Roasted tomato basil soup

After sampling some delicious tomato soups around town last week (Volunteer Park Cafe and Salumi), we decided to revitalize a recipe we used last year with some fresh ingredients from the West Seattle Farmers Market. The original recipe comes from one of the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks and was always “just okay” in my book. This time I added a bay leaf, a pinch of all spice, and used some VERY ripe farmers market tomatoes, which made a huge difference in the flavor. I’m sad that we’ll be finishing this soup tonight – I wish I’d made enough for the entire winter. It’s easily the best soup I’ve ever made and I hope you will enjoy it too. As you can see, it pairs well with old-fashioned grilled cheese.




  • 3 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 onions (I minced them with the garlic in the food processor)
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28-ounce) canned plum tomatoes, with their juice
  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • pinch all spice
  • 1 quart chicken stock


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss together the tomatoes, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the tomatoes in 1 layer on a baking sheet and roast for about 40- 45 minutes.

In an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, saute the minched onions and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the butter, and red pepper flakes for 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown. Add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme, bay leaf, pinch of all spice, and chicken stock. Add the oven-roasted tomatoes, including the liquid on the baking sheet. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Pass through a food mill fitted with the coarsest blade. Taste for seasonings. Serve hot or cold. It also never hurts to add a dollop of creme fraiche on top.


Berries galore

A few months ago I wrote about making lemon curd with some jars I’d been saving up. Well, now that my Grammy has stocked me up with her mason jars and Kerr Home Canning Book (purchased for $.10 in 1944), I decided that today was the day for jam.


I’ve had berries on the brain since feasting on huckleberries while hiking Mount Granite on Friday, and spotting the last few blackberries in Discovery Park while running yesterday. While at the Ballard Farmer’s Market this morning with my friends Kristin and Wei, we saw a sign for “jam berries” and were curious to learn about the difference between their regular and “jam” berries. It turns out that they sell their ripest “must eat now!” blackberries at a discount. Lucky me!


As none of us had ever made jam before, we quickly started looking up recipes (pectin, sugar, lemon?) and methods (how do you know when a jar is completely sterile?) before calling my mom to ask about her tried and true tactics. Sometimes technology is more trouble than it’s worth. It seems that everyone has their very own personal method and motto for making jam.

I opted for 1 quart of fruit to 1 cup of sugar and stirred them together to sit for about 10 minutes before heating on the stove. I added a few squirts of lemon juice to the blackberry nectarine combination because it tasted a bit too sweet. Once on the stove, it worked best to boil on high heat for about 5 minutes and then lower to medium for 10-15 minutes. Wearing a pair of dish gloves helped prevent our wrists from being burned by splattering jam.


In the meantime, we heated the pre-washed jars at 200 degrees in the oven for over 30 minutes and used an oven mitt to carefully hold the jars while filling with jam. I simmered the lids and screw tops in hot water on the stove and put them on once the jars had been filled. After 10 minutes, I turned the jars upside down for about an hour to ensure that the lids had been suctioned against the jar.

Fast forward a couple of hours, and I am the proud owner of 2 jars of blackberry jam, 5 jars of blackberry/nectarine jam, and 1 jar of nectarine jam. Thanks to K&W for helping today and to my Grammy for the jars. This is a very fun new hobby indeed!