Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Tomato Basil Soup that almost wasn't...

Last week, I posted photos of our tomatoes that are fully ripe and more than ready for picking. No problem, I thought! I taught myself how to can five different flavors of homemade jam. I felt as though I'd earned my stripes as a "blanch and peel" pro to remove peach and apricot skins. I figured it would be super easy for me to make a tomato basil soup, from scratch...from our garden.

With great anticipation , I picked tomatoes and I admired my basketful of these beauties. I looked at what I hadn't picked, and I didn't even make a dent. I have a lot of tomatoes left to be picked.

I searched for a recipe, but many of them listed canned tomatoes as an ingredient. Now, why would I want to used canned tomatoes, when I have a glut of these red and juicy orbs just waiting to fill a soup bowl? I have been told that one of my signature dishes is my homemade soups. I think homemade soup is so easy to make-- and I've blogged about a few from last winter and spring. I decided I could make up my own recipe by following a basic "cream of ...." soup.

So, I selected a bowlful of Early Girls (lamenting that I didn't have any romas) and I decided I could make up my own recipe.
But first-- I started a pot of water boiling and blanched the tomatoes for one minute. Then, I shocked them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Just as I had hoped, the skin had cracked and I could just slip it off...wrong! I forgot to core them!! It wasn't easy, mind you. I admit it-- I want to find shortcuts and I was not in the mood to cut stems out of blanched tomatoes. Fine. I'll use one of my many kitchen gadgets!

I have touted the virtues of my beloved OXO food mill several times on this blog. It makes perfect mashed potatoes and I recently discovered that it removed the majority of seeds when I made homemade raspberry jam. So, I figured that tomatoes would be no problem for the food mill to pulverize and I'd be on my way to making soup in no time at all.

Wrong! I ended up with juice and a lot of clumpy tomatoes. This was not going very well...

Next, I dragged out my trusty Cuisinart to break up the tomatoes a bit. Just a few pulses, and I'm liking what I see.

It worked! I put the chopped up tomatoes back into the food mill, and I was left with skins and seeds and it yielded 5 cups of crushed tomatoes. Whew! My kitchen, however, was a disaster area and I was breaking into a sweat. Mark my words-- I have no intention of doing this again. I mean it. While homemade marinara sauce, from garden tomatoes sounds heavenly... it's not for me. This was far too much work!

Now that I had the tomatoes, it was time to make the soup. This was Easy Street, I'll tell you.

In a large pot, I simply sauteed chopped onion with a little olive oil, salt & pepper and I cut fresh herbs from my garden-- thyme, parsley & oregano.
: I save the rubber bands that comes with fresh asparagus or celery and use these tie my "bouquet garni". These are safe to boil.
I also grabbed a box of chicken stock and I was good to go.

I was going to add fresh garlic, but then I realized... I had frozen some basil pesto that I had made a couple of weeks ago, so removed a cube of that from the freezer. Brilliant!

I added the 5 cups of crushed tomatoes, one box of chicken stock, the herbs and about 2 Tablespoons of basil pesto, and about 1 tsp of sugar. I let that simmer, on low, for about 30 minutes.
I fished out the herbs and tossed them. I could have used an immersion blender to make the tomatoes really smooth, but I kind of wanted a rustic chunky texture (or, was I being lazy?)

I turned off the heat and added some heavy cream-- about 1/4 cup...not too much. Served with a dollop of creme fraiche, this was very good. Way too much work, but still it was a great tribute to my husband's dedication in growing our tomatoes. I'm going to try this again, but I'm going to see if roasting tomatoes is going to be a whole lot easier.

This recipe made 8 bowls. I froze half of this for the first day that we get rain. After our unseasonably hot weather, I'm ready!

Fall is on the way!

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T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

It's funny - I remember trying to make soup from heirloom tomatoes last year and having a variety of issues. I had to pulverize so many tomatoes, and it took a long time for very little soup!

My Carolina Kitchen said...

I've wanted a food mill for years and now you've confirmed that that is a good decision.

Kim said...

I've been wanting a food mill for awhile now. I'm glad to hear it was great at removing the skin and the seeds. Looks like the soup was worth all that effort. It looks beautiful with the creme fraiche on top and it was all home-grown!!

Monica H said...

And that my dear is why so many recipes call for canned tomatoes!

I'm glad you persevered. Your soup looks wonderful. All it needs is a gooey grilled cheese to dip into it.

Your bowl of tomatoes is making my mouth water...seriously. They're gorgeous.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I am still in envy of anyone who has tomatoes. My heart was so broken by my first attempt at growing tomatoes on my balcony that I don't know if I'll ever do it again.

I have waffled for years on getting a food mill, but knowning it removed skins and seeds from tomatoes, I'm leaning towards yes.

The soup looks delicious. I saw your blue rubber band and remembered that part of "Bridget Jones's Diary" where she tied a bouquet garni with blue string and ended up with blue soup. I'm glad that didn't happen to you!

Frieda said...

Thanks for the tomato tips ~ I tried Ina Garten's recipe for fresh creamy tomato basil soup and it recommended a food mill. Since I didn't have one, I just used my immersion blender. It made a smooth, creamy soup that was far superior to the canned kind!

A Feast for the Eyes said...

Oh, that's hilarious. I so remember that scene in Bridget Jone's Diary! I have kitchen twine, but I feel as though I'm recycling the rubber bands for a good purpose. By the way, I don't use the traditional rubber bands-- I use the ones that are thick, sturdy and that's what I find on celery or asparagus. Try it!

Phoo-D said...

I'm a sucker for tomato soup and this looks marvelous! I haven't tried a food mill with tomtatoes yet and now I'm having second thoughts!

Proud Italian Cook said...

Debby this was a feast for my eyes!
Your photos and soup look lucious!

Cheryl said...

Girl that is my number uno favorite soup! Yours looks delish!

Kate said...

You should be proud! You did it. It looks fabulous. I am so ready but if I wait for rain...it would get freezer burn...do soups get freezer burn? :)


Danielle said...

yeah! it worked out in the end and YUM!

Debinhawaii said...

It looks as if it were worth the effort in the end--a beautiful soup! Thanks for joining in Souper Sundays.

Sweet and Savory said...

Tomato soup is probably my third favorite, following corn and potato or potato and corn. Tomato has such a rich taste and with the seasoning you used, it must be very rich and it is beautiful to see.