Tuesday, November 17, 2009
The inspiration for this meal began with the mini focaccia. I was thumbing through one of the Taste of Home Annual Recipe cookbooks when I came across this recipe for little focaccia rounds made from a tube of refrigerated breadsticks. I loved the idea of it and I knew that my family would eat them up! I wanted to serve them with soup, so I began searching recipes, looking for the perfect soup pairing for these bread-from-a-tube focaccia. The bread was easy and good, but the soup is what I really want to talk about here. I arrived at Tasty Kitchen and eventually found this recipe for Creamy Tomato Soup Florentine. The recipe reminded me of something that I've had before. Have any of you been to The Paradise Cafe and Bakery? This chain of bakery-cafe combos is only found in 10 states, most of them in the West/Southwest, but lucky for me(a frequent visitor to the greater Indianapolis area) and the other Hoosiers, there are 5 locations in my native Indiana. The Paradise Cafe makes this delicious Fire Roasted Garlic Tomato Soup. It's so popular that it's always on the menu. Their signature soup. For me, it was love at first bite. Impressive, because I've never been a big fan of tomato soup. I mean, it's good enough to dip my grilled cheese into, but that's about it for me. After trying the Fire Roasted Garlic Tomato Soup at Paradise I have realized that there's tomato soup...
and then there's Tomato Soup! This is an actual picture of the Fire Roasted Garlic Tomato Soup served at Paradise Cafe and Bakery.
And so, when I read the recipe for Creamy Tomato Soup Florentine, I knew that it would be the perfect soup in which to dip the mini focaccia. Just a few minor adjustments to the recipe and the finished product was pretty darn close to that Fire Roasted Garlic Tomato Soup that I love.
Now here's the thing, the Mini Focaccia are perfect for a quick weeknight dinner. But the soup, well, there's nothin' quick about it. There's chopping and roasting and caramelizing, and simmering involved. This is more of a weekend or a company-is-coming soup, in my opinion. Of course, I made it on a weeknight because 1)I really wanted to try it like, NOW and 2) I didn't realize how labor intensive it would be. Not difficult to execute, just time consuming. I started it early and dinner was still late.
Here's how it went:
I began with 3 lbs. of tomatoes (Not really in season now, but at least they were on sale at the grocery.) and 3 heads of garlic.
Cut the tomatoes into large chunks and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Now transfer the tomatoes to a baking sheet lined with foil. Put them in a 450 degree oven for about 30 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and have begun to caramelize.
Cut the heads of garlic in half and place them on a large sheet of foil with the cut side up. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Seal up the foil and roast in the oven with the tomatoes until the garlic is soft.
While you roast and then cool the tomatoes and garlic, you'll want to start caramelizing your onions in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. It takes a bit to get em' good and deep golden brown.
Stir in thyme, black pepper, and tomato paste. I think I'll nix the thyme next time. Ha. Thyme...time. No seriously, I didn't like it in here and I only added half the amount suggested in the recipe. The next time I make this, I'll probably try oregano instead.
Next, add 2 cans of diced tomatoes with all the liquid and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
By now the tomatoes and garlic are probably roasted and the garlic has cooled enough to remove the cloves from the paper.
Add them to the soup pot with the chicken broth and simmer for another 30 minutes.
Now when all of that simmering is finished, you need to blend this a little. See how it's all nice and chunky? A little blending will help to refine any tomato skins or too-large cloves of garlic.
You can use an immersion blender. I don't have one of these, but it is on my wish list. There's one featured in my left sidebar. Oh, Santa... You can also use a regular blender, or do what I did, which is to blend it in batches in my 30 year old hand-me-down food processor. I bet an immersion blender is much easier to clean than all of those pieces on my dinosaur of a food processor. You can make this as smooth or chunky as you like. Personally, I like a little more texture to this soup, so I didn't process excessively.
Now return the blended soup to the pot and stir in a can of evaporated milk. Heat through.
Finally, stir in the chopped basil before serving.
I garnished mine with a swirl of sour cream and some more basil.
While all of that simmering that I describe above was happening, I started on the mini focaccias. This is sooo simple. Just grab a tube of refrigerated breadsticks.
Remove the packaging, but don't un-roll them.
Cut the dough into 8 pieces.
Place them on a greased baking sheet (I needed 2 sheets) and press them into 4-1/2" circles, just like the one pictured here at the bottom left.
Now brush with a little oil and sprinkle with Italian seasoning mix and parmesan cheese.
And that's it! Just bake for 10-15 minutes and serve...
Perfect for dipping!
Creamy Roasted Tomato and Garlic Soup adapted from Tasty Kitchen
•6 Tablespoons Olive Oil, Divided
•3 pounds Plum Tomatoes Quartered
•Fresh Ground Pepper
•3 heads Garlic Cut In Half To Expose The Cloves
•12 ounces, weight Onion - Diced
•1/2-1 teaspoon oregano
•6 ounces, weight Tomato Paste
•32 ounces, weight (two 16 Oz. Cans) Canned Diced Tomatoes
•8 cups Chicken Broth
•12 ounces, fluid Evaporated Milk
•12 whole Basil Leaves, Minced
Sour cream for garnish
Preheat oven to 450F. In a large bowl, lightly toss together the quartered tomatoes, 3 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour out onto a foil-lined baking pan and roast for 25 to 30 minutes until tomatoes are soft and have started to caramelize. Remove from oven and set aside.
Place halved heads of garlic on a large sheet of foil with cut side up. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Seal up the foil and roast in the oven with the tomatoes until the garlic is soft. Set aside and allow to cool so that it can be handled.
In a large pot heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until caramelized. Add oregano, black pepper and tomato paste. Cook, stirring constantly for one minute. Add the diced tomatoes with all the liquid, simmer for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Add the chicken broth and roasted tomatoes to the soup. Squeeze the garlic from its paper, discard the paper and add the soft garlic to the soup. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Using an immersion blender or in small batches in a blender, blend until smooth. Stir in the evaporated milk and bring soup to a simmer. Add the fresh basil. Garnish with sour cream.
Mini Focaccia from Taste of Home
8 Servings Prep/Total Time: 25 min.
1 tube (11 ounces) refrigerated breadsticks
2 teaspoons Olive Oil or Canola Oil
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
•Remove dough from tube; do not unroll breadsticks. Cut dough into
eight slices. Press into 4-1/2-in. circles on greased baking sheets.
Brush with oil; sprinkle with Italian seasoning and Parmesan cheese.
•Bake at 375° for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Yield: 8
Nutrition Facts: 1 serving (1 each) equals 126 calories, 4 g fat (trace saturated fat), 1 mg cholesterol, 313 mg sodium, 19 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 4 g protein.