Savvy locals have learned to extend the growing season with cold frames, hoops over raised beds and greenhouses attached to the south side of their homes. Those brave enough to grow tomatoes outdoors must be ever vigilant of frost—there are only about 30 frost-free days in the summer—and willing to haul their plants indoors at night. Home cooks like me spend frantic days and weeks during the harvest season canning, pickling, fermenting, blanching and freezing local produce to get through the winter. But it's never enough.
Someday soon Jackson will have its very own Vertical Harvest greenhouse, able to hydroponically grow 44,000 pounds of tomatoes, 20,000 pounds of lettuce, and much more each year on the side of a parking garage. Really! Check it out here. Meanwhile, we open cans and jars and wait for summer.
Moroccan Tomato Soup with Cumin Yogurt
Feel free to chop the vegetables fairly coarsely; all will go into the blender to be puréed into a smooth consistency after simmering.
I do highly recommend topping the soup with the cumin yogurt; it tempers the heat of the spices and the acidity of the tomatoes in a most unique way. Soon you'll be putting it on all sorts of things!
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 yellow onions, diced
- 2 fennel bulbs, removed of stems, cored and diced (save the fennel fronds for garnish if you like)
- 3 large or 5 small cloves of garlic, chopped
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon cumin seed, toasted and ground (make a triple batch of this if you plan to make the Cumin Yogurt also)
- 1 tablespoon coriander seed, toasted and ground
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 6 pounds fresh tomatoes in season, cored and quartered, or two 28 ounce cans of San Marzano or imported cherry tomatoes
- ⅓ cup honey
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup chopped cilantro
- 1 cup Cumin Yogurt, for serving
For the Cumin Yogurt:
- 3 cups plain Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons cumin seed, toasted and ground
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- In a large heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and fennel and sprinkle over a pinch of salt (this will keep the onions from burning as they cook). Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.
- In the meantime, prepare the spices. Place a small skillet on the stove and heat over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and toast, agitating the pan over the heat. As soon as you smell the aroma of cumin, remove from the heat and place in a bowl to cool. Toast the coriander seeds in the same way. Once both spices are cool, place in a spice grinder or food processor and pulverize to a powder, or grind in a mortar and pestle. Set aside.
- Add the garlic, tomato paste, cumin, coriander, ginger, cinnamon and cayenne to the pot with the onions. Stir and cook until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, honey, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce to a low simmer. Keep the soup at a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes.
- Cool the soup slightly and blend right in the pot with an immersion blender, or transfer to a blender or food processor, working in batches if necessary. I like it to be mostly smooth with a few chunks, but blend it to your desired consistency. Pour the blended soup over a medium mesh strainer or a colander that's been placed over a saucepan; discard the fibrous bits.
- Taste the soup and adjust for salt, pepper and seasoning. Add a bit more cayenne if you like. Stir in the chopped cilantro, and top with the cumin yogurt to serve.
- For the cumin yogurt, combine all ingredients with a whisk. Add a few teaspoons of water if too thick and adjust seasoning as you like. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week.