Monday, February 6, 2012

Creamy Tomato Soup

I remember when I was at sleep away camp, way back in the day, and when the lunch bugle sounded (yes, we had bugle calls for wake up, meals, activities, and taps for bedtime) we would all go running, hoping it was grilled cheese and tomato soup day. The soup we ate was probably Campbell's tomato soup or something like it, but it was delicious and we loved it every time it was on the menu. For a dinner party recently, I wanted to concoct a refined version of tomato soup for the starter course. I went with a roasted tomato and garlic soup with parmesan croutons. I wanted the soup to be creamy and rich, and the croutons to bring back the memories of the classic grilled cheese accompaniment, an elegant take on a lunchtime classic.

I started by slicing some ripe vine tomatoes, scooping the seeds out, reserving them in a bowl, and tossing the tomato halves with garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil. I lay them out in one layer in a glass baking dish, and roasted them for 40 minutes at 375 until they were soft and fragrant. While the tomatoes were cooking, I took the seeds and ran them through a fine sieve to extract all of the tomato juices. I also added the juice from a can of whole peeled tomatoes, reserving the actual tomatoes for another use.

I sauteed some onions in a large dutch oven pot, added the tomato juice, the roasted tomatoes, and some chicken broth and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. I then added basil, and simmered for another 30 minutes until the soup was very fragrant. I blended it with an immersion blender until very smooth and added some light cream for thickness. To top the soup, I cut up a roll into cubes and tossed the pieces with olive oil and parmesan. I baked the parmesan croutons for 20 minutes until they were golden and crispy and put a handful on top of the soup with some chopped basil.

The soup was delicious. It was rich and creamy with a nice balance of acid from the tomatoes and creaminess from the light cream. The garlic and basil mixed very nicely with the warmth of the soup, and the parmesan croutons were reminiscent of the classic grilled cheese and tomato soup of those days at camp.

(Serves 4)
6 ripe vine tomatoes, seeded (reserve seeds)
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
Juice from 1 can of whole peeled tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 bunch basil - 1/4 cup chopped for garnish, the rest pulled from the stems
1/2 cup light cream
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 roll, cubed
1/4 cup parmesan, grated

To Cook:
  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Slice tomatoes in half and seed them with a spoon, reserving the seeds
  3. Toss with garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper and bake for 40 minutes until soft and fragrant
  4. Use a fine sieve to extract the juice from the seeds and pulp of the tomatoes
  5. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy bottom pot and sautee onions
  6. Add the tomato juices, broth and roasted tomatoes (pouring off oil in the pan before adding)
  7. Simmer for 30 minutes, add the basil and simmer for another 20-30 minutes
  8. Blend the soup with an immersion blender until very smooth (if you don't have an immersion blender, use a blender or food processor in batches)
  9. Add the cream and mix through
  10. Toss the roll cubes with the parmesan and 2 tablespoons of olive oil and bake for 20 minutes until golden and crisp
  11. Serve the soup with a handful of the parmesan croutons and some of the chopped basil

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