OPINION | FRONT BURNER: Tomato soup is tops for fall's arrival

Clove-Infused Tomato Soup With Puffy Lid (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)
Clove-Infused Tomato Soup With Puffy Lid (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

Tomato soup — with or without a grilled-cheese sandwich — is one of my favorite rainy or cool weather meals. And with fall officially here, hot soup season can begin in earnest.

So naturally a recipe for tomato soup was the first recipe I tried in Asha Gomez's new cookbook "I Cook in Color" (Running Press, Oct. 6).

I was intrigued by the spice combination — cloves and crushed red pepper — and the puff pastry lid.

The soup starts with onion and garlic sauteed in a luxurious amount of butter and, like the green chile sauce I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, flour is stirred in like a roux and cooked until just golden before the remaining ingredients — canned whole tomatoes, broth, ground cloves, red chile flakes, salt and honey — are added. The whole pot simmers for about half an hour before getting pureed, divided into oven-safe bowls and topped with pastry and baked.

In other words, it's not a fast recipe.

But the soup is so good. The cloves tingle on your tongue as the red chile warms everything all the way down to your belly. The pastry lids, although striking for presentation, didn't add to the enjoyment of this soup. In fact, they detracted. The bottoms were soggy and the tops sort of collapsed into the soup after a couple of bites and turned the whole thing to mush.

I much prefer this soup served with the puff pastry on the side, which also speeds things up a bit because the pastry can bake while the soup simmers. I cut the pastry into long strips, which are perfect for dipping.

Clove-Infused Tomato Soup  (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)
Clove-Infused Tomato Soup (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

Clove-Infused Tomato Soup With Puffy Lids

8 tablespoons butter

2 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

¼ cup all-purpose flour

3 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes

1 cup chicken or vegetable broth

1 teaspoon ground cloves

2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste

2 tablespoons honey

1 (17.3-ounce) box frozen puff pastry, thawed

1 egg, beaten

2 tablespoons whole milk

Desired seasoning such as red chile flakes, garlic powder, grated parmesan or salt, optional

In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is tender and translucent, about 15 minutes. Add the flour and stir well to coat, continue cooking 2 to 3 minutes or until flour is golden. Add the tomatoes, broth, cloves, chile flakes, salt and honey. Stir well to combine. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes, stirring often and breaking up the tomatoes with your spoon.

Remove from heat and puree to desired texture with an immersion blender or in a regular blender (careful! the mixture is hot).

Meanwhile, heat oven to 400 degrees.

In a small bowl, beat the egg with the milk; set aside. On a lightly floured surface, roll each sheet of puff pastry into a 12-inch or slightly larger square.

If serving the puff pastry on the side, transfer the pastry to parchment-lined baking sheets and brush with egg wash. Sprinkle with seasoning such as more red chile, parmesan cheese or garlic powder and cut each piece into 12 strips, slightly separating the strips. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until puffed, golden and crisp.

If using the pastry as "lids" cut the sheets into 6 to 8 (6-inch) squares.

Divide the soup among oven-safe bowls or crocks. Top each bowl or crock with a square of pastry, pressing edges to adhere to the dish. Brush with egg wash. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until puffed, golden and crisp.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Recipe adapted from "I Cook in Color: Bright Flavors From My Kitchen and Around the World" by Asha Gomez and Martha Hall Foose (Running Press, $32.50, Oct. 6)

Upcoming Events