Locally grown tomatoes are starring at farmers’ markets, farm stands and stores throughout the area. Backyard gardens are producing the best tomatoes of the year. The locally-available varieties are not usually seen in large grocery stores because they’re not cultivated for long shelf-life and cross-country shipment. The taste of mass-produced tomatoes suffers from refrigeration; the very best tomato flavor comes from fruit still warm from the sun, picked as close to serving time as possible. Though the term “heirloom” refers to seeds saved from one growing season to the next, it has been loosely applied to tomatoes of various colors. The best-looking tomatoes can be beautifully presented simply sliced, fanned out on a platter, and dressed with olive oil, salt and pepper. The less perfect ones are great for soups and sauces.
Asian Flavors Tomato Soup
2 Tablespoons neutral-flavored oil (such as canola, safflower, corn or vegetable)
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated (about 1 Tablespoon)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 scallions, sliced. (reserve ¼ Cup of sliced scallion greens for garnish)
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped. (reserve 1 Tablespoon chopped jalapeno for garnish)
4 Cups chopped tomatoes (any variety, for best presentation use only one type/color)
Salt and pepper
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 can (approximately 13.5 ounces) light coconut milk
½ Cup cilantro, chopped (reserve ¼ Cup for garnish)
½ Cup cucumber, seeded and finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
Sauté the ginger, garlic, scallion, and jalapeno in oil for about a minute, just until fragrant - taking care to not burn the garlic. Add tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, then add soy sauce and cook another 5 to 10 minutes. Add coconut milk and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Add half of cilantro. Remove soup from heat, add half of lime juice. Puree the soup using a stick blender, or very carefully in small batches using a standard blender or food processor. Strain soup through a mesh sieve. Taste for seasoning, adding lime juice or salt as needed.
Toss reserved scallion, jalapeno and cilantro with cucumber. Top each serving of soup with cucumber mixture and a squeeze of lime juice.
Note: This soup is vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free, and makes an elegant starter.