It’s a time of transition―the days are getting shorter, nights cooler and those of us with children in school watch them begin the new year with sharpened pencils and alert minds. My son is fully present at his third year at university, tackling English literature while he settles into his first apartment on his own. My daughter enters seventh grade with a new group of students from the neighboring town, moves up to advanced ballet, approaching everything with grace and smiles. I stand by trying to support them in their endeavors without taking over in the process. It’s a tricky business. Transitions are stressful, especially when coupled with world events. The anniversary of September 11, 2001. A speech about more terrorist threats on September 10, 2014. And everything that has happened in between. It’s a little overwhelming.
So, I make soup. I make soup as a distraction from my worries and as a celebration how lucky I am to live in a place that is peaceful and full of beautiful vegetables ready to harvest.
This Spicy Fresh Tomato Soup with Dill and Cheddar Cheese Toasts, is an updated version of the classic soup and sandwich. Basic soup ingredients—onions, carrots, leeks, garlic and tomatoes—are seasoned with a variety of dried peppers and roasted in the oven to bring out the natural sweetness of the vegetables along with the smoky flavors of the spices. The addition of fresh dill just before serving creates a cool taste and texture up against the heat of the peppers, and the cheddar cheese toasts are perfect for dunking into the soup in the same way grilled cheese sandwiches were when we were children. This dish is a meal in itself, but for heartier fare consider serving it with grilled sausages, chilled beer or cider, a Kale Salad with Tahini and Lime Dressing and Dark Chocolate Krispie Brownies for Dessert.
I hope all your transitions are going smoothly. What's simmering at your house?
I look forward to seeing you in my kitchen, gathering flavors, soon.
SPICY FRESH TOMATO SOUP WITH DILL AND CHEESE TOASTS
Yield: 8 Servings
For the soup:
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and sliced into thick pieces
- 1 leek, white part only, trimmed, rinsed of excess dirt, and sliced
- 2 large carrots, rinsed, peeled, trimmed and chopped into large pieces
- 1 large red pepper, rinsed, seeded and chopped
- 8 large tomatoes, rinsed and chopped
- 4 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 t. salt
- 1 t. each, ground & dried black peppercorns, red pepper flakes and cayenne
- 4 cups stock (vegetable or chicken)
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 1 cup chopped fresh dill
- For the cheese toasts:
- 4 thick slices whole wheat or gluten-free bread
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ¾ cup cheddar cheese, grated
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Fresh dill for garnish
To make the soup:
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Line two half sheet pans with parchment paper. Place all the vegetables on the lined pans, spreading them evenly. Drizzle the vegetables with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and ground peppers. Roast in the oven until the vegetables are tender and the spices lightly browned, about 30 minutes.
- Remove the vegetables from the oven. Carefully transfer them along with any juices accumulated to a large soup pot or a slow cooker. Add the stock and tomato paste. Stir.
- If using a slow cooker, cover and set the cooker to high. Simmer for 2 hours. If using a soup pot, place it on the stove top. Set the stove to high and bring all the liquid to a boil. Stir. Lower the temperature to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered, for one hour, stirring occasionally.
- Using an immersion blender, purée the soup directly in the soup pot or the slow cooker. Add the chopped dill. Stir to combine. Taste, reheat and adjust seasoning as needed.
- Keep the soup warm while you prepare the toasts.
To prepare the toasts:
- Preheat the oven to broil.
- Cut each slice of bread into 4 triangles or into decorative shapes, such as hearts. Place them on a cookie sheet.
- In a small bowl, gently beat together the egg, mustard, cheddar cheese, salt and pepper. Spread this mixture on top of the bread triangles, dividing evenly.
- Place the prepared bread slices under the broiler and broil until puffed and golden, about 5 minutes.
- Divide the soup between 8 large soup bowls. Garnish each bowl with two of the cheese toasts. Sprinkle with fresh dill.
- If you do not like spicy foods, reduce the amount of ground peppers to suit your taste or leave the peppers out entirely.
- If you would like a hotter soup, increase the amount of ground peppers or substitute harissa.
- This soup works well with any fresh herb. Instead of the dill, consider using cilantro, parsley, oregano or a combination of fresh herbs.
- This soup freezes well. Freeze in an airtight container. Thaw and reheat before serving.
- The cheese toasts were adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison.