I remember tuning in religiously to Nigella Lawson's Forever Summer programme every morning. I was really enamoured of the way she used seasonal fruit and produce to evoke such visceral delights that not only looked and tasted of sumer, but made you glad that you were alive.
Tomatoes were often a key ingredient, especially fresh ripe tomatoes bursting with vibrant juiciness and succulent with flavour. While such tomatoes are rarely to be found here, I've always enjoyed the idea of using them in a dish nonetheless. They seem to lend themselves most naturally to soup, so I thought I'd give it a shot. Recipe taken off Epicurious.
Ingredients (Serves 8)
1.8 kg tomatoes, halved lengthwise
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
3 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
Garnish: fresh oregano sprigs or basil leaves
Notes on ingredients: If I made this again I would have included some chopped basil leaves, because as Jamie Oliver so coincidentally reminded me today in an episode where he made a different tomato soup, tomatoes and basil are best mates.
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat to 180°C.
Arrange tomatoes, cut sides up, in 1 layer in a large shallow baking pan and add garlic to pan. Drizzle tomatoes with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. "Halved lengthwise" means cutting across the tomato, not through it. The first two halves you see on the left have been halved crosswise. That's wrong.
Roast tomatoes and garlic 1 hour, then cool in pan on a rack. After they've been roasted, the tomatoes swell and become sweet. The garlic too, softens and becomes buttery.
Cook onion, oregano, and sugar in butter in a 6- to 8-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes.
Add tomatoes, and basil, if you're using it, to the pot. Squeeze the garlic cloves, getting out all the softened sweet garlic, discarding the peels, and add it in.
Add stock and simmer, covered, 20 minutes.
By then your stock should have boiled down a bit, and the contents of your pot should evoke wonderful feelings of a carefree summer's day.
Purée soup in batches in a blender (use caution when blending hot liquids), then force through a sieve into a cleaned pot, discarding solids. This ensures that you have a texturally cleaner soup, and as the seeds and skin are a bit acidic, it improves the taste too. Salt and pepper to taste and simmer 2 minutes.
Divide soup among 8 bowls and garnish with oregano or basil leaves.
Apparently this can be made a day ahead and stored, but I'm not really keen on that idea, as I feel tomatoes should be consumed at the height of their freshness.