tomato soup provençale
I have been living in South America for three months now, and although I feel good about the move and am having the adventure and learning experience I was hoping for, I am not above experiencing bouts of homesickness, or “mal du pays” as my husband calls it. Being that I am one who always needs a plan of attack, (that is, after I’ve wallowed sufficiently in a tub of imported ice cream that costs me an arm and a leg while watching reruns of Top Chef Canada…) I decided to take charge and do something that would make me feel better. Namely, cook for people! To that end we invited our two new Ecuadorian friends and one new Haitian friend over for dinner. When trying to decide what to make that would be inviting and tasty while not overly-extravagant given our surroundings, I settled on a simple, deeply-satisfying meal that makes me think of home: Tomato soup and grilled cheese, baby! I cannot tell you how many times I have eaten tomato soup with grilled cheese in my life, but it is one of the first things I remember eating. Ever. And I can’t get enough!
Now, being the ever thoughtful wife that I am, (most of the time…) I knew it would only be fair to incorporate the country my husband has bouts of mal du pays for: France. And his favorite part of France? Provence. So then, with a mission in mind I dug into the luxury box of various spices I brought from home and fished out my herbes de Provence.
What exactly is herbes de Provence? Well quite literally it means “herbs from Provence”, in other words, the herbs most commonly grown and used in southern France. Such as rosemary, thyme, basil, lavender, fennel seed, sage, marjoram or summer savory. Not every mix is exactly the same, but that’s a pretty basic idea. Beware of paying an inordinate amount just to have the “HERBES DE PROVENCE” stamp. I paid $3 for my fairly gigantic bag when I was in Provence. So if a specialty store is charging significantly more, and for a teensy satchel at that, why not make your own blend of dried herbs? (I know, I know. Easy for me to say while in possession of my authentic burlap bag. And I have to admit, they do make great gifts… but I’m getting off track here!) Instructions for your super simple, rustic tomato soup with herbes de Provence:
tomato soup provençale recipe:
6 medium-sized ripe tomatoes
2 tbs herbes de provence
sea salt and cracked black pepper
2 tbs olive oil
1 tsp crushed red pepper
2 cups chicken stock
¼ cup finely grated parmesan
1 tbs chopped chives
1 tbs finely sliced fresh basil
extra basil for garnish
Preheat your oven to 210°C (410°F). Slice your tomatoes in half and spread out in a roasting pan, cut side up. Season evenly with herbes de Provence, sea salt and cracked black pepper. Drizzle all over with olive oil and pop into the oven. Now, I roasted mine for about an hour and 15 minutes, maybe even 1 ½. I know that sounds long but obviously our stoves (and tastes, for that matter) vary and it’s not like we’re baking delicate profiteroles here! (Mmm…profiteroles…) So just keep your eye on it and remove when they start to look blistery and beautiful. Here’s a pic to translate my subjective descriptive words:
Aren’t they adorable? Transfer tomatoes along with all the accumulated juices (don’t leave any tastiness behind!) to a food processor. If you have a practically child sized processor like me, just hold your head high and work it in batches. I like my tomatoes to have a bit of rustic texture, so I processed them in several bursts without letting it get overly smooth. But that’s a judgement call. Once processed, move it all over to a pot over medium heat with the crushed red pepper. Let it stew for a couple minutes, giving it a poke now and then. Add your chicken stock. One thing I would point out here is that roasting the tomatoes for so long gets them mega juicy, so if you are looking for a thicker soup I would cut the stock in half and allow the tomato flavor to really come out. If you’re happy with a somewhat thinner texture, then go with the 2 cups. Lots of take-charge decision making awaits!
Now slowly whisk in your parmesan, bit by bit so it melts into the soup. The parmesan adds a nice kick of flavor. Season with more salt and pepper, tasting all along until you’re satisfied. Stir in your chives and basil when you are ready to serve, and chiffonade the extra basil to garnish. Et voilà!
I did in fact make a truckload of grilled cheese sandwiches, but, well frankly as soon as they came off the cast iron we started dunking them into the soup and I kind of forgot all about taking a picture of them. Oops.