About a week back, I had the opportunity to catch up with a dear friend over a light lunch and black coffee at a little cafe just outside of downtown DC. That sort of early afternoon where the sun is just shining, just warm enough to inch yourself outside sans heavy jacket and bask in the barely-there springtime sunshine, with every menu item calling (cue: always famished), I found myself most drawn to their smoked tomato soup. Served with a side of crusty baguette, it was the sort of soup that hit every spot – warming, vibrant, both acidic and rounded, overtly nourishing in the soul and cell kind of way – and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since. A valiant, simple, and budget friendly ode,  utilizing the bones of my pantry (hello day old bagel, rogue garlic cloves, and my pseudo-hoard of spices), while celebrating very early springtime heat and bounty, I serve my bowl pile high with golden croutons and an extra splash of smoke.

Smoked Tomato Soup with Sesame Bagel Croutons [makes 4 servings]
inspired by: Bon Appétit Magazine, July 2015 Smoked Tomato Soup

5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large onion, diced
1 large leek, white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons fresh grated (or pre-prepared) horseradish
1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander
1½ cups low sodium vegetable broth
2 pounds (about 5) ripe plum tomatoes, quartered
1 large can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes
1-2 teaspoons liquid smoke, depending on desired level of smokiness
salt & pepper to taste
1 day old sesame bagel, cut into small cubes

In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat until just hot. Add the onion and leek and sauté, stirring occasionally, until tender but not browned, about 8-10 minutes. Stir in garlic, bay leaves, coriander, and horseradish and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for an additional 2 minutes.

Increase heat to medium-high then add vegetable broth, being mindful to scape up the little flavor bits from the bottom of the pot. Stir in plum tomatoes, canned tomatoes, and liquid smoke and bring pot to a boil. Reduce heat to love, cover pot, and simmer until tomatoes are very soft, about 60 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F, rack in the middle.

In a small bowl, toss cubed bagel with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Transfer to a nonstick baking sheet, then bake for 15-20 minutes, or until bagel is crisp and golden. Set aside.

Once soup has finished simmering, allow pot to cool slightly. Discard bay leaves, stir in  2 tablespoons olive oil, then season to taste and adjust liquid smoke if necessary. Using either an immersion blender or high speed stand blender, blend soup until very smooth [note: if you’re using a stand blender, allow soup to cool significantly before blending, or hot steam will cause soup to erupt, everywhere.. not fun!]. Divide into 4 bowls, top with croutons, serve and enjoy!

Nutritional Information [per serving = about 2¼ cups soup + croutons]
390 Calories, 20g Fat, 48g Carbohydrates, 6.5g Fiber, 16g Sugar, 9g Protein