Roasted Tomato and Pepper Soup with Lime Drizzle

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I apologize in advance to all the East Coasters reading this post right now. I know it’s hard to swallow, but there are places in the world, nay, in the country, that can produce tomatoes year round. Whether it be from a plentiful crop of ‘maters planted in fertile AZ soil, spending their days in the (mostly) warm January sun  or from the numerous organic greenhouses running on solar power for heat and irrigation systems, tomatoes are here in Phoenix all winter long in a big way, and there is no one more grateful than this chica right here.

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Winter is the TIME to consume tomato soup. Don’t get me wrong. It’s hard for me to pinpoint a bad time for tomato soup, but a time certainly less appealing for consuming warm, chunky, hearty soups is the sweltering hot and humid summers in New York. No, that is a time for a nice, light tomato salad perhaps. but soup? Never! Luckily this soup can be easily made with canned tomatoes and peppers, so even if you are suffering through another long, New England winter, this soup will be at hand for grilled cheese or quesadilla-dipping, Goldfish swimming class, or whenever the outside is just too much to bear. And least I get too high and mighty over here with my Guatemalan address and my year-round tomatoes, I must remember that today, probably as you are reading this, I am flying back to New York City for five much colder (abet, seemingly mild for New York) days, sure to be filled with hot cocoa and mulled wine and soups like these to keep the body temp up. Serves me right for bragging, I know.

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While I tried to keep this soup nice and light because, you know, it’s January, the month after the perfect storm of holidays. Said holidays fall in the previous months when it is perfectly acceptable to make a mountain of recipes calling for enough cream and butter and sugar and chocolate to feed an army. So for my own sake, I kept this soup on the simple (aka, dairyless) end. If, at some other point in the year, you wanted to top this soup with a little Mexican crema or cotija crumbles, I don’t think January would be the wiser. Don’t worry. I’ll keep your secret. Enjoy and stay warm!

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Roasted Tomato and Pepper Soup 

I used cherry tomatoes because I find that they have the most flavor year round. This is not only the case with ‘maters from the farmers markets but from the supermarkets as well. You need about three pints to make this soup. Active time: 20 minutes, inactive time: 65 minutes; serves 4 as a main, 6-8 as an appetizer. 

for soup
2 pounds tomatoes, like roma or cherry
3 red, orange, or yellow peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup each onions, carrots and celery, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon Better than Bouillon or 1/2 Rapunzel Bouillon cube, or similar
2 cups water, give or take 
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
salt and pepper to taste

for drizzle
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons cilantro

to garnish
crispy black rice* or croutons

special equipment
blender or immersion blender

Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss tomatoes with 1 tablespoon olive oil, cumin and salt (if using roma tomatoes, cut in half and turn cut side up). Place on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and place in oven along with peppers on a separate baking sheet. Bake tomatoes for 20 minutes and remove to cool. Bake peppers for another 20 minutes, for a total of 40 minutes. Allow peppers to cool, then remove their skin.

While peppers and tomatoes are baking, blend lime juice, olive oil and cilantro together for the drizzle.

In a large, heavy pot, heat remaining oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, carrots and celery, toss and let fry for five minutes, until they have some color. Add the garlic cloves, bay leaf, tomatoes and peppers (no need to cut them all, you’ll be blending the soup). Saute for another two to three minutes. Add bouillon and water until the vegetables are just covered. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until the carrots and celery are very soft. Remove from heat, add citrus juice and let cool for ten minutes.

Blend soup using an immersion or stand up blender, working in batches if need be. The soup should be chunky, so do not process until smooth, just until there are no large chunks. Serve with a drizzle of oil and a handful of crispy rice.

*Crispy rice – fry 1/2 cup pre-cooked rice (white / brown / black / wild) in a skillet with a bit of olive oil on medium heat, stirring often, for about 15 minutes, or until rice is completely crispy.

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