Chunky (and Spicy) Tomato Soup

On day 2 of my 21 day vegetarian challenge, I made a chunky tomato soup from the March 2011 edition of Food and Wine Magazine. While my other taster found it to be too spicy, I enjoyed it immensely. I don’t know if it was the fact that I used the canned tomatoes I had on hand (which were made with jalapenos), but it definitely had some kick. It was easy to make, and went great with a roasted vegetable sandwich I made (pictures forthcoming). Here is the recipe:

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 oil, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and finely chopped
4 thyme sprigs
3 tablespoons tomato paste
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cups water
Two 28-ounce cans peeled Italian tomatoes — drained and finely chopped, juices reserved
Optional: Pan Fried Croutons, Fennel Orange Gremolata, and diced Fontina cheese

1. In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, fennel and thyme and cook the vegetables over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion and fennel are softened, about 8 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the water and the tomatoes and their juices and bring to a boil. Simmer the soup over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced by one-third, about 30 minutes. Discard the thyme.
2. Transfer half of the soup to a blender and puree until smooth. Return the puree to the pot. Serve the soup with the Pan-Fried Potato Croutons, Fennel-Orange Gremolata, and diced Fontina Cheese.
*The soup can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Pan Fried Potato Croutons
Ingredients
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper

1.Put the potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with 1 inch of water. Season with salt and bring to a boil. Drain the potatoes in a colander and let stand for 5 minutes.
2. In a medium nonstick skillet, melt the butter in the olive oil. Add the potatoes and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden and crispy, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Fennel-Orange Gremolata

Ingredients
1/4 cup chopped fennel fronds
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt

1.Mix all of the ingredients in a small bowl.

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