Monday, September 20, 2010

September Days

I've never been one to lament the end of summer. Don't get me wrong, I love the days at the beach and the plethora of fruits and vegetables that summer brings, but by the beginning of September I'm looking forward to fall. The idea of pulling on my favorite jeans and cozy cashmere sweater is quite appealing after the heat and humidity of a New Jersey summer.

John and I spent a few days last week on Cape Cod where our friends P and K have a home. While we anticipated spending the last days of summer on the beach, the brisk winds and chilly weather made that idea moot. Fall is arriving in New England.

I can see the changes already taking place in the markets. Gone are the juicy, fuzzy peaches which now are replaced with towers of shiny red apples and golden pears along with multiple varieties of  brightly colored winter squash.  It makes me excited to think of cooking with these ingredients that have been more or less hibernating for the summer.

The afternoon before we left the Cape, K and I stopped at Cape Abilities farm stand on Route 6A in Dennis. Along with their display of pumpkins and apples, they had an amazing number of ripe tomatoes, and we immediately thought, "tomato soup."

I must admit I've had tomato soup on my mind ever since I read Kath's post over at The Ordinary Cook, in the beginning of September. Her idea of roasting the tomatoes with garlic sounds perfect. But I defaulted to my fallback recipe--one that first appeared in Food and Wine in 1979. Yes, I know my last post, regrettably, was filled with typos--but I really have been making this soup since 1979.

It's a flavorful soup made with a base of onions, garlic, celery and carrots. Add some fully ripened tomatoes, chicken broth and some seasonings and you are on your way to a very comforting dinner. If you have some end-of-summer tomatoes and some time to spare, give it a try.

Tomato Soup
              Broadly based on a recipe by Richard Sax   Serves 6-8

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons olive oil
5 medium onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 ribs celery, with leaves if you like, sliced
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch cayenne pepper
Large pinch fresh basil, chopped
3-4 sprigs parsley, chopped
4 lbs. ripe tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
5 cups chicken stock

In a large pot, melt butter with olive oil. Add onions and toss to coat with fat. Cover pot and sweat the onions over medium heat, tossing occasionally, for 5-6 minutes, or until slightly softened.  Add the celery and carrots, toss to coat, and salt, pepper, cayenne, basil and parsley. Toss, cover, and sweat until vegetables are slightly soft, about 5 minutes longer.

Meanwhile, prepare the tomatoes. Cut out stems and core; cut in half horizontally and squeeze out seeds; then cut each half in two.  Add tomatoes to pot along with the sugar and nutmeg.  Heat the mixture uncovered; when it comes to a boil, lower the heat and simmer, stirring often breaking up the tomatoes, until the vegetables are beginning to cook down and thicken, about 10-12 minutes.

Add the chicken stock, and bring mixture to boil. Lower heat and simmer, partially covered, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pass the soup through a food mill, pressing the cooked vegetables through firmly.  Reheat the soup, and correct seasonings to taste.


Since my food mill has been lost in action for quite some time--and I never realize this until I go to use it-I peeled the tomatoes before seeding and used my immersion blender to do the pureeing.  I served the soup garnished with a chiffonade of basil along with crostini topped with Gorgonzola cheese run under the broiler.  My friend K, served hers topped with herbed croutons.

"By all these love tokens
  September days are here,
  with summer's best of weather
  And autumn's best of cheer."
            Helen Hunt Jackson


  1. Hurrah for autumn, what a lovely soup and thank you for the mention. I like the idea of all that butter, the celery and carrot base and the nutmeg to finish. It sounds delicious. I have an ambition to see New England in the autumn, the pictures you see are so awe inspiring.

  2. Kath, when the leaves begin to turn in the fall, New England is indeed beautiful. No leaf peaking yet, but we had the chance this trip during low tide to walk for almost a mile to reach the water which was filled with windsurfers. We even got to see the sea lions. Fun.

  3. I've been pondering tomato soup as well! It's the perfect time of year for it. Thanks for the blog post.

  4. wonderfully rich.
    I add either a vinegar gastrique or some sherry to mine.

  5. Stacy--Steaming soup is the perfect way to usher in autumn.

    Amelia--I like the idea of the vinegar; I'll try it next time.

  6. I've been thinking about that soup too---and now yours! Beautiful color Michele. We are ready for fall in Nashville---but doesn't seem ready for us. Still in the 90's--and shall be for the rest of the week. Too hot, and very dry. The soup would suit me nonetheless!

  7. Nancy--It ws 47 degrees the other morning, and the temperature is predicted to rise to 90 degrees on Friday. That soup is tucked away in the freezer for now where it belongs.

  8. I hope you ate more than just one slice of that beautiful toasted bread you have pictured. What a perfect companion for tomato soup.

  9. Tracy-- Thank you. You know, it was good with the soup. But I can eat a whole loaf of bread given the chance ; )

  10. Soup tonight here too. I'm trying my version of this one

  11. Denise--Sounds good. I like the site food52--interesting concept.

  12. Sending a sweet hello from Frog Hollow Farm! Thank you so much for stopping by my blog post and leaving a comment - it's always so nice meeting new bloggers online who share the same interests. I loved reading about your feelings about summer and fall, I feel exactly the same way! I love sitting in a warm cozy room watching the snow fall or listening to the wind howl - is that crazy?? I have to say though that this past New Jersey summer was just fabulous - I don't remember ever seeing that much sun! I'm definitely giving your tomato recipe a try! Sounds and looks yummy! Ciao, bella!

  13. Frog Hollow Farm Girl--You're right--it was a good summer in New Jersey, but I'm ready for fall. Hope you enjoy the soup. It's nice to see you here.