I recently traveled to Iceland. The island is a beautiful, rugged, visually dramatic place with natural beauty everywhere you turn.
Like most places, the climate and the terroir dictate the cuisine, and this means a lot of fish and lamb. Few vegetables grow in Iceland, so vegetarian diets are uncommon, and salads are fairly rare, especially in late fall.
But we happened upon a fascinating place, the “Fridheimar” or Tomato Farm, midway through the scenic Golden Circle loop. This facility, an impressive complex of greenhouses that use artificial lights and geothermal heat to grow tomatoes and basil year-round, is also home to a restaurant and a wine bar.
The menus, not surprisingly, showcase tomatoes in all of their forms, but the crown jewel of both venues is the basil-infused tomato soup served with a crusty bread. I talked the server into sharing the recipes, which I happily pass on.
These two items make for a lovely lunch or light supper as the temperatures drop. The fact that both are pareve makes them quite versatile and can be used as a first course for a meat or dairy menu. The Fridheimar offered cheesecake with tomato jam for dessert, but we opted to skip that.
Fridheimar Tomato Soup | Pareve
This soup is simplicity itself; it is pretty much just fresh tomatoes cooked down with a bit of veggie broth and seasoning. The Fridheimar chef used mango to sweeten the soup; I did not have that on hand, so a tablespoon of honey did just fine. I also strained the soup before serving to deliver that velvety smooth texture, but this is not required.
For the soup:
4 pounds tomatoes cut in half (I used about 16 plum tomatoes)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1½ cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon honey
For the basil oil:
8 basil leaves
½ cup olive oil
Basil leaves for garnish
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large soup pot. Place the tomatoes in the pot and stir. Add the seasonings, broth and honey. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes.
While the soup cooks, make the basil oil. Place the basil and olive oil in a mini chopper and puree it. Let it sit to allow the flavors to infuse.
When done, the tomatoes should be very soft and falling apart. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup to a smooth texture. Pour the soup through a sieve, pressing on the solids and scraping the bottom of the sieve to extract all the liquid. Adjust the soup for seasoning, drizzle it with basil oil and garnish it with a basil leaf if desired.
Fridheimar Bread | Pareve
Makes 1 loaf
The perfect pairing with the soup is the Fridheimar bread. The plain version is wonderful, but sometimes the chef adds different types of seeds and spices to the crust — poppy, caraway, coarsely ground pepper, dried thyme, etc.
The recipe they shared made an enormous amount, so this is a scaled-back version more suited to the home cook.
3¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1½ cups warm water
Mix the water, yeast and sugar in a large bowl. Let it sit for about 5 minutes until it bubbles. Add the flour and salt and mix well. If the dough is too sticky, add a bit more flour.
Cover it with a towel, set it in a warm place and allow it to double in size, about 2 hours.
Punch the dough down and, with floured hands, form it into loaves.
Heat your oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the loaves onto cookie sheets and coat them with herbs or seeds if desired. Bake it for about 25 minutes until the dough is crusty and the bread is done.