I can only imagine what you’re thinking. Really Marguerite, soup? Yes! Doesn’t a piping hot bowl of anything sound terrific right now? Alright, I’m well aware that it’s the peak of summer right now, but hear me out. Something else wonderful is at its peak too, and it’s one of Sacramento’s greatest exports — the tomato. (Sac-a-tomato, if you can handle the cheesiness.) My back patio is home to nearly a dozen plants yielding bowlfuls of the sweetest little orbs of summer as we speak.
Ask anyone that has spent some time in the central valley and they will inevitably be able to share a story about the huge trucks hauling tomatoes this time of year. My brother and I used to giggle endlessly as semis with trailers brimming with freshly picked tomatoes barreled down the freeway, spilling their contents as they drove along. As trucks would encounter a bump in the road dozens of tomatoes would escape, take one ball-like bounce, meet their untimely deaths and land splat! on the windshield of our family station wagon. I still laugh when I see the tomato carnage on the side of the road.
These show stoppers were the first full-size tomatoes from my garden to ripen. Their younger brothers and sisters on nearby plants are right behind them, rapidly changing from pale green to ruby red. Don’t ask me why soup tasted like just the thing, but as I was flipping through my embarrassingly large collection of cookbooks looking for tomato recipe ideas Ina Garten caught my attention, again. That lady sure knows what I like.
Like the majority of the recipes I’ve posted of late, this one requires very little stove top/oven/oh-my-goodness-it’s-hot-in-this-apartment time. And, not to worry, even though the tomatoes get cooked none of their summery flavor is lost in the process. I suppose you could omit the cream for a lighter dish, but I wouldn’t do such a crazy thing around here. We paired it with Bittman’s Actually Grilled Cheese, some cold beers and called it a night. I highly recommend it.
cream of fresh tomato soup
adapted from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics: Fabulous Flavor from Simple Ingredients
yields 4 generous servings
3T olive oil
1-1/2c chopped red onions (about 1 large or 2 small)
2 carrots, unpeeled and chopped
1T minced garlic (3 cloves)
4 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes, coarsely chopped (about 5 large)*
1T tomato paste
1/4c packed chopped fresh basil leaves, plus a few extra for garnish
3c chicken stock
1T kosher salt
2t freshly ground black pepper
3/4c heavy cream
croutons**, for garnish (optional)
Over medium low heat, add the olive oil to a large pot and warm through. To the oil, add the chopped onions and carrots and saute for about 10 minutes until the onions are translucent and the carrots are very soft. Add all of the chopped garlic and cook until fragrant, about one minute. Then, add the tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste, basil, chicken stock, salt, and pepper and stir. Let the mixture slowly come to a boil, turn the heat down to low to let the soup simmer, uncovered for about 30 minutes until the tomatoes become tender.
Add the cream to the soup. Option #1: if you have a hand blender, use it to puree the mixture. Option #2: if using a regular blender, pour the soup into the pitcher and before blending remove the center piece from the lid and cover with a kitchen towel. Hold the lid down firmly as you use the blender to puree the soup. This will prevent the hot liquid from shooting out all over your kitchen and your face. Not that I have any experience in this area. Option #3: put the soup through a food mill and turn the handle until all the liquid is processed. Throw away any skin or other solids remaining in the mill. If the soup has cooled, pour back into the large pot over low heat. Serve the soup in individual bowls and garnish with basil or croutons.
* If you’re feeling fancy, remove the skin and seeds from the tomatoes. You puree the mixture later in a standard blender or with a hand blender, so everything eventually gets pulverized together.
** To make your own croutons, cube about 2 slices of stale bread into 3/4- to 1-inch pieces. Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil over medium heat in a saute pan. Once the oil is hot, add the cubed bread to the pan and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Stir the cubes in the oil constantly until the bread dries out and turns a golden brown.