I love some cream, but I was fresh out. Remembering a trick from Moosewood Daily Special, I threw two tablespoons of cream cheese in there, when I pureed the soup. Lovely.
I could eat this soup every day, I tell you.
Roasted Tomato Fennel Soup - serves 6 to 8, as a main
3 pounds tomatoes, blanched & skins removed
few Tbs olive oil
several small stalks of thyme
2 Tbs unsalted butter
2 small heads fennel, stalks and fronds removed, and chopped*
1 medium onion, chopped
3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced
5 medium carrots, chopped
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
4 cups vegetable stock (you can also use chicken)
2 Tbs tomato paste
2 Tbs soft cream cheese, or neufchatel (the kind that comes in the box, not the plastic container)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
*Save some fronds for garnish. I also save the stalks for making veg stock, or use them in other dishes.*
Preheat the oven to 375 deg F. If using large tomatoes, slice in half, then slice each half into thirds or quarters. If using Roma's or another smallish tomato, halve or quarter them. Spread the thyme over the tomatoes, season with celery salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil, and roast for 35 to 45 minutes.
Near the end of roasting time, melt the butter over medium low heat in a large stock pot, and add the onion, cooking until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the fennel seeds, chopped fennel, garlic, and carrot, and season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat up to near medium, and continue cooking until all the vegetables are nicely softened but not browned, about 12 to 15 minutes.
Add in the roasted tomatoes, tomato paste, and stock, and bring just to a boil. Lightly season again with salt and pepper, and lower to a gentle simmer, for 25 to 30 minutes.
Using an immersion blender, or regular blender in batches, puree the soup. (If you're rather refined about the whole soup thing, you can sieve it. I'm not.) Near the end of blending, add in the soft cream cheese, and puree until well incorporated. Gently reheat, if you used a blender. Check for, and adjust seasoning.
Serve garnished with fennel fronds, with some fresh bread alongside. (Try my rustic loaf, baguettes, or even gougeres.)
Just so you know, this soup makes you happy. I plan on making a lot of it, to get us through the cold weather. (You can also use tinned tomatoes instead of fresh, and treat them the same, roasting and all.)
By the way, last night I mentioned to the Mister that I was considering buying another twenty pound box of tomatoes...
You can never have too many tomatoes, you know.