I've long been on a search for a spectacular tomato soup recipe that doesn't achieve greatness by adding lots of heavy cream, the most common way to temper the acidity of tomatoes. I already love the variation using bread that I've already written about. But when I was flipping through The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper the other day, the book fell open to this recipe, and lightning struck. Nestled in the Provençal-perfumed broth (think basil, oregano, thyme, and fennel seeds) was a dollop of creamy goat cheese. Brilliant!
Sure, this soup would taste a lot better at the height of summer rather than the dead of winter (you could use fresh tomatoes instead of canned). But I really couldn't wait. Turns out, it's a skillfully flavored soup, with those classic spices plus an inspired addition of ground cinnamon and the herbal punch of dry vermouth. The chevre melts into the broth, adding a calming touch with that pleasant, familiar goat-cheese funk.
- 2 teaspoons Provençal spice blend (or equal parts dried basil, thyme, oregano, and fennel seeds)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 3 medium onions, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1/3 cup dry vermouth
- 1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes, crushed by hand (or 2 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped)
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 4 ounces fresh goat cheese
Fill the bottom of a heavy soup pot (5 to 6 quarts) with olive oil. Over medium-high heat, cook the onions with a pinch of salt until golden, 5 to 8 minutes, stirring often. In the meantime, lightly crush the spice mix to release the flavors in a small bowl. Add to the onions with garlic and cook until the aromas open, about 30 seconds.
Stir in the tomato paste and continue stirring until no lumps remain. Add the vermouth and cook for a minute, then add the tomatoes. Bring to a boil, cook for two minutes, then add the broth. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes.
Stir in the cinnamon and season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with crumbled goat cheese.