Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Tomato Soup with Corn, Harissa and Oregano

Things I learned last summer:
  • Attempting to can can 1,000 lbs of fruit with two and a half people is a very bad idea, even if one of you is very unemployed
  • You really need to peel peaches before you cut them in half
  • Tiny peaches are the devil's work
  • For whole-peeled-style tomato chunks, the trick to density is letting them drain for at least three hours prior to canning.

That last tip is from our community's British fairie godmother, aka my neighbor Lynda. 250lbs of tomatoes later (about half of them in chunks) I can tell you that it works very. It also leaves you with a LOT of juice- enough to create a small tomato swamp under your kitchen table and necessitate cleaning tomato residue off the walls. 

Totally adding "tomato swamp" to my glossary of community vegetable disasters.

Even then, we canned a lot of juice- when I went through my pantry last month I still had four quart-jars worth. Since we are officially back into canning season (35lbs of apricots down, an orchard to go) I've been trying to finish it off, a task with which the internet was not at all helpful. Google 'tomato juice recipe' and you will get two things: recipes for making tomato juice and recipes for Bloody Marys. (Bloody Maries? Bloodys Mary?) Anyways, I drank some straight, which I didn't like at all. I also tried re-hydrating cous cous with it, which I'm still convinced might work but turned out weird and sticky.


I'm delighted to say I've found a solution- in a brothy, summer-produce heavy soup that came about after some aimless garden harvesting. While the ingredient list is kind of long, the actual cooking part is easy. Also, this was literally made from what I had on hand- my llama neighbors have an entire front yard of oregano, and my spring garden produced those shallots. Point is, feel free to substitute. I'm pretty sure it would be as good with arborio rice, white beans and thyme as it was with farro, chickpeas and oregano. No shallots? Use an onion! The essentials here are the harissa-spiked tomato broth, crunchy corn and some sort of chewy bean or grain.

Only one more quart to go.

Tomato juice soup with corn, harissa and oregano

1/4 cup olive oil
4 cups unsalted tomato juice*
4 cups water
1/2 cup finely diced shallot (this was about one big one for me)
~2 cups corn kernels.This was 2 corn cobs in my case, but canned or frozen would work fine
1lb zucchini, sliced in thin coins
1 generous Tbsp finely chopped fresh oregano
1 tsp harissa
1/2 cup farro
1 can chickpeas, drained
salt and pepper

*My tomato juice should probably be classified as tomato drainage- it was pretty thin, and contained nothing but tomatoes and a little lemon juice. With normal tomato juice, I would recommend using 2 cups tomato juice and 6 cups water instead, and being very careful with the salt.

Warm the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot (my new dutch oven worked great!) over medium heat. Cook the shallots, stirring frequently, until translucent and a little brown around the edges. Add the oregano, zucchini and corn and toss to combine. Saute, stirring occasionally, until everything has softened and is starting to brown. This only took me around five minutes. Mix in the harissa.

Add both tomato juice and water, as well as 1/2 tsp salt and about 20 grinds of black pepper. (As an extension of my earlier note, if your'e using pre-seasoned tomato juice, you might want to skip the salt here). Add the farro and chickpeas, cover and bring to a boil. Uncover slightly (you know, sort of haphazardly cover your pot) and set a timer for 20 minutes.

When the timer goes off, check that the farro is cooked (it should be) and adjust seasoning if necessary. Both times I made it, I added more pepper at this point. Serve anywhere from just warm to hot.