Monday, December 17, 2012

Cream of Tomato Soup

The Little Drummer Boy by Harry Simeone Chorale
Tomato Soup is childhood.  And childhood at Christmas time meant standing around the turntable and playing my parents collection of Christmas albums.  This version of The Little Drummer Boy was one of my favorites.  I loved the men's voices acting as drums in the intro.  And, when the women's voices started the melody, it was so soft and haunting.  They were telling a story and it really caught my attention and made me picture the scene.  It made me ponder what I, as a child, could give if I had been called upon to pay my respects to the Holy Child.  Any song that can make a kid stop thinking about Santa for about 3 minutes and think about the deeper meaning of the holidays has got to be a stellar song.  And I believe this song fits "stellar" perfectly!

Tomato Soup takes me back to my K-12 school days and cafeteria lunches.  It was part of one of the perfect sacred combos served ~ Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.  Cheese and tomatoes - a very happy pair indeed!  I loved to dip the corner of one of my Grilled Cheese halves - cut on the diagonal, of course - into the tomato soup.  I'd go home and rave about this to my mom who would always point out the obvious to me - "You know that tomato soup is made from tomatoes, don't you?!"  I did know this and I was just as perplexed as her!  It came into the same class as ketchup -  I liked ketchup just fine and it was made from tomatoes.  But neither the canned soup nor ketchup tasted the same as the yucky stewed tomatoes she tried to serve me or raw tomatoes which made me shudder from head to toe.  Tomatoes were a tricky lot.  You never knew where they were going to show up.  I was always on my guard.

As I've said before, I outgrew that hatred of tomatoes.  But I've never lost my love for Tomato Soup!  Only now I prefer it made fresh.  Oh - I'll eat the pre-made versions in the cans and cartons at the grocery store.  But, if I have a minute, I like to make my own.  The flavors are so much brighter and that increased brightness just rocks any cheese you've added to the meal - be it in a sandwich or a simple garnish.

I start by roasting tomatoes in the oven first.  My tomato of choice is a Roma because they are heavy on the flesh and light on the moisture but, as you can see, if I have others hanging around, I'll throw them in as well.  I wash them, dry them, halve them, and give a quick swipe to clean out some seeds.  The seeds part is a personal preference - take out or leave as many as you like.  Toss the halves in a bowl with the olive oil and some salt and pepper.  I cook them, cut side down, on high heat for about 20 minutes.
They come out looking like this. 
 Some people might say these are ugly.  All I can see is beautiful flavor all over that sheet tray!
Roasting the fresh tomatoes adds some sweetness and depth of flavor to the soup.  For me, it's what adds the "M-m-m-m-m!"

You might think you don't have time over the holidays to be making soup from scratch.  I'll give you that!  But, as soon as you think you might have an extra minute or two, treat yourself to some soul-satisfying homemade Cream of Tomato Soup.  Or give it to a neighbor as a gift!  
Hey!  Now you're talking!

Cream of Tomato Soup
serves 4 - 6
12 fresh Roma tomatoes, or tomato of choice
3 T. olive oil, divided
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
1 small carrot, shredded
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
2 t. dried basil
2 - 14.5 oz. cans diced tomatoes
2 c. vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 c. cream
Cheese for garnish

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Wash and dry the fresh tomatoes and cut in half.  Remove seeds, if desired.  In a large bowl, toss the tomato halves with 2 T. of the olive oil and some salt and pepper.  Once coated, place them on a parchment-lined sheet tray, cut side down.  Roast for 20 minutes - until they are lightly caramelized.  Remove from oven and set aside.

In a pot, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the celery, carrot, and onion and stir to coat.  Add the salt and pepper and stir.  Cook for about 3 minutes and then sprinkle the dried basil over and stir.  Continue to cook the vegetables and bloom the basil over the medium heat for another 5 minutes. 

Add the canned tomatoes to the pot.  Add the roasted tomatoes to the pot, as well as any liquid that accumulated on the sheet tray.  Don't leave out any of that flavor!  Add the vegetable or chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat immediately and let it simmer for 30 - 40 minutes.  The vegetables will be very tender.

Remove the pot from the heat and use an immersion blender and puree thoroughly.  It's up to you how chunky you want to leave it.  If you don't have an immersion blender - put it on your Christmas list!  OR you can let the contents cool and then put them in a blender and puree it that way.  DO NOT ATTEMPT TO DO THIS WHILE THE CONTENTS ARE STILL HOT.  The hot mixture will erupt out of the blender and all over you and the kitchen.  This does NOT make for a happy holiday!

Once the contents are pureed to your taste, stir in the cream and then reheat, if necessary.  Season to taste.  Garnish with cheese crumbles or curls or shreds or however you have to do it.  But cheese should definitely make an appearance with this soup in some shape or form!  Enjoy!


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  5. There is a reason we are friends. I made creamy tomato soup today, almost just like this. A bit of variation was that before cooking and blending, I added canned sun dried tomatoes with a bit of the oil in it. And instead of cream I added a bit of cream cheese just because I had it and I thought I'd try it out. Love this stuff!

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