A Taste of Spring: Tomato, Orange and Tarragon Soup

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Spring has come, bloomed, and almost gone around here…at least as far as the showy display of azaleas is concerned. In April we’ve see-sawed between highs in the 80′s and 50′s to lows in the 30′s…and the 70′s! With our last cold snap most likely behind us, it’s time to lighten things up a bit, and I’ve found the perfect way to do it.

This very quick and easy soup is so delicate and delicious that you may even forget it’s ridiculously healthy, too. Tomatoes and oranges happen to love each other, and when you combine those flavors with the sweet undertones of anise in the tarragon, it’s a perfect trifecta for the happiest of soup marriages. The resulting taste is so fresh and lighthearted, filled with all the promise of Spring and Summer, and it’s quite a versatile recipe, too.

You can actually make this any time by using minimally processed and no-salt canned tomatoes, some dried tarragon and fresh orange. Or, you can make it in the summer months with freshly grown tarragon and those prized homegrown tomatoes…I just can’t wait for that time to come! Use some store-bought stock, or homemade if you have it…either vegetable or chicken stock will work just fine. Make this and eat it hot or cold. Puree it and then go for it, or strain it after the puree and add some enrichments to make it creamy and velvety!

The base recipe I’m showing you today is actually vegan, and you can decide if you want to fuss with and add to it, but we really enjoyed this “as is,” both hot and cold. Serve it by itself or with an accompaniment. No matter how you choose to enjoy it, it’s a lovely way to welcome the warmer weather with the lighter meals and fresh ingredients we so look forward to. Happy days.

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Colonel FieryAnd just for fun, here is a peek at my Camellia Japonica Colonel Fiery in all its blooming glory. He (or she as the case may be), is blooming long and late this year, and has been in continuous bloom for many weeks now.
I’ll show you more of my garden—including the azaleas you see in my new header—in my next post, but meanwhile…happy eating and Happy Spring!

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Tomato, Orange and Tarragon Soup
Serves 6-8

1 large clove of garlic, peeled and minced
1 large sweet onion, peeled and chopped
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1- 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes in puree, no salt added
1-14 oz. can of diced tomatoes, no salt added
2 Tablespoons double concentrated tomato paste
4 cups of vegetable stock or broth, no salt or low sodium, store-bought or homemade
Juice and zest of one orange
1 1/2 teaspoons dried tarragon leaves, or 2 Tablespoons fresh tarragon, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste if needed

Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot or soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and the garlic and saute until the onion is tender and translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes and puree, canned tomatoes with juice, tomato paste, vegetable stock or broth, juice and zest of the orange, tarragon, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper, and stir well. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook for 35 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the pot from the heat and puree the soup in the pot with an immersion blender until smooth, or in batches in an upright blender. Season the soup to taste with a bit more salt and some pepper if desired. Serve this hot or cold, garnishing with a thin orange slice and a stem of fresh tarragon if you like. It will keep in the fridge for several days, and like most soups, is arguably better the next day.

At this point you have a very delicately flavored and super tasty vegan soup. If you want, you can strain the soup through a fine mesh sieve to remove any solids and obtain a silky smooth texture. You can also add enrichments to make this a cream soup with or without straining it by returning the pot of soup to low heat and stirring in 1/2- 3/4 cup of half and half or cream, or to taste, heating the soup until it is completely warmed through. I have also stirred a tiny bit of half and half or cream into a serving of this soup cold, and it was excellent!

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Spicy and Sweet: Chipotle Orange Glazed Salmon

Salmon, orange, chipotle...and some potatoes to soak up the juices...lovely!

Cayenne and dark chocolate. Thai chilies and coconut milk. Almonds glazed with red pepper flakes, fennel and sugar. I really enjoy the taste of spicy and sweet together and I particularly love the combination of smoky hot chipotle peppers and the citrusy sweetness of orange.

My local market had a special on salmon fillets the other day, and I was just dying to try my hand at a glaze made from a spicy and sweet duo. I had some chipotles in the fridge left over from making chili and I seem to have a plethora of oranges on hand at all times lately, so using these two for my glaze was a no-brainer. The result was a flavorful salmon dish with a little heat and just the right touch of sweet to temper it, bringing out the sweetness of the salmon itself. Continue reading