Ahh, summer has drawn to a close. Bikini-season is behind us… soup season is upon us. Can I get an AMEN for that?
I am the firmest of believers in tomato soup.
Actually, I firmly believe in tomatoes in any form. However, since we can’t have delicious home-grown tomatoes year round… soup is a great way to use wintertime tomatoes (which, let’s face it, can be sub-par if you don’t shop at Whole Foods 100% of the time.) Roasting them brings out the flavor in an awesome way.
And while the tomatoes don’t have to be home-grown…
The soup should definitely be homemade.
Because I don’t think anyone ever actually thinks to themself, “I’m really craving a bowl of watered-down tomato puree.” I used to love Campbell’s tomato soup as a child… but now that I’ve tasted what it CAN be, I simply could never go back.
And the beauty is, its really not so hard to make! Don’t be intimidated to make it out of actual tomatoes! And don’t judge it based on your pre-concieved notions of tomato soup. Its absolutely divine.
Here’s how to do it.
Start with (duh) tomatoes. Fresh, garden tomatoes are always preferred, but the next best thing is the kind sold at the grocery store still on the vine.
Also, just to attest to how EASY this is: I used to use a recipe for it from Barefoot Contessa. But I got tired of looking it up on the internet every time I wanted to make it, and I was too lazy to just print it. So this time I did it without ANY recipe! The components are somewhat obvious, as is the process. I don’t really think you could mess it up!
First… go outside.
And get about this much basil.
Now, gather up the rest of your ingredients.
You’ll need about 12 ripe tomatoes, a big handful of basil, 1-2 T. of tomato paste, salt & pepper, a bit of sugar, some onion, some garlic, 2 quarts of chicken broth, olive oil, and (un-pictured) cream. Also un-pictured… any old leftover pasta sauce you haven’t used that’s been sitting in your fridge
And we’re off. Grab a big sharp knife and slice all your tomatoes in half.
Over time I’ve learned that it works better if you slice them in half how I’ve done below, rather than straight down through the stem spot as is typically done.
WHY? Because you’re going to pull all the seeds out. And doing it this way means you see all the seeds, whereas doing it the vertical way hides these secret seed caverns from you and makes this process take twice as long.
Only 21 more halves to go! Get moving!
Now toss them onto a sheet pan (one with a lip around the edge if you know what’s good for ya and don’t want an oven floor like mine) and add a few cloves of peeled garlic and a few basil leaves.
Give everything a generous coating of olive oil. Then sprinkle your tomatoes with a bit of sugar, salt, and pepper. Toss it around with your hands and re-flip any tomatoes that flipped downward in the tossing process.
Roast this pan at 415 for about 20 minutes. Mmmm. Roasting will turn even your worst tomatoes into a good thing. It also does magical things to garlic.
You’ve got a little time during the roasting process… so why not chop up the onion and basil?
A pretty chop isn’t important here because everything’s going into the food processor later.
Also, save a few whole leaves of basil for the very end.
Have I mentioned how much I love basil? Because basically I’d be lost without it.
Next, caramelize the onions. Onion caramelization should never be rushed, so go ahead and get those bad boys goin’ now.
A little butter, a little oil…
And a little onion (and salt. and pepper.)
Give it time! Ten minutes on Medium Low heat should do.
By now… your tomatoes are good and blistered.
These are not as blistered as I would like. I was rushing them because the boys and I were starving. But you won’t be rushing yours because you wont be waiting til seven to start this dinner, now will you? Its easy but not exactly quick.
Let yours get crispy around the edges.
Then slide every drop into the pot with the onions.
And just keep dumping.
Fill the pot up nice and high with liquid (more than halfway) because a lot of the water will boil away… leaving rich tomato-y goodness.
Now, squirt (or spoon) in the tomato paste. A tube means less waste. But I had to go to Whole Foods to find this one.
Alrighty… now just let ‘er boil for 30-45 minutes. If it seems to be dwindling in volume much quicker than that, stop sooner! Sometimes it does that.
Ahh yes. I discovered I had a little tomato sauce leftover in the fridge from my Pepperoni Calzone Roll, so I dumped that into the pot as well. If you don’t have any of this, add canned tomato sauce… or canned diced tomatoes.
And NOW you can turn your attention to the oh-so-easy homemade french bread that’s been contentedly rising in the corner all the while.
This is it in dough form. It is a MUST for tomato soup, and it is the essence of easy. So don’t wimp out… give homemade bread a shot! (Now’s a good time to pop it in the oven, by the way.)
The soup has done its thing. The dinner hour is drawing nigh.
All that remains is to blend it up and add a little richness.
Here is where I ran into a slight road-block.
See, I had discovered THIS in my drawer a few days earlier.
And I was CONVINCED it was an “immersion blender” attachment for my hand-mixer! And I couldn’t wait to simplify tomato soup with it.
But alas… it is NOT an immersion blender attachment. I’m back to having NO idea what its purpose is. Please, someone, tell me if you know.
And I had to fall back on my old standby. The ACTUAL blender. It works. I just hate getting it dirty. Seriously, if you are able to purchase an immersion blender, do it! They are the cat’s meow.
If using a non-immersion blender like the one above, use a big slotted spoon to transfer the chunks from the soup into the blender. It works best to do the blending in 2 or 3 batches, as it is hot and could result in a scalding mess. Notice I’m starting my blender off at the #2 setting. I can ALWAYS increase if I need more power. Just remember that.
Let me just say I usually add 1/4 C. or so (this results in a redder tomato soup.) But on this particular night, I felt I needed to make up for the fact that there wasn’t as much soup as I wanted. So I added more. And got NO complaints from the menfolk.
At this point, my mouth was WATERing and I was ready to eat. I had to take a small taste in order to adjust the salt and pepper.
It’s also time to pull out those reserved basil leaves and rip them up and add them in just before serving!
One of my husband’s catch-phrases comes to mind, “The deliciosity here is very high.”