Challah - Fresh, soft friday ritual

Feast is the genius behind lots of wonderful dinner parties, wine tastings, farm and vineyard excursions, intimate weddings, region and product inspired tasting dinners, and all sorts of other celebrations that require passionate food.


Article by | photos by and published | august ‘09

In the early-morning at Pike Place Market, Dominica, John, Pam and Yung sort and arrange the peaches, tomatoes, radishes, raspberries, oranges and melons into row after row of dazzlingly uniform fruit. Some days they save me the rejects.

This morning John came to the kitchen door with a cardboard box full of bruised tomatoes—big beautiful Green Zebra, Lemon Plum and deep Brandywine red fruits that they can’t sell because of the very bruises that herald the height of their flavor.

"Beth, honey, I brought you a case of #2 heirloom tomatoes."

He was out of breath and there was a slight huffing in his faded-Brooklyn accent. John is no young man and Matt’s, where I was cooking at the time, is on the third floor. The fact that he had carried the tomatoes up himself meant that he cared a lot about those tomatoes, or me, or both.

I put down my whisk and went to examine John’s gift. The aroma made me smile. There were a few dark bruises, and soft spots, but these tomatoes smelled wonderful, tangy and salty and tart like mint and lemon and smoke.

"I’ll roast them for soup. They’re perfect! Perfectly imperfect!"

"See-I remembered you wanted them. Bring me some later, eh?" A wink, and he was gone.

challah close up

#2 Heirloom Tomato Soup

  • Very ripe tomatoes, any and all types
  • Kosher Salt
  • Fragrant Olive Oil
  • Basil
  • Sherry Vinegar
  • And a quick 25 minutes

Whether from your greengrocer, garden or the amazingly half priced bin at your farmers market (ask if you don't see it!) make sure to use fruit so ripe that it has begun to soften or has few dark spots. Although you should cut them out, their presence means that you are using the fruit at the very peak of its ripeness.

Preheat your oven to 425-450.

Cut your tomatoes into quarters, or smaller if you are working with very large fruit, and place them cut side up on a sheet pan. Coat liberally with olive oil and kosher salt on the flesh side of the fruit and then turn them over so that the skin is facing up. Oil and salt the skin side.

Roast for 15-20 minutes or until the tomatoes are wilted and releasing clear liquids in the pan. Roasting the tomatoes skin side up makes it easy to peal the skins off after you take them out of the oven if you prefer. Personally, I love the skins, for their texture and deep flavors. Depending on your preference and equipment, you can either remove the skins after you take the fruit from the oven, or leave them on and incorporate them into the soup.

Blend the roasted tomatoes until smooth. I like to use an emersion blender because you don't have to wait for the fruit to cool. A regular blender or food-processor works fine, but be sure to cover the lid and base with a cloth if your tomatoes are still hot.

Taste the soup. It almost always needs more salt and a dash of sherry vinegar to balance the flavors. Serve warm or cold, with a chiffonade of basil and a bubbling cheese-topped Crostini on the side.

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