You say tomato, I say soup. Needless to say, a bowl of hot tomato soup is the ultimate comfort food. You know exactly what I mean—it feels just as warm and cozy as that old pair of fur-lined slippers you refuse to throw away (come on, admit it). Tomato soup is very good right out of the can. But it’s even better, when you make it yourself and pour your heart and soul—along with tomatoes and fresh herbs—into a bowl.
The pile of homegrown heirloom tomatoes I discovered at my local produce market spoke to me in a culinary love language that only I can decipher. They whispered sweetness. And a box of ripe scarlet peppers was ready to join the culinary rendezvous across the aisle—the perfect marriage.
Now, before you think I’m hearing plant sounds, it’s important to know how my brain works. Conventional wisdom says that most people are either right brain (creative) or left brain (analytical) in their approach to life. Well, we (and many others) are blessed with a third function—let’s call it the gastronomic function—the brain’s sensory function that interprets sight, sound, taste, and smell into delicious recipes. It is instantaneous and without conscious thought. I can’t. For most people, a fully ripe heirloom tomato is just a vegetable (Uh, a fruit). But to me, it is the passionate expression of an artisan grower who has painstakingly nurtured this hybrid to peak maturity. Then I carefully bring it to market so I’ll be inspired to grill, simmer, marinate herbs, and puree In the perfect soup. Yes, it’s just a wired method.
So, what makes this tomato soup different? Quite simply, it is all grown locally. These heirloom tomatoes and sweet red peppers are grown within 10 miles of my home. And while basil is the classic herb for tomato soup, I’m partial to the fresh French thyme that grows in my backyard. I love the sweet and earthy flavor it brings to the pot. And the soft, creamy kiss of melted goat cheese from Belle Ecorce Farms in Wanda Barras in rural Saint Martin parish gently soothes the bowl. It’s the perfect introduction to the grilled cheese croutons that are a must-have for any healthy tomato soup.
Enjoy this Southern recipe for tomato soup, and I assure you it will speak your language, too.
Heirloom tomato and sweet red pepper soup with grilled cheese croutons and a drizzle of goat cheese
Recipe by: George Graham – AcadianaTable.com
- 8 large ripe tomatoes, preferably assorted
- 4 red peppers
- 1 cup (2 sticks) soft unsalted butter
- 1 cup yellow onion, cut into cubes
- 1 cup celery, cut into cubes
- 2 tablespoons of minced garlic
- 4 tablespoons of tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon of smoked paprika
- 1 cup of chicken broth
- 1 cup full fat milk
- Half a cup of heavy cream
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 8 slices of white sandwich bread
- 4 tablespoons of finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 4 slices of American cheese
- 4 slices of swiss cheese
- 4 tablespoons of soft goat cheese
- 4 sprigs of fresh thyme, for garnish
- Cut a small X at the top of each tomato. In a large pot of boiling water, add the tomatoes and boil for 1 minute. Remove it and let it cool down. With a small sharp knife, peel the skin back at the X and discard. Repeat with all the tomatoes. Cut each tomato in half.
- Place the sweet peppers over the open flame of a gas stove or on an outdoor grill. Using a long pair of tongs, rotate the peppers until the skin is blackened. Place each pepper in a paper bag or covered bowl and seal. Once the steam has dissipated, remove the peppers; Peel and discard the skin. Cut each pepper in half lengthwise and remove any seeds or membranes.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. On a large baking sheet, add tomatoes and peppers. Roast for about 30 minutes, until they start to fall apart, but remove them before they turn black. to calm down.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 1 stick of butter and add the onion and celery. Cook until translucent then add garlic, tomato paste, thyme and paprika. Reduce heat to low and continue to stir until all ingredients are blended and thoroughly cooked, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and roasted peppers and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Add the chicken broth with the milk and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to a simmer and continue cooking for 30 minutes, until all vegetables have softened and mixture has thickened.
- Using an immersion blender or food processor, process the mixture until it takes on a thick, bisque-like consistency. Add the heavy cream and mix more. Taste the soup and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Continue to simmer the soup until it is ready to be served. If it is too thick, thin it out with a little cream or stock.
- Meanwhile, make the grilled cheese croutons by trimming the crust from the slices of bread. Brush the top and bottom slice with the remaining softened butter and sprinkle lightly with the Parmesan cheese. Put a layer of American and Swiss cheese between the slices and place them in a hot skillet. Cook until brown, flip and cook the other side until cheese melts. Remove and keep warm. Repeat until all sandwiches are grilled. Cut each sandwich into 4 small squares and insert a bamboo skewer.
- In a hot skillet add the goat cheese and melt until the consistency of the liquid. Keep warm until serving.
- To serve, place soup on plates with grilled cheese croutons skewered. With a spoon, spoon some of the melted goat cheese into the soup and garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme.
South Louisiana Farms grows the tastiest ripe tomatoes and take advantage of the season and store them. Roasting and then canning a bunch of ripe tomatoes to enjoy year-round is a smart way to prepare this dish during any season. If you don’t have local heirloom tomatoes available, use any good red tomato, even Roma, just make sure they’re at peak ripeness.
Your seat at the table: If you like this Southern cooking story and Southern recipe, accept my personal invitation to subscribe by entering your email at the bottom or top right of this page. It is fast and painless. You’ll receive an email alert and be the first to see when new Southern cooking stories and Southern recipes are added. Thanks, George.