Roasting the tomatoes first gives this soup a deep, sweet flavor. Use ripe but firm tomatoes so they don't get soft too quickly. The combination of the flavors of the sweet roasted tomatoes, fennel and garlic is marvelous. For a lower-fat version, substitute milk or more stock instead of cream. Serve with a nice zinfandel.

Adapted from a recipe that originally appeared in Fine Cooking magazine, Aug/Sept. 1994

For the soup:

Heat the oven to 400F. Cut the tomatoes in half crosswise and squeeze gently to remove the seeds, scraping them out with your fingers if necessary. Coat the tomatoes with olive oil and place them cut side down on a nonstick or foil-lined shallow baking dish. Roast for 35-45 minutes, until the tomatoes are very soft and the skins are dark. Remove them from the oven and let cool. The skins should slip off easily.

Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan and sauté the chopped shallots, carrot, garlic and fennel until they're soft, about 12 minutes. Add 2 cups of stock and the tarragon and parsley. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Remove the herb sprigs and addd the roasted tomatoes and Pernod.

Pur´e the soup in a blender or food processor. (For a smoother soup, pass it through a food mill.) Add the cream and return the soup to a simmer. If the soup is too thick, thin it with more stock. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm over low heat until ready to serve.

To serve: Ladle the soup into warm bowls and float two or three parsley croutons on top of each bowl.

For the parsley croutons:

Heat oven to 400F. Brush both sides of the bread slices with olive oil and put them on a baking sheet. Rub the top of each slice with garlic and sprinkle on the cheese and parsley. Bake until golden brown, about 5 minutes.


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Chuck Taggart   (e-mail chuck)