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Tomato-Thyme Soup with Cheese and Croutons

In a creative frenzy recently, I’ve been cooking a lot with tomatoes. Why tomatoes? Because we have tons of them. Plus they are free and I can experiment with them without having the fear of going bankrupt at failed recipes.

The thing is we have tomato crop this year.  We planted 4 tiny tomato bushes in our backyard around May, and patiently waited for them to show any sign of life, but in vain, as they simply refused to grow. We were ready give up on them but decided to give them another chance and planted them in our front yard. So, next thing we see is our tomatoes grow by day, no, actually by hour, and the roses that have been there long enough to claim it their own territory, are now totally buried underneath the overflowing tomato plants. So, now we are officially the only house in the neighborhood that grows tomatoes and not flowers in its front yard. But we are not complaining, neither do our neighbors and friends who have been enjoying our organic tomatoes and telling us how lucky we are to be enjoying the fruit of our labor. I couldn’t have agreed more, considering that we really didn’t’ put that much labor into the whole thing. It is the mother Soil and its sister Sun that do the job.

Hubby was smart enough to plant several varieties to save me a trip to a grocery store to buy a particular variety for a particular recipe. We have steak tomatoes that are huge. We also have cherry tomatoes, Roma tomatoes and salad tomatoes.  I think I’ve picked at least 30 pounds of tomato so far and there is as much coming.

Ok, enough bragging. Here’s the recipe I whipped up the other day using our garden tomatoes. I used thyme to flavor the soup and it did enhance its taste nicely.  I topped the soup with shredded mozzarella cheese and homemade croutons. We enjoyed the soup thinking how fun it woul be if those plants could hang in there throughout the winter and provide us with their juiciest fruit (yes, scientifically speaking, tomato is a fruit and not vegetable), but I think that roses will eventually regain their territory before we and tomatoes know it.

TOMATO-THYME SOUP

Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons unsalted butter or vegetable oil
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 medium juicy tomatoes, peeled and pureed in a food processor
5 cups chicken broth or water (or combination)
1 tablespoon dried thyme (decrease to taste)
1/2 cup milk
salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste

To garnish:
shredded mozzarella cheese
croutons (recipe follows)

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and stir-fry for a minute. Add the pureed fresh tomatoes. Cook for 3 minutes longer. Add the chicken broth or water, and thyme. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.

Gradually pour in the milk, stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook for another 2 minutes, then remove from heat. Ladle into bowls, garnish with shredded mozzarella and croutons (recipe follows).

CROUTONS
Remove crust from bread slices. Cut into cubes. Brush the cubes with some olive oil (or melted butter). Sprinkle with salt. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350F (170C) until browned, about 10 minutes.

ENJOY!

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