It's easy to get so caught up in the idea of eating seasonally that we forget that there are certain things that aren't necessarily seasonal, for example vegetables grown in hothouses or greenhouses like Belgian endive, cucumbers and mushrooms, also preserved produce--jams, pickles, chutney, frozen and canned foods. Which brings me to canned tomatoes, which are a great choice for recipes since fresh tomatoes are in season for a fairly short period of time.
While I wouldn't use a canned tomato on a sandwich, they are a must for most tomato based sauces. Lately I've come to appreciate canned fire roasted tomatoes for their lovely smoky flavor. They are great in stew or chili and a sneaky shortcut when making this zippy soup. A nice option in this shoulder season when somedays still feel like Winter, it's something you can make from pantry staples--a few aromatics, cans of tomatoes and broth. Having tried many brands of fire roasted tomatoes, I like Hunt's best and while I prefer homemade, Swanson's is the only canned chicken broth I use.
Another little trick in this soup is the addition of cream cheese. I don't typically keep heavy cream on hand so I am always looking for other ingredients to add creaminess to recipes. In this case a tiny bit of cream cheese adds a lot of richness. But in all honesty this soup is really wonderful even without it.
Smoky Tomato Soup
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 14.5 ounce cans fire roasted tomatoes
2 14.5 ounces chicken broth (or homemade)
2 Tablespoons cream cheese, optional
Heat a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and carrots and cook, stirring frequently for 8 minutes or until soft and golden, but not brown. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add the smoked paprika and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and broth and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes, or until fairly thick and saucy.
Add the cream cheese if desired. Blend the soup in batches or use a hand blender. When the soup is smooth, it's ready to serve.