IMG_2273Okay, so… it was never a secret that I’m not great at remembering quantities of things when I’m fiddling with a recipe =)  I prefer to just… trust my instincts, as it were.  Which of course, can be problematic.  I know plenty of people who are exact-followers-of-recipes.  And that’s fine! It’s just.. y’know, not how I cook.  Especially not now, because… (life update)

I now live in an amazing co-op where I’m the resident chef for 20ish people.  So that’s super great and it’s pretty much my dream job and dream life.  But that means I follow quantities on recipes even less than I did before… AND, since I’m not paying attention to numbers in the first place, giving said amounts in a recipe is… well, it’s certainly not impossible, but it’s a bit difficult for me. =)

So… I guess from here on out – we’re all going to have to trust our guts, as it were.  Start with a little of [whatever it is] and go from there. As one of my favorite chef instructors used to say, you can always add more – but taking it out is a whole lot harder.

So this is just… I mean, there’s probably a billion and one recipes for tomato soup out there, right? It’s such a classic comfort food.  Paired with a grilled cheese sandwich or simply warm bread for dipping – I mean, how can you go wrong?

All right, here we go!

The goods:

roma tomatoes

fennel (the whole thing! not just the bulb)

carrots (just one or two)

garlic, peeled whole cloves (If they’re smushed because you peel your garlic via the “whack it with the flat of a knife” method, that’s fine)

vegetable broth

salt, pepper, dried oregano, dried thyme, dried basil

red wine vinegar

tomato paste

milk (optional)

olive oil

The method:

Preheat your oven to 375 F. Spray or oil a baking sheet.

Cut the stalks and fronds off of your fennel and reserve.  cut the core out of the fennel bulb and cut the bulb into some generous wedges. Chuck them onto your baking sheet.

Add your roma tomatoes and your garlic.  Drizzle with oil, hit them with salt and pepper, toss gently with your hands until everything’s coated.

Whack that into your oven and roast for… oh, maybe around 45 min, probably more, until tomatoes start to split and fennel is soft and starting to brown at the edges. (Some of your pieces will downright caramelize and that’s AWESOME.)

In the meantime, glug some oil into a big ol’ soup pot and get that heating.

Chop up your fennel stalks and fronds and dice your carrot (or carrots) and throw them into your soup pot. Turn down the heat if it’s super sizzling, and sweat the veg. Add salt, pepper, and dried herbs.

When your pan o’ roasty-toasty things is nice and roasty and everything on it is soft (the tomatoes should be in danger of exploding if you poke them too hard), turn off the oven and, as safely as you can, transfer all of the contents into your soup pot.

With a potato masher (if you have one) or the back of your spoon (less optimal), crush the tomatoes to release all that juicy goodness.

Add vegetable broth to cover everything, and bring that whole pot of love up to a simmer.  Simmer until everything is soft and mushy.

Puree the everliving tar out of it! I love my trusty stick blender, but you could also do it in batches, VERY CAREFULLY, in a normal blender.

Taste your soup! I found that I’d put in so much fennel that it didn’t taste quite tomato-ey enough, so I stirred in some tomato paste.  Then I splashed in some red wine vinegar to brighten it up a bit – I think most tomato-ey things are improved with the hit of brightness that comes from something acidic like vinegar or lemon juice. Adjust your other seasonings as desired. Thin out your soup (it will be SUPER thick when it’s freshly-pureed) with more broth, or your favorite milk. (I used rice milk, to keep the soup vegan.) ((I’m not vegan, but I have vegan and vegetarian residents, so my food tends to skew in the vegan direction))

Keep warm on super low until ready to serve.

Great with … grilled cheese sandwiches, garlic bread, croutons, or topped with a drizzle of oil, a blob of sour cream or creme fraiche, a sprinkle of parmesan or mozzarella, or whatever your heart desires!

Happy eating!