This simple Provencal Tomato Soup is a favorite at our classes. It can be made with either fresh or canned tomatoes and eaten hot in the winter or cold in the summer. Some cooks I know prefer to use Arborio rice, so substitute it for the barley if you prefer.
In France à la Provençale means lots of garlic. There may seem to be a lot in this soup, but fear not; the way it’s cooked gives the soup a soft, rich flavor. Garlic is such a good cancer-fighting vegetable; it’s great to have this delicious showcase for it — and with tomatoes, too. Tomatoesare bursting with lycopene, a cancer-fighting agent that becomes more accessible to the body with cooking. Who knew healthy could taste so good?
1. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a wide, heavy-bottomed pan. Add the onion and cook for a minute. Turn the heat to medium, add the bay leaves and sweat the onion until it starts to soften, about 8 minutes. It shouldn’t color, so stir from time to time to prevent it sticking and burning.
2. Turn the heat up to medium-high. Add the cayenne pepper, sugar and cook for a minute, then add the tomatoes and garlic. Cook, stirring until the tomatoes take on an orangey hue and have reduced a little.
3. Add the pearl barley, Parmesan rind, if using, and the stock, plus salt to taste. Bring to a simmer, lower the heat and cover. Cook until the barley is tender enough to smash with a spoon against the side of the pan, about 40 minutes. If substituting Arborio rice, it will take about half the amount of time to cook.
4. Let the soup sit for a few minutes. Remove the bay leaves and blend thoroughly, in batches, using either a wand blender or a freestanding one. Return to the pot, check the seasoning and add a grind or two of black pepper. Serve as is or with a few torn basil leaves or a little pesto stirred into it.
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