Tomato-tarragon soup with fennel croutons

August 27, 2011 at 9:40 am (B_minus (2.5 stars), Derek's faves, French, Georgeanne Brennan, soup, Summer recipes)

The summertime soup recipe is from Georgeanne Brennan’s “France: The Vegetarian Table.”  Brennan says that tarragon gives this soup a surprise finish that is heightened by the crunch of toasted fennel seeds.


  • 4-5 pounds of very ripe tomatoes (13-14 medium)
  • 1 Tbs. butter
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 4 Tbs. minced fresh tarragon
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
For the croutons:
  • 1/2 loaf day-old baguette or similar bread
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. fennel seeds
  • 5 whole black peppercorns
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  1. Blanch, peel, and seed the tomatoes, then chop them coarsely, capturing their juices.
  2. In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.  When it begins to foam, add the shallots and saute until translucent, 3 or 4 minutes.  Add 3/4 cup of the chopped tomatoes and their juices and 2 Tbs. of the tarragon.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the color of the tomatoes changes and they have softened somewhat, about 10 minutes.  Add the wine and bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until reduced to about 1/2 cup.  This should take about 20 minutes.
  3. Add the remaining tomatoes and their juices, the water, and salt.  Increase the heat to medium-low and cook until the soup has reduced to about 6 cups, 20 to 30 minutes.
  4. While soup simmers make the croutons.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  5. Cut the bread into 1-inch-thick slices, then cut each slice in half.  Place the slices on a baking sheet and brush the tops with olive oil.  Place the fennel seeds in a bowl and bruise them with the back of a wooden spoon.  Grind or crush the peppercorns and add them and the salt to the fennel.  Gently press this mixture into the bread with the back of a wooden spoon or your fingertips.
  6. Bake the bread slices until they are slightly golden, about 15 minutes.  Remove and set aside until the soup is ready.
  7. Just before serving, stir the remaining 2 Tbs. tarragon into the soup and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.  Ladle the soup into individual bowls and float the croutons on top.  Serve at once.
My notes:

I hate to waste yummy tomato pulp so I used a sieve to filter my seeds, and got every last bit of tomato juice and jelly out that I could.  I screwed up and I didn’t cook down my initial tomatoes (in step 2) as long as specified, but I did end up with about 6 cups of soup.  I used a rye baguette for my bread, which I thought might be worried, but Derek didn’t even notice it.  I didn’t need the full 3 Tbs. of olive oil for my croutons.

Neither of us was very excited about the soup.  It tasted tomato-y but not particularly interesting.  The tarragon (even with four tablespoons) was verysubtle. But Derek adored the croutons.  Normally I’m the one who loves fennel seeds, but this time Derek went gaga for the spiced bread.  He loved the spices and saltiness.  We finished the soup way before the croutons, but Derek kept eating the croutons with other dishes all week.

Rating: B

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