Chunky Tomato Soup with Gremolata and Croutons
The top left burner on our stove top has given up. It simply won’t heat up. The bottom right one stopped functioning some time ago, then it was fixed, but it was never the same. It’s unstable, moving sort of like a see-saw, making me constantly move the skillet to help things cook evenly.
I should call someone about that. Still, we were able to make soup.
We’ve been doing weekends well.
The sun decided to stay out this weekend as the temperature creeped up. We ate Cubans and fries with sugar in the seasoning (oh man!) and we sipped homebrews at Hunahpu Day. There was brunch with friends (oyster cakes and cornbread with poached eggs for me, bangers and potatoes with eggs and fancy grapefruit aioli for him).
On Saturday, we had spaghetti with an ingredient we’ve never used before. Fresh Portuguese sardines. At least a half-foot long each, each fish was shiny, salty, and fresh. I was looking forward to the challenge of cooking something new. We looked up a video and soon were cleaning the fish. Not long after that, dinner was served. It was damn good. Expect fresh sardines here soon.
There were naps. We cleaned the house a bit, but we were a little too busy to get to laundry. No big.
There were two movies. Celeste and Jesse Forever, which had its moments but was okay. To Rome with Love, which was quirky, charming and totally enjoyable, as expected.
As Sunday began winding down, we started taking out the ingredients for tomato soup. Grilled cheese seems like the natural pairing for tomato soup, but I haven’t kicked my crouton habit just yet. I want them every night.
There was also a gremolata, maybe the first I remember making. A gremolata is a quick condiment usually made of chopped herbs with a hit of citrus, and in this case included parsley and fennel. It’s zesty and added flavor and freshness to the soup. Don’t skip any part of the soup, as the croutons and the gremolata add texture, color, and flavor to elevate the whole soup.
It hit the spot. A lighter yet flavorful and satisfying dinner at the end of a slightly more indulgent week and food-filled weekend.
chunky tomato soup with gremolata and croutons
The gremolata is not to be skipped for this soup. It brightens up the tomato soup and adds freshness, and the croutons of course add crunch. Next time, I’d also throw in some garlic into the soup along with the fennel and onion.
for the gremolata:
1/4 cup chopped fennel fronds
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 or 2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
for the soup:
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped
4 thyme sprigs
3 tablespoons tomato paste
4 cups water
two 28-ounce cans diced Italian tomatoes
finely grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
for the croutons:
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons unsalted butter)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons finely chopped thyme
6 cups day-old bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
a heaping 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Heat oven to 400°F.
To make the gremolata, mix the fennel fronds, parsley, orange zest, and salt in a small bowl. Reserve in fridge until soup is ready, up to 3 hours.
To make the soup, heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot. Add onion, fennel, and thyme. Cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until fennel and onion are softened, about 8 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes to incorporate the tomato paste, stirring frequently. Add the water and pour in the tomatoes, juices and all, and then bring everything to a boil. Bring the heat down to medium-high and let soup simmer until the liquid reduces by a third or so, about 30 minutes. Discard the thyme.
Meanwhile, prepare the croutons. Place the bread cubes in a large bowl. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for 1 minute. Pour the butter over the bread cubes, scraping every last bit in there, and toss to coat. Add the grated Parmesan and toss to coat again. Spread cubes out on a large baking sheet. Bake until crisp and golden brown, 8 to 12 minutes. Let cool.
Take the soup off the heat, and use an immersion blender to puree the soup until it’s blended but still a little chunky. If using a regular blender, carefully move the soup to the blender and blitz it. Add the smooth half of the soup back to the chunky base and stir. Serve soup with a teaspoon or so of gremolata in the center, a handful of croutons per bowl, and finish it off with grated Parmesan cheese.
Leftover soup can hang out in the fridge for up to 2 days.
Serves 6 to 8. Adapted from Food & Wine.