We have spent the past two weeks in the northern mid west of the US and it has been cold, very windy, and plain miserable. I was looking forward to getting down south and back home to warmer temperatures…..it is still cold and windy.
Twenty six hundred miles of snow flurries, bitter cold winds, freezing temperatures, and my one and only wish was to get some place WARM!
Joe’s cold weather comfort food is creamy tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Tomato soup gives me heartburn and is far from comforting to me. He requested his favorite and I asked if I could make it fresh instead of using the canned variety. “You know how?” is what Joe asked with a bit of trepidation in his voice. “There has to be a recipe somewhere for it” was my answer.
I did find one on the internet. Ina Garten’s recipe is what I used as a starting point. A couple of the ingredients I didn’t have on hand – and was not about to go out in the cold to the grocery store – so I had to improvise. I don’t have chicken broth and I don’t have fresh basil. We made a quick stop to the grocery store before we got home a couple days ago for the main ingredients so I did have fresh tomatoes on hand.
My stock pot is a bit big for this preparation but it works.
Since I don’t have chicken broth I thought I would flavor the soup with a bit of bacon. I cooked three slices (rashers) of bacon to render and use the fat.
If you don’t eat meat this part can be skipped entirely and use olive oil or a good vegetable oil.
Ina Garten’s recipe does not include celery. When I make spaghetti sauce I start with the “Holy Trinity” of cooking (why it is called that I have no idea) which is onion, celery, and carrot.
One medium onion roughly chopped, one rib of celery chopped into 1/4″ pieces, one carrot chopped into 1/4″ pieces.
Dump this all into the stock pot and stir around in the oil of your choice. Let cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes. Until the carrots are cooked fork tender.
While the onions, carrot, and celery are cooking wash and remove the stems and stickers from the tomatoes then give them a rough chop. Set aside in a bowl until it is time to add them to the pot. Next is to chop up the garlic cloves – three of them. The garlic will go in with the tomatoes. Don’t want to burn them while cooking with the onions. Burned garlic is bitter and not very tasty.
Last year I showed you how to freeze tomato paste using Cling Wrap. I will need to have 1 Tablespoon of the tomato paste for this recipe. Just cut away the amount you will need and put back in the freezer.
Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, and garlic to the stock pot.
Ina Garten’s recipe calls for FRESH basil. I don’t have any….but I do have dried. The fresh amount is one quarter cup so I used two tablespoons of dried. Turned out to be just a bit too much so next time I will do one and a half tablespoons. Add the salt and pepper also.
Also, before I forget this is when you add the chicken broth (3 Cups). I just added tap water instead. Give the pot a good stir to incorporate all the herbs and spices and the tomatoes. Get these additions to begin boiling then turn down the heat to medium low and simmer for 35 minutes.
Now about this time you will be thinking “This doesn’t look like a “Creamy” soup”. There is some work that needs to be done first. The recipe calls for a Food Mill and I don’t own one.
I do, however, have an Immersion Blender my wonderful husband bought me for Christmas several years ago. An Immersion Blender is a stick like appliance with a SHARP blade that whirs around.
This is the “Business End” of the blender. See the sharp blade? The “cup” part allows the tool to rest on the bottom of your pot leaving the blade to freely spin. The holes in the sides of the cup suck in the pot contents to be blended and forces the chopped up stuff back out from below the blade.
Put the Immersion Blender into the pot, don’t worry about getting shocked. I’m a total scaredy cat when it comes to electricity and the possibility of electrocution. This tool was made specifically for this purpose.
Refrain from tipping the blender while the blades are whirring around. You will get splashed with the hot liquid and your stove top will have colorful splotches of red. Trust me. Leave the blender to work with the cup part always touching the bottom of the pot.
This is what your soup will look like after the Immersion Blender has don’t its work.
I have a large sieve, or strainer, that I have suspended atop one of my old favorite stock pots. Sadly it has too many chips and cracks in the enamel coating so I don’t use it for much anymore.
Pour some of the tomato soup from the stock pot into the sieve. The liquid will separate from the solids and that is what you want to happen.
Smoosh around the contents of the sieve working the liquid out of the stuff.
When you don’t see the liquid coming out in a thin stream nor hear it dripping into the pot, or bowl, below then it is time to dump the solids from the sieve and add more soup from the stock pot. Keep doing this until you have strained all the soup solids and have only liquid.
Then toss the solids.
Return the, now strained, soup to the stock pot and add the heavy cream. Cook until the cream is heated through and then it is ready to eat.
I have a little trick that I use to keep our soup cups from sliding around on the plates as we walk to the living room to eat. We don’t eat at the table…..kind of a piled up mess.
Using a standard paper towel. Someone else probably came up with this years ago but I thought I was so smart when I thought of it in about 2001.
Fold the paper towel in half, then in half again to have the quarter square. You could, possibly, use half of the one paper towel for two bowls or cups and not waste so much.
Wet the entire paper towel under running water.
Squeeze out the water. You don’t want to have a puddle of water infiltrating your crispy sandwich 😉
Carefully open the blob of a towel and place it on your plate.
Set your cup or bowl onto the damp paper towel and it will keep it right where you put it. No more slipping around and you having to play catch with hot liquids.
I am making my way through all the emails I have accumulated over the past couple of months. Spending a lot of my time watching YouTube videos and reading blogs. I am slowly recovering from the melancholy that had me gripped and will be back to my old self soon.