I needed a break for Thanksgiving this year and booked a great ocean view room with a balcony at the Morris Lapidus designed and recently renovated Nautilus Hotel in Miami’s South Beach. I never stayed in Miami Beach before and enjoyed Collins Avenue, the renovated Art Deco architecture and the updated 1950’s vibe that permeated the Nautilus.
I planned for Thanksgiving dinner at the hotel’s Cabana Club restaurant overseen by celebrity chef Alex Guarnaschelli. The restaurant offered was a set menu for Thanksgiving. A feast in fact and way more than I could consume. The main plate featured nicely cooked, very moist carved turkey. Yet, my most memorable dish was the yellow tomato soup with fennel offered at the beginning of the meal. It inspired the dish described here.
While there are several ingredients and steps the preparation so this soup is not complicated and comes together quickly. Begin by cutting the tomatoes in large pieces and cook these down in a large skillet with a little minced garlic, a few slices of onion, some broth, maybe some herbs and in this case – Habanero chili. When the onions are translucent and the tomatoes have given off their liquid set the mixture aside to cool before processing batches in a blender. I like the soup to have texture, but it can be made smoother by adding more water or broth and processing longer.
I find that you have sneak up on seasonings when making pureed vegetable soups such as this one. Add a small amount of salt and pepper to the tomatoes while these are cooking but plan on adjusting the seasoning after the mixture has run through the blender. Taste and then adjust by adding small amounts of salt and pepper. Repeat until the seasoning is right. What I look for is “bright” taste that is not salty. The window is small in my experience.
At this point the soup will benefit from standing overnight in the refrigerator giving time for the flavors to combine. This step is not essential though and it may be served immediately. Before serving slice a fennel bulb and while the soup is warming, sauté the fennel gently in olive oil with a little salt an pepper until it just begins soften but before the crunch is lost. At the same time sauté strips of Prosciutto de Parma in butter until crisp.
To serve place a heaping tablespoon (or more to taste) of fennel in the bottom of a soup bowl, ladle the soup over and garnish with crispy prosciutto. The soup is brightly flavored with crunch from the fennel, a bit of kick from the Habanero and a touch of salty pork flavor from the prosciutto.
The recipe is sized for two generous servings — Oneoldstove style. It easily be scaled up, as you like.
- 6 medium sized ripe heirloom yellow tomatoes cut into large dice
- 2 cloves of minced garlic
- 2 thick slices of yellow onion cut into large dice
- 1 Habanero chili very finely minced. Use more of less per your taste
- 1 handful, about 1/2 cup of coarsely chopped basil
- 5 tablespoons everyday extra virgin olive oil
- 8 ounces of low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- Salt and fresh ground black pepper
- I medium sized fennel bulb cut into slices and then coarsely chopped
- 2 to 3 slices of Prosciutto de Parma cut into 1/4” wide strips
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- Bring a large skillet or sauté pan to medium low heat. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and when the oil begins to shimmer add the onions and let cook one or two minutes or until the onions begin to turn translucent. Add garlic and cook one minute more before adding the tomatoes and Habanero chili. Continue to cook on medium low heat for about 5 minutes or until the tomatoes begin to break down.
- Season the tomato mixture lightly with salt and fresh ground pepper. The seasoning will be adjusted after the mixture is blended. Add broth and basil. Continue cooking for another 5 minutes or so and then set aside to cool
- When the mixture is cooled, process in small batches in a blender adding additional water or broth if a smoother texture is desired. When all the batches have been processed and combined together and taste to adjust the seasoning adding only small amounts of salt and/or pepper between tasting.
- At this point the soup benefits from sitting covered in the refrigerator for 24 hour, but this step is not necessary. If the soup is allowed to stand overnight, taste one more time and adjust seasonings as needed.
- While the soup is warming, gently sauté the fennel until it just begins to soften. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Sauté the prosciutto in butter until crispy and then set aside on a paper towel to drain.
- To serve, place 1 or 2 tablespoons of sautéed fennel in the bottom of individual soup bowls, ladle the soup over the fennel, garnish the soup with the crispy prosciutto and if desired a small leaf of basil.