Every once in a while, I’m really on the ball and a recipe turns out right the first time. Not that I mind tweaking and playing, mind you, because that’s half the fun of cooking.
But it’s always a nice surprise when — at the end of roasting and sauteeing, and adding a little of this and a little of that — you take a spoonful from the pot and go, “Wow, that’s nice,” right out of the gate.
This tomato soup was like that. Of course, I did have a head start, as I spend eight months out of the year completely tomato fixated. After you’ve been through a few years of canning the season’s tomatoes, their aroma is permanently ingrained in your nose brain, and from there it’s not a far leap to daydream about recipes and flavor profiles.
Ah, yes. San Marzanos. Second only to SoupAddict’s own garden-fresh tomatoes.* But assuming that you don’t have ready access to SoupAddict’s tomato garden, you really should try to find San Marzano canned tomatoes. I also like the Pomi brand, which comes in a cute little 26 oz. aseptic box. You’ll never look at Hunt’s or Heinz the same way again.
*SoupAddict is engaging in a small, half-hearted statement of hubris here, because there’s just nothing better than a freshly picked organic tomato, still warm from the sun. No canned tomato can match that flavor and shouldn’t be expected to.
Tomatoes, basil and garlic, ready for roasting.
A little mirepoix gets the party started.
Word to the wise: see those things in the background on the left? Those are actual baby carrots. True baby carrots are crispy and sweet, through and through. The things being advertised in those mind-numbingly dumb baby carrot commercials are full sized carrots whittled down to their cores to look like baby carrots. And the cores in full-sized carrots are often hard and slightly bitter. So, if you’re having problems getting the fam to eat those [air quotes] baby carrots, that’s why. They ain’t baby carrots.
And here endeth today’s lecture on baby carrots.
Can you tell that those commercials irk SoupAddict to no end? SoupAddict grows carrots; she knows what baby carrots are supposed to taste like.
The tomatoes are nicely roasted and ready to go. These tomatoes, btw, are whole, peeled tomatoes. It’s what I had on hand, so I just crushed them a little during straining to release more juices, and roasted as normal. They’ll break down further during cooking and will puree up just fine. Chopped or crushed tomatoes will let you skip the squeezing step (and also skip the part where you look down at your shirt a half hour later to see a trail of tomato juice and seeds).
Mirepoix + roasted tomatoes and garlic = SoupLove.
Believe it, it’s true.
20 minutes later and … ta da! … tomato goodness in a bowl. Serve with your favorite breadsticks (recipe to follow in next post) or a grilled cheese sandwich. It almost makes winter worth it.
Makes 4 servings.
1 (28-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
2 heaping tablespoons fresh basil (leaves only), chopped or fine chiffonade (measured after chopping)
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 stalks celery, diced
2 small carrots, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 or 2 tablespoons heavy cream, half and half or milk, optional
salt and freshly ground black pepper, as needed
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
1. Strain the chopped canned tomatoes, reserving the juices, and place in a mixing bowl*. Add basil, garlic, balsamic vinegar and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Toss or stir gently to mix. Spread tomato mixture onto a foil-lined (for easy cleanup), rimmed baking pan. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and roast until caramelized, about 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a stock pot or large saucepan, heat remaining olive oil over medium heat. Add the celery, carrot, and onion, cook until softened, 8-10 minutes. Add the roasted tomato mixture, the reserved tomato juices, chicken broth, bay leaf, sugar and butter. Simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Remove bay leaf. Puree with a hand-held immersion blender until smooth, or blend in a regular blender, working in batches. Add dairy**, if using, stirring well to blend. Taste, and add salt and pepper as necessary.
*If you’re dirty-dish-averse, you can do the mixing part right on the prepared baking sheet. Just be gentle so you don’t rip the foil or fling tomatoes to and fro.
**This soup is pretty smooth and creamy as it is, without milk or cream. However, if you’re a creamy-tomato-soup addict like SoupAddict, add 1 tablespoon of dairy at a time until it reaches your desired level of creamy goodness.