Sometimes, inspiration strikes… from the most unlikely places. I needed to make soup, and I was wandering around the various parts of the kitchen looking for things to use. In dry storage I ran across some apple wood chips that we use to smoke things sometimes. Then in the cooler I saw a bunch of yellow tomatoes that we needed to use really soon. So, I started thinking, “What if I smoked the tomatoes?”
When I started making this soup that was really all I had for an idea. I had no idea how long it would take to get a decent smoke flavor into the tomatoes, and no idea how I was going to season it once I was ready to put the whole thing together. It all worked out quite nicely, through a series of accidents, and correcting them!
Step one, deal with the tomatoes. There are a couple of things that you will have to do with this, but none of them are particularly difficult. First, quarter the tomatoes, and cut out the little place where the stem attached. Then squeeze the quarters to get rid of the seeds. All of the flesh parts of the tomatoes are going to get smoked. I seasoned them with salt and pepper and a little olive oil. Get your smoker set up. At work I use a deep hotel pan to hold the soaked wood chips and a perforated hotel pan to hold the smokee. Then I just cover the whole thing with foil. Simple, and having an exhaust fan keeps it from getting smoky inside! I have a stovetop smoker I use frequently at home, and it works well. I think I had the tomatoes on for 15 to 20 minutes. Then, I just tasted a piece of a tomato to see if I had enough of a smoke flavor. I didn’t want it to be super strong, but I wanted to be able to taste it. Once I had it where I wanted it I pureed it in a food processor, and left it to cool. (This doesn’t make a lot of puree, but you’ll be adding more liquid to get it to a soup consistency, so don’t worry. I nearly doubled what I had to start with,)
Next I roughly chopped some onion and tossed it with a little salt, pepper, cumin, corriander, and oregano, and a couple of cloves of garlic and olive oil. This all got roasted under the salamander (broiler) until lightly browned, and tender. Then I pureed it, and let it cool over night.
When I was ready to start the soup I started adding the onion mixture to the tomatoes, and added some lemon juice to brighten it up, and water to get the consistency I was looking for. I added more than I thought I wanted. Oops! So, to balance out the lemon juice I added a little bit of honey. Now, it was too sweet. Salt helped bring things together a bit better, but although it tasted good, it was kind of one dimensional. I started looking for things that would help accent the smoke flavor, and balance out the sweetness a bit more. With the cumin, corriander and oregano I realized that I could go with sort of a Southwestern thing, and grabbed the container of ground ancho chili powder, and the black pepper. Ancho is not hot, but has a nice earthy flavor. Turns out the ancho was EXACTLY what was needed in the soup! I had no idea how much I needed so I added a little and tasted, and added more, until I liked it. This soup was all about tasting. There was no recipe, and no plan. Just a bunch of tasting spoons, a container of soup, and me, playing!
Sometimes, this is the most fun kind of cooking. Start with something simple, and see what you can do with it. In this case, a very tasty cold soup!
I will often garnish soups, just because it is nice for presentation and if you can make something that goes nicely flavor-wise that is always a good thing. In this case I made a little bit of pico de gallo.
With the hot weather we have been having lately a nice cold soup is a great lunch, or part of your lunch.
Anyway, my point here is we should give ourselves time to really play with our food. We need to eat, but it doesn’t have to be boring, and it should really taste good and be fun to get it on the table! Right?