It’s officially September, and that means it’s time for comfy, cozy foods.
While Susie Blum Connors’ Roasted Tomato Soup with Croutons makes for the perfect lunch on a chilly afternoon, the cause behind it is sure to warm the soul.
The Scranton woman’s recipe earned the Erin Jessica Moreken Drug & Alcohol Treatment Fund a $50 grocery gift card for Riccardo’s, 1219 Wheeler Ave., Dunmore, through Local Flavor Gives Back. Founded in memory of its namesake, a 28-year-old Scranton High School alumna who died of a heroin overdose in 2002, the nonprofit group aims to help others struggling with recovery from drug addiction.
“The foundation is near to my heart,” Connors said on a recent afternoon. “It’s very important work, too.”
The recipe — which Connors created through a few different tomato soup recipes — is just as community-minded, since almost all of its fresh ingredients come from local farmer’s markets, down to the bread used to create the homemade croutons.
“Susie and I always say this is a wonderful city to do (things),” said her husband of 29 years, former Scranton Mayor Jim Connors. “Whether it’s supporting local businesses or organizations, there’s so much good going on here.”
While the soup tastes creamy, it has no cream in it. Rather, Connors uses sweet potatoes to give it a thicker consistency. This makes it not only lighter in calories but also veg-friendly, as her husband is a vegetarian. (Connors also uses vegetable broth.) She uses any kind of tomatoes and also adds in herbs like different veggies such as red bell pepper and carrots, but said that’s up to the cook’s preference.
The soup burst with flavor from all the different vegetables and tasted hearty without being too heavy. The homemade croutons were crunchy enough but never too hard and made for the perfect topping.
In addition to cooking and baking, especially creating recipes passed down from her mother, Fern Blum, Connors can be found crafting or spending time with the couple’s five granddaughters, Maggie, Quinn and Tricia Hemphill and twins Aylah and Avery Connors.
The Scranton woman’s main mission is to give back to the community. Connors has been part of Erin’s Fund since the beginning and has done work through its annual event, the Tour de Scranton, a fundraising bicycle ride and walk through the valley. Any time she can combine her creativity and giving spirit makes for a job well done.
“So many people are unfortunately affected by (addiction) now,” Connors said. “This is an important fundraiser, and it means a lot to be able to give to those who need it.”
Susie Blum Connors’ Roasted Tomato Soup with Croutons
For the soup:
2 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 large or 2 small yellow onions, sliced in quarters or eighths
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil (optional)
Red bell pepper, carrots and sweet potato (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Wash, core and cut tomatoes into quarters or halves depending on the size. Spread the tomatoes, garlic and onions onto a foil-lined baking tray. If using peppers, carrots or potato, cut those into quarters or halves and add to baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes or until caramelized.
Remove vegetables from oven and transfer to large stock pot. Add chicken or vegetable broth, bay leaves and butter. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until liquid has been reduced by a third. Remove the leaves. Wash and dry basil leaves and add to pot. Use an immersion blender to purée the soup until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
For the croutons:
1 loaf French bread
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter, melted
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Preheat oven to 350 F. Cut bread into small cubes. Combine remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. Add cube bread and toss lightly. Put cubes in single layer on parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until lightly browned.
Gia Mazur is an award-winning staff writer and beauty obsessive who joined The Times-Tribune’s Lifestyles department in 2015. She’s a product enthusiast who can’t live without an eyelash curler. A proud Virgo, Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillow Talk is her go-to. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9127; @gmazurTT