For my birthday last week, Michael took me to Blue Hill, one of our favorite restaurants reserved for the specialest of occasions. And if celebrating my last 365 days in my twenties is not special, nothing is! Blue Hill is best known for its fresh offerings sourced from its upstate farm Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and Executive Chef Dan Barber is a visionary and one of the founders of the locavore movement. It’s worth mentioning that this lovely restaurant is particularly accommodating to the meatless, despite its meat-heavy menu. So nice.
Michael enjoyed “The Farmer’s Feast,” which included a farm-fresh egg over sweet corn and purslane, an emmer and quinoa risotto, and warm breadsticks with fresh ricotta and arugula salt (yes, arugula salt! Amazing thing!). My favorite was the Smoked Tomato Soup: a little pile of fresh chanterelle mushrooms arrived in a white porcelain bowl, surrounded by a trail of ricotta, and our server then poured in perfectly creamy, steaming, orangey-red soup. Campbell’s it was not: the smoky sweetness with the cool ricotta and earthy mushrooms made for a devine experience. I’d forgotten how much I like soup.
I found a similar recipe (minus the chanterelles) by Chef Barber on the Food & Wine website. Easily made meatless by substituting the chicken stock with veggie stock. A bit labor intensive, and I’ve never smoked anything before, but I’m willing to try anything twice!
Dan Barber’s Smoked Tomato Soup (adapted from here):
1/4 c. apple, pecan or hickory wood chips (preferably 1/2-in. or smaller
10 large plum tomatoes (about 2 1/2 lbs.), halved and seeded, 8 coarsely chopped
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large leek, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
1 1/2 tsp. coriander seeds
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. finely grated fresh or drained bottled horseradish
1 c. vegetable stock or canned low-sodium broth
pinch of sugar
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
salt and freshly ground pepper
small basil leaves, for garnish
Scatter the wood chips in a medium cast iron skillet and cover skillet tightly. Heat the chips over moderately high heat until smoking. Place the 4 tomato halves on a rack and set the rack in the skillet. Cover and smoke the tomatoes for 2 – 3 min., or until barely softened. Transfer the tomatoes to a plate and let cool slightly, then peel.
In a large saucepan, heat olive oil until shimmering. Add onion and leek and cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until softened but not browned, about 10 min. Add coriander seeds, garlic, bay leaves and horseradish and cook until fragrant, about 2 min. Add chopped tomatoes, vegetable stock and sugar, cover and cook over moderate heat until the tomatoes are softened, about 10 min. Discard bay leaves.
Working in batches, puree the soup with the butter and smoked tomatoes until smooth. Strain the soup into a clean saucepan; season with salt and pepper. Serve in bowls, garnished with basil.