Smoked tomato soup

Time 2 hours
Yields Serves 8 to 12
Smoked tomato soup

Soak the chipotle pepper in just enough warm water to cover (weigh the chipotle pepper down with a heavy spoon or other utensil to keep it submerged).


Heat a 2-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat. Add 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil and the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion begins to wilt and soften, about 10 minutes. Continue cooking until the onion slowly begins to collapse and caramelize, stirring more frequently. Cook until the onion is almost jam-like in consistency and is a rich golden-brown, about 45 minutes. Remove the caramelized onions. You will use 2 tablespoons caramelized onions for the remainder of this recipe; the rest of the caramelized onions can be used in other recipes and will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 1 week.


Add the remaining tablespoon grapeseed oil to the pan (enough to coat the bottom of the pan) and stir in the celery, carrots and fennel. Cook over low heat until the vegetables are well caramelized but not brown. They should have a slight golden color and should not be completely dry. This process should take 20 to 30 minutes over low heat.


Stir in the 2 tablespoons caramelized onions. Add the smashed garlic clove and the oregano, and stir until the garlic is fragrant, about a minute.


Increase the heat slightly and add the diced tomatoes and the chipotle with its water, scraping up any bits of caramelized flavoring from the bottom of the pan. Adjust the heat to a simmer and cook the vegetable mixture for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and set the soup aside to cool. Taste the soup and discard the chipotle if desired before blending to minimize the heat.


Blend the soup using a blender or food mill, then strain. The soup will be very thin but should be very flavorful.


Season with three-fourths teaspoon salt and one-fourth teaspoon pepper, or to taste. If making the soup ahead of time, make sure it is completely cool, then refrigerate or freeze it until needed.


Before serving, gently heat the soup and whisk in 1 pint of the cream and paprika. Adjust the seasoning to taste. This makes a scant 3 quarts soup.


In a small bowl, whisk together the fresh goat cheese, one-fourth cup cream and one-half teaspoon pepper until it has a whipped cream-like consistency. Dollop the chevre mixture onto the hot soup. Drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil as an extra garnish before serving.

This soup keeps very well in the refrigerator for up to a week; just add the cream and the paprika at the last minute. The restaurant smokes the soup in its wood-burning pizza oven with rosemary branches. The smoking process tends to work better with larger quantities and prevents a burnt and bitter taste. Don’t rush the caramelization, it’s the secret to the soup. Adapted from Full of Life Flatbread in Los Alamos.

If it’s entertaining, Jessica Gelt has likely covered it. Since joining the Los Angeles Times in 2003, she has written about television, music, movies, books, art, fashion, food, cocktails and more. She once played bass in a band with an inexplicably large following in Spain, and still gets stopped by fans (OK, maybe a fan) on the streets of Barcelona. She loves dive bars and very dry martinis with olives, though never simultaneously.
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