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Alaska from Scratch: A tomato soup revelation (or two)

Maya EvoyAlaska from Scratch
Roasted tomato soup Maya Evoy / Alaska from Scratch

A couple of years back, I was poring over the cookbook section of the Anchorage Barnes and Noble Bookstore, when a particular cookbook caught my eye. Jennifer Perillo’s "Homemade with Love" practically jumped off the shelf into my arms -- its photography, its food, its writing and its attention to design detail all speaking to me in ways that many cookbooks do not. I was swooning, completely smitten with this book.

This roasted tomato soup is one of the first recipes I tried from "Homemade with Love," and it was a revelation to me in a couple of ways. First, roasting canned tomatoes. What? Really? Have I been living under a rock? Apparently. I had always avoided roasted tomato … well … anything … because although our state is known for a lot of wonderful things, an abundance of fresh, plump tomatoes is not often one of them. Problem solved. I am no longer excluded from the roasted tomato party, and neither are the rest of you, particularly when tomatoes are out of season. Buy a nice big can of good quality whole tomatoes, drain them well, slice them in half, and roast them in a 300 degree oven with olive oil and seasonings of your choice for about an hour.

Now let’s talk about the seasonings for a moment. The way Jennifer Perillo seasoned her tomatoes for the soup in this recipe was revelation number two. Salt and pepper, a little brown sugar (I have been a huge fan of brown sugar with tomatoes for many years) and ground cloves? Say what now? No. Way. But, as I considered this list of ingredients in my mind, trying to taste it in my imagination, I knew deep down that it was going to work and that it was going to be brilliant. So, I salted, peppered, sugared and cloved my tomatoes, drizzled them all with extra virgin olive oil and roasted those babies until my house smelled like warmly spiced tomato heaven. The cloves elevate this tomato soup into the ideal bowl of coziness, with an unexpected heat right at the finish. Perfect, truly perfect. And extremely simple, too. Just roast, blend and heat through. I love to serve my roasted tomato soup with a nice grilled cheese sandwich with sharp cheddar on sourdough.

Roasted Tomato Soup

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 (28 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/4 cup heavy cream

Instructions:

1. Open the can of tomatoes and pour them into a strainer, draining them very well.

2. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with foil.

3. Slice the tomatoes in half and place them onto the baking sheet. In a small bowl, mix together a generous amount of salt and pepper, the brown sugar and the cloves. Sprinkle the seasoning mixture evenly over all the tomatoes. Drizzle the tomatoes with the olive oil and roast the tomatoes in the preheated oven for 1 hour. Cool the tomatoes for 10 minutes.

4. Place the tomatoes into a blender along with the vegetable stock. Blend until smooth. Pour the soup into a pot and heat until warmed through, but not boiling. Remove from heat and stir in the cream. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed. Serve promptly. Recipe adapted from "Homemade with Love" by Jennifer Perillo.

Maya Evoy lives in Nikiski and blogs about food at alaskafromscratch.com. Have a food question or recipe request? Email maya@alaskafromscratch.com and your inquiry may appear in a future column.