Friday, February 25, 2011

Cream of Tomato Soup (Sans Cream)

Except for clam chowder, I am not really fond of soups with dairy (i.e., milk or heavy cream) as they are generally too rich for my palate. I do love Campbell's cream of tomato and cream of mushroom though - creamy but not chock full of cream (call me unrefined, but I relate to the canned stuff as comfort food from childhood - an imported goodie that was actually available in Taiwan 30+ years ago).


I happened on a recipe recently while perusing The Complete America's Test Kitchen 2001-2010 TV Show Cookbook (one of my fav cooking shows on PBS, btw) for 'Creamless Creamy Tomato Soup,' which seemed right up my taste alley. Turned out to be easy to make, super creamy and full of flavor - great for a cold, rainy winter day like today. The white bread and olive oil are what give this soup that silky texture. So, here's my adaptation of this recipe, to which I added 1 extra tablespoon of brown sugar, extra red pepper flakes, no salt (since there was already low-sodium chicken broth in it), 1 less tbsp. of olive oil, and only 1 instead of 2 tbsp. of the optional brandy. My canned tomatoes of choice are whole San Marzanos.


Ingredients:
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or through a garlic press (1 tbsp.)
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (or more, to taste)
1 bay leaf
2 28-oz. cans whole San Marzano tomatoes (or any other, as you please)
3 slices white sandwich bread (Wonder Bread is good), crusts removed & torn into 1" pieces 
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tbsp. brandy or cognac
Ground black pepper, to taste
Chopped fresh chives or scallion, for garnish
Croutons, for garnish


1. Heat 2 tbsp. of olive oil in a large pan or Dutch oven over medium high heat until oil is hot (but not smoking). Add chopped onions, garlic, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf. Stir well and cook for several minutes until onion is translucent, but not browned. 


2. Stir in canned tomatoes, juice and all, and break up with a potato masher until they are broken down to about 2" chunks. Add bread pieces and brown sugar and stir well. Bring mixture back up to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for several minutes until bread starts to break down. Discard bay leaf and turn off heat. 


3. Pour soup mixture in 2-3 batches into a blender, adding 1 tbsp. of olive oil to one of those batches. NOTE: Do not fill blender more than 2/3 of the way up, or you'll have a mess on your hands when the cauldron of hot liquid explodes while the blender is going. Puree thoroughly, until soup mixture is very smooth - otherwise there will be crunchy chunks of onion pieces in your cream of tomato soup, which I don't much like - unless it's minestrone.


4. Pour soup back into the pan and stir in chicken broth and brandy. Bring soup back to a boil and season with black pepper and additional red pepper flakes, according to your taste. 


5. To serve, spoon soup into bowls and garnish with croutons and scallions or chives. 


Come to think of it, this would be a great accompaniment to a grilled cheese sandwich. Now I need to find a really good grilled cheese sandwich recipe...


2 28-oz cans of whole San Marzano tomatoes.

Brown sugar, bay leaves, low-sodium chicken broth, red pepper flakes.

Slice crust off of 3 slices of white sandwich bread.

Tear bread up into 1" pieces.

Cognac (sub for brandy) and olive oil.

Chop up 1 medium onion.

Ingredients portioned out and ready to go (or 'mis en place' as some like to call it). Brandy, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, minced fresh garlic & chopped onion.

Saute onion, garlic, bay leaf and red pepper flakes in 2 tbsp. of olive oil until onion is translucent.

Add canned tomatoes.

Break up the tomatoes into approximately 2" chunks with a potato masher.

Add bread and brown sugar.

Fish out the bay leaf and discard.

Blend tomato mixture in batches (adding 1 tbsp. of olive oil to the first batch) until smooth.

Return pureed tomato mixture back to pan, add 2 cups of low-sodium chicken broth and bring back to a boil.

Season with black pepper and additional red pepper flakes, to taste.

Ladle soup into serving bowls and garnish with croutons and chopped chives or scallions.

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