Saturday, September 24, 2011

Roasted tomato and white bean soup

I love this week.  This one week when the temperature has dropped to the 60s, the sky is crazy gorgeous all the time, you're trying to remember where you stored your sweaters (and starting to knit a new one - more about that later!), but there are still tomatoes and peaches at the market.  It's lovely.  It doesn't feel heinous to fire up the stove and boil a giant pot of water for canning, which is a blessing because I am canning like a crazy person!  This week seemed like the perfect time to think of the loftiest manifestation of that old comfort food classic: grilled cheese and tomato soup.

Have I told you about these beans yet?  I ordered them online.  You may think that's silly.  You may think, "My goodness, woman!  Just go to the grocery store and buy some dried beans there!"  You, my friend, have never tasted these.  Countless cultivars of heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo, a Napa Valley-based company.  They are delicious.  So tender and creamy and extremely flavorful.  They actually taste like beans.  You know how canned beans tend to be kind of flavorless and sad?  I found out that dried beans have a relatively short shelf life!  From harvest to table, they should optimally last about 2 years.  These beans are awesome.  I'm sure that I will be utilizing them as cold weather and busy-ness set in and I pull out my slow cooker more and more often.

Most of the ingredients for last night's dinner (which I shared with my girls from book club whoop whoop!) came from the farmers' market.  The season's last Roma tomatoes from Nichols Farms, lovely sourdough from Labriola breads, and a 7-year aged cheddar from Stamper Cheese.  It was like grilled cheese and tomato soup grew up and moved to the big city.  Or back out to the farm...

Roasted Tomato and White Bean Soup

3 pounds Roma tomatoes
olive oil
kosher salt

3 cups cooked (or two 15-ounce cans) cannellini beans, with their liquid
2-3 cups water
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 cup milk, optional

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  Wash and halve the tomatoes, lay them face up on the baking sheet, and sprinkle generously with olive oil and kosher salt.  Roast in the oven 45 minutes to an hour, until caramelized and soft.  Meanwhile, place the beans in a pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they are warm.

Puree the tomatoes in batches in a blender, and transfer them to a soup pot.  Add half of the beans to the last batch of tomatoes, puree, and add to the pot.  Add water to thin the soup as much as desired.  Bring to a simmer, and add thyme.  Taste and add salt if necessary.  Add milk if desired, and simmer a few minutes more to meld the flavors.

To serve, place a scoop of beans in the bottom of a soup bowl and ladle soup over them.  Serve with cheddar cheese toasts to round out the comfort food experience.

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