I think of this time of the year as transitional—not quite the end of summer, but not exactly fall either. Here in New England since September arrived, we’ve seen the thermometer reach a sweltering 90 degrees and just as quickly watched it drop to the chilly 50s. As a cook, the challenge is obvious. What I want is dishes that are just as tempting for those lingering hot, humid days as well as for the cool, crisp ones that hint at autumn.
The following recipe for a creamy tomato soup scented with goat cheese and garnished with tarragon easily bridges both these weather extremes. It can be prepared with the last of the summer tomatoes, but is equally good assembled with canned diced ones. And, the subtle taste shines through whether you serve the soup warm or at room temperature.
Several ingredients provide distinctive flavorings for this potage. Along with sautéed onion and carrot, diced fennel offers a nuanced anise accent for the base of the soup. Tarragon, both dried and fresh, pairs well with the tomatoes simmered in stock, while fresh orange zest and juice contribute a refreshing citrus touch. Goat cheese blended with cream and milk is swirled into the finished soup, adding a light salty note.
So, whether you’re trying to stay cool by turning up the AC, or piling logs for a warming fire, keep this soup in mind! Serve it with a salad or sandwich to anchor a light supper or lunch, or make it the starter for a special dinner.
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Tomato Soup with Goat Cheese, Tarragon, and Croutons
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups diced fennel (about 1 to 2 medium bulbs, halved with tough triangular cores removed)
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup diced carrot
2 pds ripe tomatoes, unpeeled, halved, seeded, and diced to yield 4 ½ to 5 cups or one 28-oz can plus one 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes, drained (preferably without seasonings)
4 to 5 cups chicken stock plus more if needed
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp dried tarragon
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
3/4 tsp grated orange zest
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2 oz creamy goat cheese, preferably at room temperature
3 tbsp heavy or whipping cream
2 tbsp milk
Toasted croutons (Recipe follows.)
1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh tarragon
2 oz creamy goat cheese, crumbled or broken into small pieces, optional
1. In a heavy, large pot over medium heat, heat the oil until hot. Add fennel, onion, and carrots, and cook, stirring often, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add fresh or draind, canned tomatoes. If using fresh tomatoes, add 4 cups chicken broth; if using canned tomatoes add 5 cups stock. Stir in tomato paste, dried tarragon, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and red pepper flakes. Bring the mixture to a simmer and then reduce the heat. Simmer, uncovered, until the vegetables are tender, 35 to 40 minutes. Stir in the orange zest and juice.
2 Puree the soup in a food processor or blender or use an immersion blender to puree the soup in the pot. If mixture is too thick, thin with extra chicken stock.
3. In a small bowl, use a fork to mash the goat cheese and blend it with the cream and milk so that it has the consistency of sour cream. Gradually whisk mixture into the soup. Taste and season with more salt if needed.
3. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish each serving with some croutons. Sprinkle with fresh chopped tarragon, and if desired, with some crumbled goat cheese. Pass remaining croutons in a bowl. Serves 4 as a main course and 6 as a first course.
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 cups bread cubes (3/4-in dice), made from good-quality French baguette or crusty country loaf
1. In a medium heavy skillet set over medium-high heat, heat the oil and butter until hot. Add the bread cubes; stir and cook until the bread is crisp and golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove and set aside. (Croutons can be prepared 4 hours ahead; cover loosely with foil and leave at room temperature.)
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2018