Makes 8 cups
Making soup is like arranging flowers; both begin with a few spiky accents to act as the backbone such as leeks, onions and garlic; large focal flowers to provide substance, and for soup that would be beans, squash or tomatoes that add primary flavors. Roasted tomatoes can be bought in a can, or grill fresh tomatoes until they are charred, which will add a slight smokey flavor to the soup.
When I arrange flowers, I like to leave just enough space to allow imaginary butterflies to fly in between the stems, which gives the arrangement air and lightness. The same goes for the soup pot: keep it simple so you can taste all the flavors.
The recipe below is the next best thing to having fresh tomatoes in the middle of winter, and is pure country comfort. Try it with the cheese straws, recipe below, to add a crunchy topping and side kick.
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 28-ounce can Muir Glen Fire Roasted tomatoes, fine chopped
3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
½ cup half and half or milk
½ tsp dried thyme
2 cups ( 8 oz) Vermont Cheddar Cheese grated
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
In an 8 cup stock pot, heat oil over medium heat and add onions, stirring and simmering until soft and translucent about 5 minutes. Add garlic and stir for another minute. Remove from the heat.
Stir tomatoes into the onions, along with vegetable broth, half and half ( or milk) and thyme. Stir and return to the heat. Bring to a boil, then adjust the heat to let soup simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat.
Add the cheese, one handful at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon until it is melted. Puree with an immersion blender to keep the soup somewhat chunky. If you prefer a creamier soup, transfer to a blender and whir. Return to the pot, reheat and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Thin, crisp pastry sticks with the tang of cayenne and sharp cheddar, cheese straws are the perfect accompaniment to Roasted Tomato Soup or as a stand alone appetizer for cocktails. For a decorative touch, use a fluted ravioli cutter to achieve a crimped edge. A tin of cheese straws makes an excellent hostess gift.
1 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 cups (8 ounces) grated sharp Vermont cheddar cheese
2-3 tablespoons ice water
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Combine the dry ingredients: flour, salt, dry mustard, and hot pepper in a bowl, stir to blend. In a mixing bowl, drop the butter and grated cheese and thoroughly blend. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter and cheese mixture, until completely incorporated. Add the ice water, one tablespoons at a time, while the mixer is still running, until the dough comes together into a ball.
It will be a sticky, wet dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead five or six times just to bring it together. With a rolling pin, press the dough into a rectangle, 1/4 inch thick. With the ravioli cutter, cut into strips 1/4 inch wide and 4-6 inches in length.
Place the strips on ungreased cookie sheets 1/2 inch apart, and bake in the preheated oven for 12-16 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. Cool completely. Eat while hot, or store in a zip lock bag or airtight containers.