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Welcome to SAVEUR’s column on how to cook local produce according to our test kitchen manager, Fatima Khawaja. This is where you’ll find creative, unfussy meal ideas plus plenty of cooking advice—like what to do with that bumper crop of zucchini or how to store delicate heirloom tomatoes. Every other week, Fatima hits the farmers market and chooses a peak-season ingredient to explore in depth. Follow along, and you’ll learn how to turn the season’s bounty into easy plant-based meals that’ll be on the table in under an hour.

Hot tomato soup may seem like the last thing anyone would want to eat in the middle of the summer. And yet there I was a few weeks ago, in the hot Baja sunshine, enjoying a steamy bowl of it. 

As a kick-off for an elaborate farm-to-table feast from Hidalgo chef Aquiles Chávez, the soup was a sign of great things to come. At once creamy and light, velvety and layered, this simple vegan dish struck the perfect balance between the tomatoes’ natural sweetness and bright acidity. As I spooned up the last drops, my gaze drifted to the cheerful red strawberries and curly kale growing at Agricole Cooperativa, a farm-cum-restaurant and market in El Pescadero, I realized this recipe was a perfect souvenir to bring back home with me to Brooklyn. 

Now that nightshades have taken over New York’s kitchen gardens and farmers market stands for the season, tomatoes are everywhere, practically begging to be brought into the kitchen and eaten, still warm from the sun. Chávez, who is celebrated in Mexico and beyond for his inspired restaurants, like La Fisheria, and Sotero, knows that peak-season ingredients don’t need much to make them sing. The chef was kind enough to share his simple recipe with me. He roasts his tomatoes in a low oven with aromatics and herbs, just long enough to concentrate the ingredients’ flavors and to caramelize them ever so slightly. When recreating the humble soup in my own kitchen, I decided to add a splash of red wine vinegar on my own accord for an extra kick of acidity (but you can leave that out if your tomatoes are acidic). Otherwise, this recipe is exactly as Chávez made it. 

Heirloom tomatoes are cherished by farmers because their seeds can be used over and over; and by consumers because of their superior taste and visual appeal. If you can’t find heirlooms, plum tomatoes, which are usually a little more tart, work well too— just dial back the amount of vinegar, omit it completely, or add a teaspoon of sugar during the roasting stage to add a little sweetness. Whichever tomatoes you choose, it’s vital that they’re flavorful and ripe, so give them a gentle squeeze. If they’re ready, the skin will give a little and the fruit will feel full of juice.

I love batching out a big pot of soup that my family and I can eat on repeat for lunch and dinner. This one keeps well in both the fridge and the freezer, so you may want to double or triple the recipe and stash some away for an icy January day, when you’ll almost certainly need a reminder that warm days will return. If you’re blessed with still-too-many tomatoes and need more ideas, consider a sunny panzanella or a show-stopping tomato tart—or have a go at preserving them (your future self will thank you).

Yield: 4
Time: 1 hours 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 5 medium tomatoes (2¼ lb.), cored and halved crosswise
  • 6 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped (10 oz.)
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 medium white onion, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup basil leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 300ºF. To a large rimmed baking sheet, add the tomatoes, carrots, garlic, and onion. Sprinkle over the basil, oregano, and thyme, then pour over the olive oil and vinegar, season lightly with salt and black pepper, and toss to combine. Spread the mixture out in an even layer, then bake until the tomatoes and onions are soft and beginning to brown, about 1 hour. Set aside to cool slightly.
  2. When the tomato mixture is cool enough to handle, working in batches if necessary, transfer to a blender and purée until very smooth. Transfer the purée to a large bowl, season with salt and black pepper to taste, and serve hot.

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