Thursday, October 20, 2011

Summer’s Last Gasp: All Those Tomatoes

Each year for close to three decades, I’ve canned tomatoes. Even while living in a fifth floor walk-up in Manhattan (without air conditioning), I’d hop the subway down to the Union Square farmers’ market and load up with about 40 pounds of tomatoes and huge bunches of basil. My subway ride back to my apartment was pleasantly aromatic during those hot August days – more than can be said for my trip out to market.

I’d ‘put up’ many jars of cooked tomatoes, sauce, and puree, and this process always signaled the easing into summer’s end. The benefit of this heat-filled project has always been the bright red-orange glass jars sitting on the pantry shelves, especially during a bleak day in February, when it feels as if the summer sun ran away for good.

It wasn’t until I was at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market this past weekend as a judge for their annual Iron Chef competition (Max London of Max London’s defended his title against Bryan Walsh of One Caroline Street, both of Saratoga Springs) that I realized the chill of autumn.

Although I’ve had tell-tale signs in a couple of light frosts, longer shadows, and shortened daylight hours, I’ve still been able to walk outside in bare feet and swat mosquitoes.

It registered even more on Sunday, when our great friends, the Buddes, invited us over for a look at their newly carved jack-o-lanterns and their family’s first annual apple pie contest (my family had the great fortune to judge their entries).

Food competitions aside, the beautiful array of tomatoes from New Minglewood Farm still available at the market reminded me that while I had already cooked, canned, frozen and dried my way through two bushels of tomatoes, I hadn’t yet made any tomato soup.

The recipe for the creamy version below hits just the right note before we need the thicker, heartier soups of the cold weather variety to come. Enjoy this as lunch fare paired with a salad (maybe some nice mixed greens with lightly toasted walnuts and apple slices), or as speedy comfort food for a week-night supper.

The ingredients are few, and the prep time minimal – perfect for when you’re still trying to pull out those last harvests or complete your outdoor chores in limited light.

Creamy Tomato Soup
Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium white onion, chopped
2 tablespoons unbleached flour
1 quart of tomato juice or puree
1 cup whole milk, gently warmed
Salt, to taste
Chopped parsley, or julienne of basil for garnish

Sauté onions in butter over medium heat in an enameled casserole for approximately 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in flour and return to low heat for a couple of minutes, allowing the flour to cook. Continue to blend while slowing pouring in tomato puree. (At this point, you can use an immersion blender if you want a totally creamy soup, diminishing the texture created by the pieces of onion.)

Return to medium heat heat; continue stirring. Cook until simmering, but not boiling. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. While cooling, warm milk (do not boil) and add to tomato mixture and serve.

Optional:While preparing soup, heat oven to 325 degrees F. On a baking sheet, place 2 baguette slices per person, sprinkled with shredded or grated cheese. Serve either floating on top of soup, or on the side.

Annette Nielsen is a food writer, editor, community organizer and activist on behalf of regional agriculture. She recently edited Northern Comfort and Northern Bounty, two seasonally-based cookbooks for Adirondack Life Magazine. A native of Northville, she lives in Salem, New York with her husband and son.

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Annette Nielsen is a noted local food writer, editor, community organizer and activist on behalf of regional agriculture. She recently edited Northern Comfort and Northern Bounty, two seasonally-based cookbooks for Adirondack Life. A native of Northville, (she now lives in Salem, Washington County with her husband and son), Nielsen writes about Adirondack foodie culture with an eye toward locally sourced foods from forest, orchard, and farm. Annette Nielsen can be reached on Twitter and Facebook.

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