This soup tastes like it comes from Provence's culinary central casting. All the usual (and lovable) characters are here: the tomatoes, the garlic, the goat cheese and those herbs that actually do scent the air the way hyperventilating travel writers say.
Cook to Cook: Resist substituting fresh herbs for the dried ones called for here. They should be dried (but never powdered), just as they are in Provence's famous blend, Herbes de Provence. The ready-made blend is often stale. Here, you will be making your own.
Note: This soup easily becomes vegetarian-friendly with the substitution of vegetable broth.
Generous 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
Generous 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
Generous 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Generous 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Good tasting extra-virgin olive oil
3 medium onions, fine chopped
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper
3 large garlic cloves, minced
Generous 1/4 cup tomato paste
1/3 cup dry vermouth
2 pounds good tasting fresh tomatoes (do not use Romas), peeled, seeded and chopped, or 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes with their liquid, crushed
2 14-ounce cans chicken broth and 2/3 cup water
Generous 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, or to taste
4 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled
1. Combine the herbs in a small cup. Crush them lightly until they become fragrant. Set aside.
2. Film the bottom of a 6-quart pot with the olive oil. Heat over medium-high heat. Stir in the onion, salt, and pepper, and cook until golden brown (about 5 to 8 minutes), stirring often. Add the herbs and garlic. Continue cooking until their aromas open up, about 30 seconds.
3. Blend in the tomato paste until there are no lumps, then add the vermouth and tomatoes. Boil for 2 minutes. Pour in the broth, blend, adjust heat to a light bubble, and cover completely. Cook 20 minutes. Then blend in the cinnamon, and taste the soup for seasoning. Ladle it into bowls, and top with crumbles of goat cheese.
From The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper, by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift. Copyright 2008, Clarkson Potter.
Megan Krigbaum, senior wine editor at Food & Wine, uses tea, Cheerios and marshmallows to taste for tannin, sweetness and oak in wine.