Guest Recipe: Chilled Tomato Soup

Guest Recipe: Chilled Tomato Soup

I'm so excited to share a guest recipe post from our friend, James Kling. James is an amazing home cook and he and his wife Stephanie (also a fabulous cook and baker) are a huge reason why Birmingham truly feels like home to my husband, Keith, and me. Their love for hospitality and knack for preparing a simple, memorable meal is truly a gift. Thanks for sharing, James!

Tomatoes are one of my favorite things about summer - tomato salads, tomato pies, tomato sandwiches, tomato wedges with salt...the list goes on. A tomato from your back yard or farmer's market between two pieces of white bread with some Duke's mayonnaise and salt almost makes you wish the dog days of summer would last a little longer.

Because of my obsession with good tomatoes, I often find myself in possession of large quantities of the delicious fruit. My mother-in-law recently brought me 5 lbs of Creole Tomatoes from New Orleans. Most Creole tomatoes (grown and vine ripened in the rich, fertile soil of the Mississippi River banks) get eaten by people in the New Orleans area, but if you're one of the lucky outsiders like me, and you get your hands on some, you need to have a go-to recipe that uses a lot of ripe tomatoes at once.

This recipe is simple and uses many ingredients already in your pantry/fridge. The vinegar balances the naturally sweet tomatoes and brings a nice complexity to the dish. In the spirit of Less, Please! this is a simple recipe using ingredients in your kitchen that delivers a delicious final product!

Chilled Tomato Soup

(serves 4-6, depending on portion size)

1/4 cup olive oil

1 white or yellow onion, minced

3 gloves garlic, minced

3 lbs very ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped (see note)

1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

2 tsp fresh thyme leaves

6-8 leaves basil

2 TB sherry vinegar (if you don't have sherry, you can use champagne vinegar, white wine vinegar, or red wine vinegar)

salt, black pepper and sugar to taste

1. heat the oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, stirring with a wooden spoon, and cook for a few minutes without browning - just to let the onions soften. Add the tomatoes and bell peppers, reduce heat a bit and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. 

2. Add the fresh herbs and vinegar. Remove from the heat and puree with a food processor/blender (if you like a smooth texture) or leave it in the pot and puree with an immersion blender (if you like a slightly chunky texture). Season with salt and pepper to taste.  If the soup tastes too tart, add up to a TB of sugar to balance the flavor. Transfer the soup to a container and refrigerate until soup is chilled (about 4 hours.) 

*note: tomatoes are the star of the dish so use heirlooms, farmer's market or ones from your back yard. No mealy, flavorless grocery store tomatoes!

SERVE: serve soup alongside a grilled cheese sandwich for a delicious lunch. You can also top the soup with croutons (cut bread into cubes, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, bake on sheet pan at 375 for 10 minutes or until golden brown) or - my favorite - with an olive tapenade (puree 4 cloves garlic, 1/2 cup pitted black olives, 2 anchovy filets [optional], 1 tsp fresh thyme, juice of 1 lemon in a food processor. While motor is running drizzle in 1 cup olive oil.) 

LEFTOVERS: you can freeze any soup you aren't going to eat right away, or use it as a sauce for pizza or pasta.

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