Monday, September 20, 2010

Tomato Soup Part 1

Something that I've only ever bought in a can from the grocery store, and never really gave it much thought, is tomato soup. It is one of the few things that never occurred to me to make from scratch. For whatever reasons, I've never looked at a tomato and thought "Hmmm... good soup!"

But when my sister graced upon us the bounty of her garden, I had to find something to do with all of these:
of all the suggestions I got, the most appealing was one of the simplest. Tomato soup! As usual, I did not really measure, but here's the gist of what I did!

Olive Oil
Onion, coarsely chopped
Garlic, coarsely chopped
Tomatoes, diced
Chicken Stock
heavy cream
Basil, Chives, Oregano, Cilantro, Parsley, Salt and Pepper
Corn Starch

First I diced the tomatoes. A lot of people shy away from dicing because they make it much more difficult than it should be. Dicing a tomato is simple. This is dicing a roma tomato, but I do globe tomatoes in a similar way. First you slice the tomato in half lenghtwise
then slice the halves in half again, lengthwise

Stack the two slices on top of each other again and slice from end to end
then slice across the width. It might take some practice to get used to holding all of the tomato slices together while you keep slicing in different directions. Just remember to keep your fingers clear of the blade!When you're done, you'll have a nice diced tomato for salsa, soup, tacos, or salads!

After dicing the tomatoes, I warmed a few tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of a stock pot. I added the onions and garlic to the oil and cooked until the onion turned translucent. You don't want the oil to be too hot, or it will carmelize your onions and burn the garlic. It should be just starting to "shimmer" when you add the onions, and over a low to medium heat.

Once the onions were tranlucent, I added the tomatoes and herbs. Be careful as the oil might splatter! Stirring, I cooked over medium heat until most of the juices were released from the tomatoes and it was simmering. I added the chicken stock. I did not add water at this point, but if you are feeding a crowd you can add some, or if you are vegetarian you can use water (or veggie stock) instead of the chicken stock. Also, the one seasoning you may want to leave out until the end is pepper. Pepper can acquire a bitter taste when cooked, so it is actually best left until the end.

I let the soup simmer over medium heat for about twenty minutes. Then in a small bowl, I used a fork to whisk some heavy cream into about two tablespoons of corn starch.It's important to put the corn starch into the bowl first and add the cream to that, very slowly. Whisk until there are no lumps. Depending on how you like your soup, you might want to experiment with the amount of cornstarch. Just remember, you can always add more, but you can't take it out! Stir the cornstarch and cream mixture into the soup. Add more cream to the soup. If you are concerned about fat and calories, you can use milk instead.

I chose to leave my soup chunky, but at this point it can be blended, or for the really texture picky it can be blended and put through a strainer. The problem with straining it is that you miss out on all of the fiber and nutrients that are retained in the pulp and skins of the tomatoes! You can serve tomato soup with so many little twists. I love to add some shredded cheddar cheese, a dallop of sour cream, and a sprinkle of chives on top of mine. My preschoolers always loved to put goldfish crackers into their tomato soup, and they must have been onto something because recently I saw tomato soup in the store that is canned with goldfish crackers already in it!

My family liked the soup so well that I made a condensed version to try out my new pressure canner with. Basically, I only added a little bit of water, no stock or cream. I will update later in the week about how my first attempt at pressure canning goes. Frankly, I'm a little concerned. If anyone has any tips or advice on pressure canning, please let me know!

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