Can’t believe Labor Day weekend is already upon us. Hope you’re enjoying a long and relaxing weekend with good food and friends.
Where did the summer go? It seemed to fly by in the blink of an eye. It always does. I’m not ready for summer to end. Am doing my best to savor as much of the remaining summer as I can — including tomatoes and fresh corn — before I must bid the season adieu. There’s just nothing like a tomato that, well, tastes like a tomato. And what epitomizes summer more than grilled corn on the cob?
In my endeavor to keep things interesting, I’m constantly trying to think outside the box when it comes to cooking. Mostly because I have an endless appetite for new flavors. Also, thoughts of food are constantly whizzing around inside my head. When I finish one meal, am already thinking about my next. I guess there are worse things with which one could be consumed.
There are only so many variations/preparations/versions of a given dish out there in the universe such that coming up with a new interpretation can be a challenge. For the most part, everything has been done before. So, while I wanted to make a tomato soup, I didn’t want to make just any old tomato soup. While classic and delicious in its own right, a simple tomato soup just wasn’t what I had in mind.
That’s when I got the idea, can you smoke a tomato? What about making a smoked tomato soup? Always up for a little experimentation, I rigged a stovetop smoker and set out to find out…
The tomatoes take on a decidedly smoky flavor. Smoking the tomatoes added that extra layer of flavor that I was looking for. Definitely not your run-of-the-mill tomato soup.
If you do decide to try this, you may want to play around with the smoking times and amount and type of wood chips. I did seven minutes in the smoker over medium heat (with hickory chips) and then turned off the heat and let the tomatoes sit for 10 minutes in the smoker. For a more subtle smokiness, you may want to cut back a bit on the wood chips and/or overall time in the smoker. Or, you could use a more subtle wood chip like alder or apple (as compared to mesquite or hickory, both of which impart a stronger, smoky flavor).
Am thinking a little lump blue crab meat on top of the soup would be a scrumptious addition…
How about smoked tomato salsa, smoked tomato bbq sauce, smoked tomato pasta sauce, hmm…
A simple fresh grilled corn, tomato, and basil salad was the perfect accompaniment to the smoked tomato soup. Light and refreshing…topped with a cumin-lime dressing and toasted pumpkin seeds.
My ode to summer — before you find me waxing poetic about all the wonderful and diverse varieties of winter squash…but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Let’s just enjoy summer for now.
You can’t have tomato soup without goldfish crackers…
The goldfish crackers are homemade. Just flour, cheddar cheese, butter, salt, pepper, and spices (added red pepper flakes). Tomato soup and goldfish crackers — they just go hand and hand, don’t you think?
You can embrace your inner Martha (Stewart, that is) and even make your own goldfish cookie cutters with an aluminum can, as shown here. There are several recipes for goldfish crackers floating around the web.
Smoked Tomato Soup
Adapted from Saveur
Wood chips for indoor smoker (such as [more assertive] mesquite or hickory or [milder] alder or apple)
3 pounds tomatoes [Roma or standard beefsteak], halved or quartered (depending on size)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup dry red wine
2 cups chicken stock
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup basil leaves
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
chopped chives (for garnish)
Place 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of wood chips in a small pile at the bottom of the smoker. Place tray and rack on top of wood chips. Arrange tomatoes, cut side up, and slide on the lid. Place the smoker on a stovetop burner over medium heat. When smoke appears, let the tomatoes smoke for 7 minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit covered for 5-10 minutes (depending on the amount of smokiness desired). Remove the tomatoes from the smoker and place in a bowl. Remove the skins from the tomatoes. You may need to do this in batches, depending on the size of your smoker. Discard the old wood chips and replace with fresh wood chips and repeat.
Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft, about 5-6 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Cook until the wine is reduced by half, about 5-6 minutes. Add the tomatoes, stock, and salt and pepper. Return to a boil, then simmer until the tomatoes break down and soup is slightly thickened, about 45-50 minutes. Stir in the basil and vinegar. Puree the soup in a blender until smooth. Ladle into individual bowls. Garnish with chopped chives (and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil if you like).
Corn Tomato Salad with Cumin-Lime Dressing
3 ears of corn, shucked
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
pumpkin seeds, for garnish
3-4 medium tomatoes (heirloom if available), roughly chopped
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced, rinsed under cold water (helps to remove the bite), drained, patted dry
handful of basil leaves, roughly chopped
Cumin-lime dressing (recipe to follow)
Heat up a grill or grill pan. Rub the corn with olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Grill the corn until lightly charred on all sides. When cool enough to handle, cut the kernels from the corn.
Heat up a skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the pumpkin seeds to the dry skillet and toast, shaking the pan, until they begin to pop and lightly brown.
Combine the corn, tomatoes, onion, and basil together in a large bowl. Toss with the cumin-lime dressing. Season with salt and pepper. Top with toasted pumpkin seeds and sprinkle with a little more basil.
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat a small skillet over high heat. When hot, add the whole cumin seeds to the dry skillet. Shake the pan to keep the seeds moving around until they darken slightly and give off an earthy aroma, about 1 minute. Transfer the seeds to a mortar and pestle or spice/coffee grinder. Grind to a powder.
Combine the ground cumin, olive oil, lime juice, and vinegar in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk until well incorporated.