Frances' Summer Tomato Soup

Just when you think you have plenty of amazing and interesting friends in your life, someone comes along and knocks your socks off.  My new friend Frances would have thrown out some hilarious Southern phrase instead of saying "knocks your socks off" but I can't remember a single one she uses, even though she has had me laughing out loud on many an occasion with her wit and charm.  One of her phrases had something to do with crocodiles or alligators in a swamp but my memory isn't nearly as sharp as hers.

Someone as multi-talented and accomplished in the arts as Frances should not also be a sharpshooter in the kitchen.  But she is.  And her recipes incorporate all things inherent in those Southern girls we love to hate...beauty with ease, elegance and taste.  Yes, she has them all, and so do her recipes, which incidentally are written up with style in her BOOK  Atlanta at Table.  I recently found out she has another book coming out next year and as much as I would like to hate her many accomplishments, I will have to settle for just being in awe of my amazing friend.  And maybe a tiny bit jealous.  Or maybe a lot jealous.  But let's just call it admiration.

A few months ago, I was admiring Frances on her blog and told her I wanted more recipes like the one for her famous brownies.  Shortly after, I received a copy of  Atlanta at Table which is chock-full of her recipes! She included an endearing note that made me admire her even more.  And once I read the book and tried some of her down-home Southern recipes, I just couldn't contain my admiration any more and had to share her greatness.

Before I get all stalker-ish, I'm going to move on to talking about this soup.  I had to try it because I truly didn't believe this slightly strange combination of ingredients, combined with such simplicity, could be that good.  But it is.  It really is. Serve it on a hot summer day as a starter, or for lunch with a few sautéed prawns and summer squash on the side, and you too can be amazing like Frances.

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"What you admire in others will develop in yourself." -Christian D. Larson

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Frances' Summer Tomato Soup (from Atlanta At Table)

6 to 8 best, ripe tomatoes, about 1-1/2 pounds (OR two 28-oz cans) 1 T tomato paste 1-1/2 tsp salt 1 tsp pepper 1 T balsamic vinegar 1 tsp brown sugar 1/2 tsp coffee (leftover or made from instant) 3/4 T fresh chopped tarragon OR 1 T other fresh chopped herb like basil, dill, cilantro or marjoram.  (I used a combination of basil and sage.) 3/4 heaping cup plain yogurt Sprigs of fresh herb for garnish

Cut tomatoes in quarters and drop 1/2 of them in a food processor.  Process in short pulses to obtain a chunky puree.  Add the second 1/2 of the tomatoes and repeat.  Place the chunky puree in a bowl and add salt and pepper.  Stir in remaining ingredients, reserving about 1/3 cup of yogurt for garnish.  Cover and chill.  To serve, ladle soup into bowls and give each a dollop of yogurt and a sprig of fresh herbs.

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