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     You're probably thinking I'm crazy for offering up a soup recipe when it's so stinkin’ hot across most of the country.  Well, maybe I am crazy, but not for this soup-in-the-summer business.  This soup tastes like summer.  Bright, sunshine-filled tomatoes and sweet, earthy basil are a classic combination for a reason: they're amazing together.  Many of you likely have gardens that are starting to produce beautiful tomatoes, and—if it's like mine—your basil is getting out-of-hand.  This recipe is a delicious way to use all those fresh tomatoes and basil at least three different ways: enjoy the soup right off the stove, serve it cold like gazpacho, or freeze it for the wintertime when you're missing these blazing hot summer days.

     Here's what you'll need:

  • 3 lbs. ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
  • olive oil
  • 2 c. yellow onions, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28 oz.) can whole plum tomatoes, with juice
  • 4 c. fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1 t. fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 c. chicken or vegetable stock

     Start by preheating the oven to 400° and spraying a large, rimmed sheet-pan (or two) with cooking spray.

     Next, so that they roast better, you want to give all of the tomato halves a good squeeze over a bowl (or trash can) to remove most of the wet, seedy pulp.  Don't worry about getting it all, we just want to ditch some of that moisture so the tomatoes roast instead of steam.

     Put the squeezed tomatoes in a big bowl and toss with about 1/4 cup of olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Then, spread them out over your sheet pan(s) in one layer, but don't crowd them.  Leave a little space between them, again, so they roast better.  Put them in the hot oven and roast for 20 minutes or so. After 20 minutes, they should be shriveled and starting to blacken in places.  Toss the garlic in a splash of olive oil and sprinkle them on the tomatoes.  Roast another 10-15 minutes or until the garlic has lightly browned (be careful not to burn the garlic).  If you can't fit all the spaced-out tomatoes on one pan, you'll want to roast them in batches.

     Meanwhile, in a large pot, sauté the onions in a couple tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat, until translucent.

     Lastly, to the pot, add the roasted tomatoes, canned tomatoes, red pepper flake, basil, thyme, and chicken/vegetable stock.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for about an hour.

     After simmering, taste for salt and pepper and add if desired.

     To blend the soup, the best (a.k.a. least burn-yourself-with-hot-soup) way is to do it right in the pot with a stick, or immersion, blender.  If you don't have one of those, carefully transfer a couple cups at a time to a regular blender or food processor. Blend until smooth, pour into a large bowl or container, and continue until you've blended the whole pot.

     Serve hot or cold, with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and a hunk of crusty baguette. 

 

 

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