Friday, 13 September 2013

Recipe: Roasted Heirloom Tomato Soup

There's nothing sweeter than a tomato left to ripen
fully before being harvested & brought to market.
a few thoughts 
There is something truly wondrous about the fall harvest.

There are many varieties of cherry tomatoes available
at the market at this time of year, like these from
TR Greenhouses.
More than just being amazed by the towering piles of produce that come, overflowing the tables and spilling out into the aisles of farmers' markets, I revel in the stunning beauty of it all... the colours that are everywhere, the diversity of shapes & textures that make incredible displays on the tables, and the pride behind the smiles and faces of the farmers & growers as they stand behind their tables, answer questions for their customers and sell their bounty.... the variety of the fall harvest in Alberta is truly amazing.

There's nothing I like more than sampling the abundance and variety of tomatoes that are available at a local farmers' market at this time of year. I have a soft spot for colour, variety and beauty... and tomatoes have it all.

Chocolate cherry tomatoes turn brown when ripe
In the past five years or so there has been a resurgence of interest in reviving the heirloom tomato varieties... those plants of old that may not have the shelf life of a roma tomato, the durability and perfect shape of a field tomato, or the guaranteed unblemished skin of a campari, but those old fashioned varieties are at the root of all commercially viable supermarket tomatoes today. And their flavours are incredible.

The heirloom varieties of tomatoes hold endless fascination for me. They come in such a wide assortment of colours, from reds and browns and oranges through to pinks and strange looking ones with lines, blotches and bizarre shapes. There are the fun stripes of a green & red zebra tomato, the incredible sweetness and brilliant hue of a bright yellow golden boy and the wonderful texture and juiciness of a chocolate cherry tomato. And they rarely have a predictably uniform size, and some don't even have a predictable shape.

Dargatz Family Farm has a wealth of tomato varieties...
Just look at all the cherry tomato types they have!
Tomatoes are available at a number of vendors at our market. Dargatz Family Farm specializes in the strange and wonderful world of heirloom varieties. Earlier in the season, Colin and Keith Dargatz showed me a spectacular fireworks tomato that had a yellow splattering across the top of the red and orange skin that looked like a fireworks eruption. It was beautiful! Stop by and talk to Keith and Colin and they'll fill you in on the fascinating details of the heirloom world that they love.

TR Greenhouses and Dargatz Family Farm have an assortment of cherry tomatoes in a rainbow of colours. Holden Colony has both field ripened and greenhouse grown tomato varieties. And Riverbend Gardens started bringing their field tomatoes to market last week for the first time.
Raw ingredients for a fantastic soup

The recipe that follows is adapted from the Soup Sisters Cookbook, one of my favourite cookbooks. Soup Sisters is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to providing comfort to women and children in need through the making, sharing and donating of soup to domestic abuse shelters. It has 12 chapters across Canada and the United States, and with this cookbook, they have called upon a star studded line up of Canadian Chefs, like Bonnie Stern & Elizabeth Baird to create and donate recipes to their cookbook. The result is a tremendous volume of amazing soups, and a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book go toward supporting the ongoing work of Soup Sisters.

Roasted heirloom tomato soup
Heirloom tomatoes come in many shapes, sizes, textures, colours and flavours. Making this soup is a great excuse to experiment and buy a whole assortment. Their textures vary widely and it can be a lot of fun trying all the different kinds. You can also top this soup with a sprig of the herb of your choice… parley, basil, thyme or oregano. You'll be surprised how thick, creamy, hearty & satisfying this soup can be without the addition of cream, yogurt, grains or lentils.
I used chocolate cherry tomatoes in this batch
exclusively, which is why it has such a strange colour.
But the flavour was incredible! Sweet & incredibly intense!

2 lbs. assorted heirloom tomatoes, halved
1 onion, quartered
2 T. olive oil
10 fresh basil leaves
3 fresh sage leaves
1 sprig fresh oregano, leaves only
3 mild green jalepeños
1-2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 T. balsamic vinegar
1/2 t. salt
pepper to taste
1/3 c. freshly grated parmesan as a garnish

Big Uglies, an heirloom variety, at TR Greenhouses' stall
  1. Preheat your oven to 375F. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  2. Toss the tomatoes & onions with the olive oil and spread out in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast until slightly browned, about 45 minutes.
  3. Add the basil, sage, oregano and jalepenos to the tomato mixture. Purée until smooth either in a food processor or blender, or in a stock pot with an immersion blender (my choice, making clean up swift and easy!). 
  4. Place the tomato mixture in a stock pot, and add enough stock to give it a soupy consistency. The amount of stock used will change from batch to batch depending on the texture and juciness of the tomato varieties that you use.
  5. Bring the soup to a simmer over medium heat. Add the balsamic vinegar, and the salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Beefsteak Heirloom Tomatoes
    from TR Greenhouses
  7. Ladle up a bowl of soup and garnish with a dusting of parmesan cheese & a sprig of your favourite fresh herb. Mmmmm.
Recipe adapted from The Soup Sisters Cookbook: 100 Simple Recipes to Warm Hearts One Bowl At A Time, page 167, edited by Sharon Hapton
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Contributed by Sheri Hendsbee

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