Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Tomato Basil Soup

Let’s talk. Let’s talk about when we were kids. Life was SO EASY then.

Being a kid is easy because you can eat Poptarts for breakfast and nobody judges you. Yes, the kid version of me would love to have a sugar filled pastry iced with sugar and it will be delicious.

It’s easy because everybody just wants to be friends. There’s none of this he said-she said-we said-they said. No drama. Just friendships. And coloring books.

Being a kid is amazing because your mom lets you have Spaghettios and Elios Pizza and Kraft Mac and Cheese for lunch. And those things are awesome, every time.


I guess I should be honest. I think I am having denial about being back to the 9 to 5 grind after a 10 day vacation. And so this denial is making me wish I could sit at home, watch silly cartoons, play with play-dough and eat Spongebob Mac and Cheese. Last night, I needed some real good comfort food that would help me chill out and de-stress after a hard day at work.

So, last night, I made homemade tomato soup…and I dunked grilled cheese in it. And that, in fact, was delicious.

 I love cooking soups because you can really fly by the seat of your pants and come up with something dynamite. Following recipes is a good place to start, but I really let my imagination run wild when I have a simmering pot of goodness on the stove. Basic principles of tomato soup: lots of veggies, roasted tomatoes, a touch of cream, basil for good measure, and a quick blend to make it rich and smooth. My recipe below is roughly adapted from this Michael Chiarello recipe.

Here’s what you need for Homemade Tomato Basil Soup:

1 14-oz. can chopped tomatoes
6 baby carrots
1 stalk celery
1 zucchini
1 medium yellow onion
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup vegetable stock
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup fresh basil leaves
¼ cup skim milk (optional—can eliminate completely or use heavy cream)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste

Here’s what you do:

Drain the tomatoes, reserving the liquid for cooking. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes at 450 degrees or until caramelized.
While the tomatoes cook, finely dice the carrots, celery and onion. Peel the zucchini and chop finely.

In a stock pot, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onions, carrots, celery, and zucchini until tender, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and the sugar after 2 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook about 1 minute.
Add the tomatoes, juices, vegetable stock, butter, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and stir. Immediately reduce the heat to low and simmer until the vegetables are very tender. This will take about 15 minutes.

Thinly slice the basil into ribbons. Add to the pot.
Remove from the heat and add the skim milk.
Take an immersion blender that you just stole from your mom and blend the soup until very smooth. If you were not the recent beneficiary of an immersion blender (THANKS MOM), you can blend the soup in a blender in about 4 batches.

Stir and adjust your seasonings. Serve alongside traditional grilled cheese or with croutons and shave parmesan cheese!

I have to say, even though it was a humid night, this meal was just what I needed. Why don't you treat yourself to your favorite childhood meal, with an adult twist!

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