Memories of Summer Tomatoes

When’s the last time you had a really good tomato? Weeks? Months? If you are living in a winter wonderland like yours truly, I am going to go with months. Probably September or October as the Green Market tomato season lasted unusually long due to blissfully warm weather. Similarly, if you are like me – a woman of mostly sane mind and body until it comes to tomatoes – months is too long to go without a good tomato. I am totally addicted to tomatoes. When I was a child I would steal tomatoes wedges from the salad plates of all of my family members. I cannot pass a tomato plant without picking a ripe piece of fruit and never would it ever cross my mind to make a sandwich without it.

It was with this in mind that my friend Jess and I started canning. Well, sort of. How the canning started was with her friend Mike and his pickled green beans (as you might have read here I have a slight addiction to anything pickled) and once we did a few jars of those we quickly fell down the rabbit hole into all means of preserving – pickled green beans, garlic, carrots and okra, apple and pear sauces, plum and prickly pear jams, tomatillo (and tomato) salsas, and of course, stewed tomatoes. I had never canned anything in my life and that first year we only did a few jars, but upon opening each jar it felt like summer leapt out of the jar with smells of sunshine and grass permeating the room and the taste bright and tangy like the fruit had been picked just that day.

Skip ahead 1 year and Jess and I found ourselves canning 50 lbs of tomatoes on Labor Day. We ended up with about 25 jars of stewed tomatoes and I have been rationing them out slowly all through summer. The tomatoes make an amazing addition to soup (as seen here) but I had been wary to use so many jars in order to make the ultimate tomato-lovers dish – Tomato Soup. So it was after yoga one bright, winter morning in my tiny Brooklyn kitchen that I decided to give it a whirl. I am not a fan of smooth, runny soups however, a la Campbell’s™ Tomato Soup. I like my soups to be thick and hearty so with my tomato soup I added a fair amount of onions, carrots, and celery, or mirepoix. I also added chickpeas for added protein and color contrast. This soup would go as well with a grilled cheese sandwich as it would with grains, a drizzle of olive oil and a shaving of parmesan, which is how I served for no other reason except that I lacked grilled cheese ingredients. I hope you enjoy!

Tomato and Chickpea Soup

Heidi Swanson of turned me onto this amazing bouillon from Rapunzel. They use all natural ingredients, are totally vegan and come in three flavors – with sea salt, without salt, and with herbs. I always keep a box of these around for when I don’t make my own stock. Vegetable Better Than Bouillon is also a great choice. Serves 4 as an entree

1 tbs olive oil

1 small onion, chopped fine

2 ribs celery, chopped

2 medium carrots, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 bay leaf

10 cumin seeds

1 15 oz can chickpeas or 2 cups chickpeas cooked from dry beans

2 16 oz jars stewed, diced tomatoes

1/4 Rapunzel bouillon cube

1 tsp lemon zest

1/4 cup parsley, minced

salt and pepper

For serving:

1 cup cooked grains, such as Israeli couscous, brown rice, or millet

high quality olive oil for drizzling

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

crushed red pepper

In a large, heavy bottomed soup pot heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil moves freely in the pot add the onions, celery, carrots and garlic and allow to sweat and brown for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper, add the cumin seeds, bay leaf, and chickpeas and allow chickpeas to brown slightly and the cumin to become fragrant, about another five minutes. Add tomatoes and bouillon cube. Fill one of the tomato jars (or boxes or cans) up with water and add to pot. Bring to a boil, turn down heat, cover, and allow to simmer for 20 minutes. Turn heat back up to medium high, remove cover, add lemon zest and half of the chopped parsley. Season with salt and pepper, stir well and allow to boil for another 10 minutes.

To serve, divide the grains evenly among the bowls and ladle soup into each bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper to complete the dish. Enjoy!

Leftovers? I fried an egg and threw it carelessly atop the re-heated soup and served with crusty bread. Oh. My. God.


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