Creamy Tomato Soup

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved tomato soup.  I grew up eating Campbells (made with milk) and paired with a grilled cheese sandwich for dipping whenever possible.  Oh sure, I’ve made tomato soup from scratch before, but it always takes longer than I’d like.  Sure, oven-roasted-balsamic-glazed-tomato-bisque may taste great (believe me, it does), but it lacks the homestyle creaminess and nostalgia factor of good ol’ Campbells.  Besides, the tomatoes at the market didn’t look so great so I wanted to utilize some canned ones that were banished to the pantry.  It’s all about using what you have, folks!

I bet you have the following in your house:

Olive oil, onions, garlic, whole canned tomatoes, bread, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, chicken broth, and bay leaves.

Saute up a few onions in some olive oil – mine were small so I used 2 – and a few cloves of garlic (3-5) for good measure.

One can never go wrong with sautéing onions and garlic together. Unless you’re making chocolate cake, and then I’m not sure you should go down that path.

After a few minutes, the onions should have started to soften.  When this is the case, add a good pinch of red pepper flakes and a few bay leaves.

Open up 2 big cans of whole tomatoes – the 28oz size – and dump them in, too.  One cannot have tomato soup without tomatoes, after all.

Mash those babies up with a potato masher.  Go ahead, take out all of your aggression on those poor canned tomatoes. They’re used to it.

Now, let’s talk about thickeners.  Traditionally, creamy tomato soup will be made with some form of dairy product.  I try to avoid using heavy cream in soups, but I knew that milk wouldn’t give me the richness I was looking for.  Guess what you can use instead?

Bread! How bizarre, right? I thought so, but apparently its an old Italian trick.  Who knew? Not I, that’s for sure. Get yourself a decent quality loaf of white bread (I know, I know…), cut 3 slices, and cube up the bread sans crusts. While you have the knife and cutting board out, you might as well cut a few extra slices for a grilled cheese sandwich too.

Add the bread and a few tablespoons of brown sugar to the soup pot.  How much sugar, I hear some of you asking?  Well, it depends on how sweet you like your soup and how acidic your tomatoes are.  Easier to start with one and add more later if you need it.

Stir everything together, and bring the soup to a boil.   Once it’s reached that point, reduce it to a simmer and let everything hang out until the bread is completely saturated by the tomato mixture. Or until you decide that you can’t take it anymore; you want soup NOW.  I gave mine about 20 minutes, I think. I should start taking pictures of the clock just to be sure.

Time to puree the soup – you can use your blender, food processor, or immersion/stick blender which was my appliance of choice.  Funny story – many years ago my Mom was trying to interest my brother in learning how to cook.  Nothing was working, so she tried to lure him with the appeal of “power tools” … i.e. blenders, food processors, and stand mixers.  It didn’t work, but she gave it a valiant effort. Give her a pat on the back next time you see her, ok?

Add a few cups of chicken or vegetable stock until you reach a consistency you’re happy with – I added 2c total.

Give the soup a taste – does it need more sugar? salt? pepper? spice? Now is the time to add it.  Don’t be shy!

Alright, let’s talk about presentation.  This soup would be beautiful with a dollop of creme fraiche, a chiffonade of basil, or some fresh homemade roasted garlic croutons on top, wouldn’t it?  You can certainly do that, but let’s be honest.  It was a Monday afternoon, and I wasn’t into that.  I believe that presentation matters a huge deal, but I wasn’t going for upscale gourmet here…I was going for upscale Campbells; simple and delicious.

I drizzled some heavy cream on top and called it a day.  Well technically I called it lunch, but you know what I mean.

Now, go open up your pantry and go give Campbells a run for their money!

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