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Tuscan-Style Tomato Soup with Fried Polenta Croutons
By Heidi Allison



Now that those luscious fresh summer tomatoes are out of season, canned tomatoes are your best bet for pasta, soups, sauces and stews. While I avoid most canned veggies since they lack flavor and can have a tinny taste, I make an exception using good quality, organic imported Italian San Marzano tomatoes, which have an intense tomato color and flavor. An added bonus is canned peeled tomatoes have all the prep done for you since the irritating skins have been removed.



I recommend Centos organic San Marzano tomatoes, which have a dense texture, and nice balance of sweetness, saltiness and tang— the hallmark of good canned tomato flavor. And, I use whole tomatoes, which are less processed. While other canned organic tomatoes will do, using Italian San Marzano tomatoes in a dish that showcases intense yet balanced tomato flavor is worth the added expense. The other trick to this recipe is not to use a heat level higher than medium-low for sautéing the shallot and tomato mixture – the flavor deepens at this temp rather than dissipates.

This recipe uses fried polenta cubes as a crouton garnish, which adds a sweet, rich corn counterpoint flavor to the tangy tomato taste. Use leftover polenta croutons in salads for a modern upscale twist.

Serves: 4

Ingredient List:

Polenta

13 oz. pre-cooked maize flour (Italian polenta flour)
2 tsp. salt
6 cups water
Rosemary-olive oil (can use regular olive oil)

Preparation:



Place water and salt in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Slowly whisk in corn flour till incorporated. Stir continuously with a wooden spoon for 8 minutes until cooked.

Pour corn mixture into a 13 x 9 glass Pyrex dish and set aside to cool.

Croutons:

With a knife, make vertical cuts, then cross cuts into polenta, creating ¼ inch cubes.



Place enough Rosemary flavored or regular olive oil into a medium pan to depth of ½ inch and heat on medium high heat until hot. Add polenta and cook until brown and lightly crisp on edges, then turn pieces over and fry until golden brown and lightly browned on the edges—should be crisp. Remove polenta croutons and drain on paper towels.

Ingredient List:

Tomato Soup:



2 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 large shallots, peeled and sliced thin
2 carrots, peeled and cut into ½ inch rounds
1 large garlic clove, peeled and minced

Sprinkle of Kosher flake salt

1 28 oz. can organic Cento San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes
15 fresh basil leaves
¼ cup raw, unsalted cashews soaked in water for 4 hours, then rinsed and drained

2 cups chicken stock

Preparation:



Add butter to a Dutch oven and heat on medium-low heat till melted and sizzling. Add shallots, carrots and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots are soft and transparent—do not let shallots brown.



Add tomatoes and juice, chicken stock and basil and continue to heat on medium-low heat until reduced by half.

Transfer ½ of tomato mixture to a Ninja Bullet® {large container} or blender and top with ½ of the soaked cashews, then blend on high 2 times until smooth.

Repeat with second batch and set aside.

Place hot tomato soup into serving bowls and top with polenta croutons and fresh sprig of basil and serve.