Zesty Tomato Soup with Balsamic Reduction, Fried Sage; Open-Face Tuna Melt

Zesty Tomato Soup with Balsamic Reduction and Fried Sage Leaf
Served with Tuna Melt Toast and Arugula Salad

Zesty Tomato Soup with Balsamic Reduction and Fried Sage

This is one of my all-time favorite soup recipes. My mom used to serve a version of this every Christmas, and after a while, the family started referring to it as, “Christmas Soup.” The recipe has evolved over the years with the addition of orange zest and balsamic vinegar, and is now no longer relegated to being served exclusively on December 25th. (Note: the recipe can easily be adapted to suit a vegetarian by substituting vegetable broth for the chicken stock.)

Serves 6

1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. butter, cut into cubes
1 white onion, coarsely chopped
2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and slightly crushed
3 fresh sage leaves finely chopped
28 oz. can peeled whole tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
1 ½ tsp. freshly grated orange zest (about 1 large orange)
2 bay leaves
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (see recipe in Homemade Stocks)
6 oz. can tomato paste
8 whole cloves
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 ¼ cup whole milk
2 tsp. Kosher salt, plus more to taste
Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 325°. In a large glass baking dish, combine onion, celery, carrots, garlic, orange zest, chopped sage leaves, bay leaves, drained tomatoes, and olive oil. Season with 1 tsp. salt and dot the top with butter cubes (Figure 1). Bake for 75 minutes, stirring half way through.

Figure 1 – Slow roasting tomatoes and vegetables

Slow roasted tomatoes

Remove baking dish from oven and let cool slightly. Find bay leaves and set aside. Pour tomato/vegetable mixture into a soup pot with ¼ cup reserved tomato juice, and using a hand blender, purée until smooth (or working in two batches, purée tomato/vegetable mixture and ¼ cup reserved tomato juice in a blender or food processor until smooth, then pour into soup pot). Use more tomato juice to thin if necessary.

Add tomato paste, chicken stock, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, 1 tsp. salt, fresh cracked pepper, whole cloves, and reserved bay leaves to tomato/vegetable purée. Simmer for 1 hour partially covered, stirring occasionally, until soup thickens. Add milk and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove bay leaves and whole cloves, discard. Season with more salt and pepper if desired.

When ready to serve, ladle soup into pre-warmed bowls, drizzle with balsamic reduction and top with a fried sage leaf.

Balsamic Reduction:

1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. honey
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 sage leaf
2 whole cloves

In a heavy sauce pan, bring all ingredients to a boil, then immediately reduce to a simmer. Continue to simmer, watching closely, until liquid is reduced to ¼ cup, about 30-40 minutes. Pour reduction through a fine-mesh sieve and allow to cool before using.

Fried Sage Leaves:

Fried Sage Leaves

6-8 fresh sage leaves
¼ cup olive oil
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon

In a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil until shimmering. Gently place sage leaves in oil and fry until leaves stop bubbling and are crispy but not burned, about 8-10 seconds. Transfer leaves to a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt.

Sidekicks: 

  • Consider serving a cup of Zesty Tomato Soup with an Open-Face Tuna Melt: Slice French bread on the diagonal. Drain a 12 oz. can of tunafish and combine in a bowl with ¼ cup mayonnaise, 2 Tbsp. dijon mustard, 1 tsp. soy sauce, 1 tsp. worcestershire sauce, and 1 finely chopped shallot. Season with salt and pepper. Spread a heaping spoonful of tuna mixture on the bread, and cover with a slice of sharp cheddar cheese. Place slices on a cookie sheet and broil until cheese has melted and is bubbly at the edges. Top with a handful of arugula dressed with equal parts olive oil and white wine vinegar, season with salt and pepper and enjoy!
  • This soup pairs well with a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay.

Shortcuts:

  • Substitute store-bought stock for homemade stock.
  • Instead of roasting tomatoes and vegetables in the oven, replace 28 oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes with a 28 oz. can of fire roasted whole peeled tomatoes. Start by sautéing the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic in butter and oil directly in your soup pot. Once vegetables are soft and starting to brown, about 10-15 minutes, add the drained tomatoes, orange zest, and herbs. Cook for 15 minutes, then allow to cool slightly before following the instructions on puréeing.
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