Last week I spent a little extra time in the kitchen preparing Harissa, a wonderfully hot and rich condiment from North Africa. I gave away a few jars because a little Harissa goes a long, long way. But I kept my own stash to elevate the flavor of everything from scrambled eggs to soup.
The rich flavor of fresh tomatoes is certainly something to celebrate, especially in their final glory days of summer. I make an incredibly simple soup, a favorite for its easy preparation and fabulous tomato flavor. I’ll use my Harissa to take it to a new level of “yum.”
Garden Fresh Tomato Soup with Avocado Garnish
- Sauté one cup of chopped yellow onion, a teaspoon or two of fresh thyme and two cloves of minced garlic in a few tablespoons of olive oil. Cook until soft and translucent, about four or five minutes. (If you are not adding Harissa to this dish, up the garlic to three cloves or consider replacing the Harissa with a tablespoon of pesto and melting a leftover Parmigiano Reggiano rind in the simmering soup–Mama Mia!)
- To your sauté, add five to six cups of chopped fresh tomatoes—no need to peel or seed! Include a cup to a cup and a half of water, a small can of nice-quality tomato paste (We love Muir Glen and Wild Harvest organic.), a tablespoon of raw honey, a few teaspoons of fresh chopped basil, a teaspoon or so of sea salt (Don’t overdue; you can always add more salt at the end.), and a teaspoon or so of fresh ground black pepper.
- Bring to a boil; then, simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Let the soup simmer on low and stir frequently until it is thickened and imparts a rich tomato aroma. Let the soup cool slightly. Puree the soup in batches in a blender until smooth and velvety.
- Finish with one tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and one scant teaspoon Harissa (A tablespoon if you want it over-the-top hot.). Return the pureed soup to the stove and reheat gently until warm. You could also serve this soup chilled.
- For garnish, serve with cubed smoked Gouda cheese and diced avocado. Change the cheese garnish to grated Parmigiano Reggiano if you are going with pesto.
Of course, salad is a natural accompaniment to soup, but why not get a little crazy… with watermelon!! This recipe comes from the William-Sonoma Cooking from the Farmer’s Market cookbook—so appropriate.
Watermelon, Feta and Mint Salad
- Three quarters cup of fresh mint leave
- One tablespoon sugar (I used raw sugar.)
- One green jalapeño or serrano chili, seeded and chopped
- Two tablespoons rice vinegar
- One tablespoon fresh lime juice
- Three tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
- One small seedless watermelon, about three pounds, peeled, seeded and cut into one-inch cubes (Note that most market melons are not seedless—this never stops us from making this fabulous dish. Seed spitting is an art form in our house.)
- Six ounces crumbled feta cheese
Process a half cup of the mint leaves and the sugar in a food processor until well blended. Add the chile, vinegar and lime juice and process again. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil. Transfer the vinaigrette to a bowl and season with salt and pepper—just a pinch of each will do.
Place the watermelon and cheese into individual bowls and drizzle with the vinaigrette. (We assemble in a big serving bowl and set in on the table.) Serve immediately.
So how are you using those hot peppers and end-of-the-season goodies? Join the conversation.