Roasted tomato soup – with a touch of Chile

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With daytime temps reaching the high 90s, summer still lingers, but autumn is tiptoeing around, visiting in the morning and evening and announcing her arrival with a hint of chill in the 50-degree air. I love transitional seasons, as I get to experience two seasons in a day. It makes me more keenly aware and appreciative of the beauty and fleetingness of life. For example, while I may not always appreciate the sun when temperatures are in triple digits for weeks on end, I bask in its rays now that its strength is on the wane. The anticipation of loss makes what is slipping away all the more sweet.

And so it is, as summer turns to fall.  The end of the season offers the best of both worlds – summer and fall – so we might as well make the best of it. What better way to do so than to use late summer crops to make an autumnal meal? This soup celebrates the seasonal change unfolding around us.

In honor of Chilean Independence Day (today!), I added some spices that Nelson bought last year at the market in Valdivia. Merkén is a smoked chile powder that is a traditional condiment of the Mapuche indigenous peoples of southern Chile. Apparently, it’s becoming trendy in the U.S. now, according to this Los Angeles Times article, which notes it is now available at Whole Foods. We always stock up when down south so that we have enough to last us for the year. We are almost out, which means it must be time to migrate soon.

As this is soup, quantities are approximate. Use what you’ve got and what you like. We had a lot of huge tomatoes that we needed to use up, as well as bell pepper crudité left over from a party, so that’s what went into the pot.

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Roasted Tomato Soup

9 large tomatoes, cored and quartered

3 red bell peppers, seeded and quartered

1 ½ large onions (yellow or red are fine)

6-8 cloves of garlic, unpeeled

5 cups vegetable broth (more if you like your soup thinner)

oregano, basil, or other spices

cayenne pepper and smoked paprika to taste (probably not more than ¾ teaspoon total)

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 – 400° F while you chop and prep the vegetables. Once chopped, place the tomatoes on a baking sheet that is greased or lined with parchment paper. Toss the chopped onions and red peppers together with olive oil and oregano and spread on another baking sheet, along with the unpeeled garlic. Roast tomatoes, pepper, onions, and garlic for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the tomatoes begin to collapse, the peppers start to brown and caramelize, and the garlic becomes soft and golden. Peel garlic and add it, along with the rest of the roasted vegetables, to the vegetable broth. Simmer for 10 minutes and purée in a blender or with a hand mixer. Add spices to taste and serve. Great accompanied with pesto or vegan feta – or both!

Quote of the Day

Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it.

~Henry David Thoreau, “Chesuncook,” The Maine Woods, 1848