Humble Comforts [Roasted Tomato & Carrot Soup with Mozzarella-Thyme Croutons]
Isn’t it remarkable that a certain smell or taste can instantly whisk you away to a time tucked deep in the cobwebbed nooks of your memory? One bite and you’re somewhere else, summoning thoughts and feelings as thought you’re right there, living through them again. Food is a wondrous thing, and the memories and traditions we craft around the table and share with friends, family and guests can stick with us for a lifetime.
Grilled cheese and tomato soup is a meal that, for myself and many of my peers, beckons childhood memories of warmth and comfort. Lowly Kraft singles, oozing from between two crispy, butter-slicked slices of Wonder bread like lava, dunked into a once-gelatinous bowl of Campbell’s Cream of Tomato Soup. That is my childhood on a plate. It fondly greeted me at many lunchtimes and was the answer to far too many “what should we have for dinner?” queries growing up (if you’re asking my mom, that is. We were quite happy to eat it any time of any day). It’s a meal that takes me back to lunches shared with my sister over our antique kitchen table, both laughing so hard we could hardly eat and ultimately ending in my parents “turning on the timer” (if you didn’t finish eating before the timer went off, you had to go to bed - it’s hilarious now that I’m an adult, but terrifying when we were younger). Though my tastes have become slightly more refined as I’ve grown up (they probably haven’t), I still find myself yearning for the humble comforts of tomato soup & gooey grilled cheese.
Though there are still times I find myself reaching for that familiar red and white can I cherished so fondly, there is nothing quite like a bowl of rustic, real, homemade tomato soup. Chunky and thick, it has character and texture that just can’t be found at the bottom of a tin. In the recipe I’m sharing today, I’ve roasted heirloom tomatoes and colourful carrots, which impart a gentle sweetness to the soup, and pureed them all up into the perfect bowl of happiness. And because you can’t (no way, no how, absolutely impossible!) have tomato soup without some version of grilled cheese, I topped the soup with big, grainy croutons sprinkled with deep, woodsy thyme and mild, gooey mozzarella. It truly is a bowl of happiness, so if you make it, and I hope you do, breathe it in deep and let it wrap it’s warm, inviting arms around you until everything feels like it’s going to be alright.
Roasted Tomato & Carrot Soup with Mozzarella-Thyme Croutons
adapted from Sprouted Kitchen
serves 2 as main, 4 as starter
Despite the fact that the tomatoes are roasted, you still want to buy the best ones you can find, which shouldn’t be too hard right now – there are road side stands, farmers markets, community gardens – all filled with summer fresh tomatoes of all shapes and sizes. Carrots should be of high quality, too. No baby or pre-packed carrots – they should be fresh and dirty and peeled by your own two hands. I don’t get overly strict on ingredient buying too often, but there is so little to this soup that it’s necessary.
4-5 cups fresh tomatoes (any medium-large variety will work)
4-5 medium-large carrots, peeled
½ medium onion, sliced into large wedges
small head of garlic, cloves peeled and separated
2 sprigs fresh thyme
coarse sea salt
freshly ground pepper
2 cups high quality chicken or vegetable stock
1 tsp paprika (hot or sweet)
grainy baguette (1 slice per bowl)
2 sprigs thyme, leaves removed from stems
fresh mozzarella (1 round per bowl)
Preheat oven to 350.
Slices tomatoes in half and place on baking sheet. Add the onion wedges, garlic cloves, and whole carrots to the pan. Drizzle with just enough olive oil to coat and sprinkle it all with salt, pepper and thyme leaves (removed from the stems).
Roast for 30-40 minutes or until tomatoes have reduced in size by half and carrots are easily pierced with a fork/knife. While the pan cools, add your stock to a soup pot and bring to a low simmer. Scrape everything from the baking sheet right into the pot, including any brown bits or juices (that’s where all the best flavours lives!).
Let it simmer for 10 minutes. While it simmers, take sliced baguette pieces, drizzle them with olive oil and top with a round of mozzarella. Place the cheesy toasts on a pan, set oven to broil and pop them in. Let them broil for 2 minutes (peeking after 1 to make sure nothing is burning). Remove and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves.
Sprinkle the paprika into the soup and puree everything in the pot up with a blender (immersion or otherwise) until smooth. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed. Ladle into bowls, top with your big, cheesy croutons and finish with fresh ground pepper.
It should be noted that this soup is best enjoyed in your cosiest sweatpants and slippers.
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