Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A soup for September

September has been a blur of visitors, running races (one I was in and one I was part of the race committee), Crazy-busy work days and for the most part lots of sunshine. We've had a lot of rain but it was all concentrated in one day or overnight during thunderstorms so that's been good, although the lawn is totally waterlogged and more than once I've nearly bailed when slipping on the exposed clay soil in my flip flops (which I will attempt to wear at least until the end of October). I've winterized the veggie patch by harvesting all the chard, eating the last broccoli heads and pulling all the snap pea vines off.
There are still some parsnips, leeks, scallions, lettuce and kale growing but I've planted some garlic and also some more broccoli in the hopes of another harvest. Garlic is super easy to grow (says she who has never actually grown it before but has *read* about it). Plant individual cloves (unpeeled) about 2 inches deep and 8 inches apart in the Fall for a Spring harvest. Apparantly Fall is the best time to grow garlic. Guess I'll find out in the Spring.

While my mum was visiting, I harvested the larger of the 15 or so leeks I've been cultivating which are still baby sized but a success none the less. I oven roasted them and served with some freshly harvested, pan-sauteed chard with a side of beef tenderloin.....well, the homegrown veggies are clearly the star feature here!

The Summer of intense BBQ-ing is winding down although we will still BBQ quite a bit,  it's time to retreat to the kitchen in readiness for soups, stews and slow cooker feasts. I went to Costco yesterday and stocked up on tinned tomatoes, ground beef and other Winter pantry staples.
Today I'm making my favourite tomato soup. It's a roasted garlic, basil and tomato soup and I got the recipe from a friend way back when I started a cooking/eating group called The Culinary Queens. There were about 8 of us and each month, one person hosted and chose a featured ingredient. Each person then bought a dish made with that ingredient. I hosted the first event and the featured ingredient was garlic. The club went for a good year or 2 and we had a range of themes; lemon, blackberries, garlic (again) as well as a dessert themed meeting. This soup is really easy and I usually roast several extra garlic bulbs and use the pulp for other meals and spreads such as hummus or even just spread on to toasted french bread. I did this once while camping, drooling now thinking about it.

 The roasted garlic is a less intense garlic flavour and it's supper smooth and a bit sweeter. I also used my own homegrown basil in the recipe as it's coming to the end of the season and doesn't like the cold weather. I also add a splash of balsamic vinegar to this to sweeten it a little.

Roasted Garlic Tomato Soup
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 large cans chopped or whole plum tomatoes(I use plain but you could use stewed or fire roasted too)
1 head garlic
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp dried basil
handful fresh basil and parsley, chopped (optional)
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar (optional)

heat oven to 350F.
Drizzle garlic bulb in a bit of olive oil and wrap in foil. Place in oven and roast until soft, approx 40 mins. Let cool before handling (once I pierced a clove and it exploded sending hot garlic paste all over my face).
Once cooled, cut off top of bulb and then squeeze out pulp like toothpaste.
Heat olive oil in a dutch oven and add celery and onion to saute for 5 mins until soft.
Add tomatoes to pan and bring to boil. Add dried herbs, vinegar, seasoning and roasted garlic pulp, reduce heat and simmer for 10-20 mins.
Add fresh basil at end and let cool. Serve chunky and rustic or blend for a smoother soup.

This soup is quite thick so you may wish to add some stock or water if needed.