Tomato Love Affair: Continued

Another week of juicy, red farm-fresh tomatoes filling my refrigerator... I had better store this bliss away for one of those cloudy, cold February days when winter has started to feel like old, miserable news. Along with bowls and bowls of fresh salsa, I decided to make my favorite summertime soup this week. It might sound weird at first, but you HAVE to give it a chance! Trust me, dear readers, you won't be sorry.

This soup deserves a little background story... Once upon a time, Ashley had a ninety hour internship that she had to complete in order to get her certificate for completing the Chef Training Program at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts. She fretted over where she would intern... mostly because she frets about everything. Finally, and completely unlike her, she decided that she should choose a place regardless of whether she had a place to stay or not. She chose Grezzo in Boston (now closed), a small, upscale raw/vegan restaurant in the North End. It was a rocky few weeks of hard work, awkwardness, and anxiety while she found couches to sleep on... but she came out an enlightened person with a new arsenal of cooking skills. On her last day of her internship, the executive chef rattled off a soup recipe to her in the midst of a busy dinner round. Ashley was to make 3 batches of a raw tomato soup with coconut, various spices and herbs, and fennel bulb. Sounds crazy, but man oh man was it delicious!

Two years later, I still make this soup all the time. I have definitely tweaked it and made it my own... changing some of the ingredients- especially the herbs depending on what I have/what's fresh. And I like to cook the base as opposed to having it raw.... but it can definitely still be made raw if you have a good food processor or a Vita-Mix.

And without further ado.... Creamy Tomato Soup with Fennel and Fresh Herbs:

1 T olive oil
1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
5-6 vine ripened tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 fennel bulb, roughly chopped (save leaves)
1 stalk celery, roughly chopped (preferably one of the inside stalks with the leaves attached)
1 tsp cumin
1tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 can coconut milk
2-3 tbs olive oil
1 T fresh oregano
1 T fresh tarragon
1 T fresh basil
1 T fresh parsley
1 T fresh cilantro
1/2 T fresh fennel leaves (saved from above)

In a large pot, sautee onion, garlic tomatoes, fennel, and celery in olive oil until soft. Add cumin, salt, and pepper. Sautee for 1 minute more. Let cool and blend on high for 3-5 minutes until completely smooth. Rinse out your pot, and pour puree back in. Over low heat, stir in coconut milk and olive oil. Add fresh herbs. Taste for salt and pepper and add more if necessary. Take off heat and let sit for 5 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

 Voila! The most perfect lunch in the world: farm-fresh soup and salad!