Wednesday, June 8, 2011


I mentioned yesterday that I was lucky enough to buy some tomatoes at the farmers’ market on Friday night.  It was an unexpected opportunity, but I am ever-prepared to buy awesome produce when it shows up in front of me.  After a conversation with the friendly tomato seller, I pedaled home from Bryan with a bag filled with tiny tomatoes and larger plum tomatoes.  Then I had the very difficult task of figuring out what to make with my tomato treasure.

Local Tiny Tomatoes

I was feeling really indecisive about the whole cooking question.  Do I make something new?  Do I reach for a trusted recipe?  Or do I just eat the tomatoes and enjoy them in their raw, juicy state?  So far, it’s been a little of column A and a little of column C.  I suppose my indecision has almost turned into a case of “one of each, please.”  Which is okay, because I bought enough tomatoes to cover all the possibilities.

Saturday morning was a blur of experiments and grocery-shopping, and it wasn’t until after lunch that I felt sufficiently calm to think about what to make for dinner.  I was in the mood to cook, and I wanted something that would be hearty and not too fussy, something that would be flavorful without requiring too much effort from me.  The idea of tomato-black bean soup popped into my head like a light bulb, and I reached for the cookbook on the top of my kitchen table stack: so easy by Ellie Krieger.  I flipped to the index, found a recipe for roasted tomato and black bean soup on page 205, and boom, I knew what I was making for dinner.

The recipe calls for roasting onions, tomatoes, and garlic together, and though that roasting step forced my air-conditioner to work even harder, the result was worth the heat.  This soup is marvelously flavorful—the roasted vegetables and smart combination of spices work well against a backdrop of black beans and canned crushed tomatoes.  I think what I like about this soup is not that it’s such a novel idea—plenty of soup recipes call for roasting vegetables first—but that it’s so well-balanced.  Enough salt, enough spice, enough tomato.  It also has a deep flavor, a complex flavor, which I think is largely a result of the roasted vegetables.  It’s the sort of soup that I think Matt would really like, as he appreciates deep, well-balanced, and perfectly salted dishes.  He’s sort of a challenging person to cook for, between my being vegetarian and his savory-salty-sour-loving palate.  But sometimes, I think a recipe hits the bull’s-eye for both of us, and this might be one of them.  Even if it’s not, I’ll make it again just for me.

Roasted Tomato and Black Bean Soup

Roasted Tomato and Black Bean Soup

Adapted from so easy by Ellie Krieger

Serves 4-6 as a main course

Make sure you taste before adjusting the final salt levels of this dish.  Canned tomato products and soup stocks (homemade or bought) can vary a lot in their saltiness, so it’s best to taste, salt, then taste again.

Finally, this soup is really good warm or at room temperature.  To cool your hot soup quickly, put a sturdy soup bowl in the freezer while you are cooking the soup.  After the soup is done, put a metal spoon in the cold bowl and ladle some soup into it.  Then remove the spoon and tuck the bowl into the freezer or the refrigerator for about ten minutes.  The soup will still be quite warm when it comes out, but this takes the searing heat off of it.  You can also, of course, chill the soup for longer to bring it closer to room temperature.  The leftovers make for great desk-side lunches.

A generous 1 1/2 cups tiny tomatoes (cherry or grape)

1 large onion, chopped into large pieces (about 1-1.5 inches)

3 cloves garlic, peeled

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. salt, or to taste

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

1 14.5-oz. can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes

1 14.5-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed

4 cups vegetable stock

1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. chili powder

1/4 tsp. hot sauce, such as Tabasco

Optional toppings: sour cream and fresh cilantro leaves

1)  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  In a large bowl, toss together the tomatoes, onion, garlic, olive oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper.  Spread the mixture on a large baking sheet.  Roast the vegetables for 35-40 minutes, stirring once.  Look for these signs that your vegetables are done: the onions have browned, the tomatoes are collapsing, and the garlic is softened.

2)  Meanwhile, in a soup pot, stir together the crushed tomatoes, black beans, vegetable stock, cumin, chili powder, and the remaining 1/4 tsp. pepper.  After the roasted vegetables are finished roasting, add them to the pot.  Bring the whole thing to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. 

3)  Blend the soup in batches.  Stir the hot sauce into the soup.  Taste and add more salt and/or pepper if it needs it.

4)  Serve in deep bowls, chilled a bit if you like (see headnote).  Top with sour cream and fresh cilantro if you like.

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