Category: Soup

A Tomato Soup Variation

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You say Toe-May-Toe, I say Toe-Ma-Toe … A Tomato Soup Variation.

At this time of the year there is always a soup or stew, ready on our stovetop, to enjoy with lunch or dinner as a foil to the winter’s chill. It seems to me that one of the quickest and simplest soups to make is a tomato soup because it requires very few ingredients and for the most part can be prepared entirely from items that are on hand in your refrigerator and pantry.

One interesting observation I have made is how many variations of tomato soup there actually are. Besides all the commercial food packagers who try and entice us to purchase one of their canned soup offerings that line the grocery store shelves, many cookbook authors and recipe developers include variations of the soup either in print or on the Internet.

Some tout their recipe is the best tomato soup you will ever taste, while others claim theirs is the only recipe you’ll ever need! Some are creamy, while others are chunky. Some are spicy, while others are thickened with bread, such as the Italian variation Pappa al Pomodoro. It seems there is no right or wrong recipe as it all comes down to a matter of personal taste.

With that said, after much trial and error, with an extra pinch of this here and a little tweak there, the following is the tomato soup recipe I now prepare as the base from which to build a meal–either by garnishing the soup in a variety of different ways (for example, by floating in a couple of jumbo shrimp first sautéed in butter, garlic, and Aleppo chili flakes), or simply accompanying a steaming bowl with a grilled cheese sandwich. What I like about this recipe is that the end result becomes a velvety broth with a rich, light smoky depth of flavor.

 

A Tomato Soup Variation

Ingredients (serves 4)
Olive oil
Bacon or pancetta
1 large onion, diced
2 to 3 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
1 generous tablespoon rice (used to thicken)
3 to 4 fresh thyme sprigs, tied together
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon pimenton
3 cups tomato puree with juice
3 cups vegetable stock or water
½ cup Half & Half
2 tablespoons butter
Salt & pepper to taste

Method
In a large stockpot over medium high heat, warm 3 tablespoons olive oil in which to render and crisp 3 slices of bacon or diced pancetta. Set the rendered meat on a paper towel to drain, then finely dice and set aside.

Render bacon or panchetta

Add the onion and whole garlic to the rendered fat and sauté until it begins to lightly color and soften.

To the sauté add back the diced bacon along with the rice, thyme, bay, pimento, salt and pepper, stirring to coat and combine.

Flavoring base

Add the tomato and the stock, bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and allow the soup to thicken, occasionally stirring for 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove the thyme bundle and the bay leaves, and use an immersion mixer to finely puree the soup to a smooth consistency. Ladle the soup into a fine mesh strainer and using the back of the ladle, press the soup through the strainer, removing any remaining solids to obtain a velvety smooth broth.

Soup ready for immersion mixer

Final strain

Return the strained soup to the pot over low heat and add the butter and Half & Half, whisking to thoroughly incorporate. Check and correct the seasoning as needed and serve the soup in warm bowls as is, or garnished as you like, or even accompanied by that grilled cheese sandwich.

Speaking of that, a large bowl of this tomato soup and a thick grilled cheese sandwich paired with an ice cold bottle of champagne will be how we plan to welcome in the New Year!

Tomato soup, grilled cheese, champagne!

Happy holidays and good health in the coming New Year.

May you continue to Eat well and Be well.

DM

The dishes of our childhood stay with us forever.

 

 

 

 

 

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What Did I Discover in My Refrigerator? It Wasn’t a Science Experiment!

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Every once in a while it is fun for me to rummage around in my refrigerator and pantry to see what I have on hand and what I could prepare without having to make a trip to the farm market or grocery. The search resulted in the following recipe, which uses some of the early summer ingredients to prepare an easily assembled, hearty, and satisfying sweet corn chowder.

I used shrimp in this dish, since I had them on hand, although I’ve made this chowder in the past using crabmeat. The base stock was prepared using both the stripped corncobs and the peeled shrimp shells, cooked separately, then strained and combined. The remainder of the dish was composed of ingredients I had on hand from my local farm market: sweet white corn, bulb onions, scallions, a fennel bulb, carrot, celery, mini Yukon Gold potatoes, chopped tomato with the juice, a bundle of fresh thyme from my garden, and salt and pepper.

 

Sweet Corn Chowder with Shrimp

Ingredients

6 ears of sweet white corn (although yellow could be substituted)

1½ pounds of medium shrimp, shells on

2 large bulb onions (although 1 large white or sweet onion could be substituted)

2 to 3 large scallions, trimmed

½ large fennel bulb

1 large carrot

3 to 4 stalks of celery

13 mini Yukon Gold potatoes

2 to 3 chopped medium ripe tomatoes or one 15-oz can of organic chunk tomatoes

Bundle of fresh thyme stems tied together like a bouquet garni

Salt and pepper

Ingredients

Method

Shuck the 6 ears of corn, using a sharp knife slice the kernels off the ears and set aside. Place the trimmed cobs into a large stockpot with 6 cups of water and gently boil down until reduced by one-third. Discard the cobs and set the water aside in the stockpot.

Poaching cobs

While the corncobs are poaching, using another stockpot, boil 2 cups of water and drop the shrimp in to poach for 3 minutes. Strain the shrimp, keeping the water, and set them aside to cool. When they are cool enough to handle, peel and devein as needed, including removing the tails, and set the shrimp aside.

Shrimp shells

Including the water used to poach the shrimp, add a total of 6 more cups to the reserved corncob water along with the shrimp shells, and gently boil down until again reduced by one-third. Remove the shells and once cool enough to handle, strain all the poaching water into one stockpot that should yield approximately 8 cups total and will be used as the base stock for the chowder. Set aside.

Mince the onions, scallions, fennel, carrot, and celery, to confetti size and set aside. Cut the potatoes into quarters, rough chop the tomatoes, and tie the fresh thyme bundle. Set aside.

Mise en place

Trim the shrimp in half, then, through the center halve the wider head end while leaving the tail end whole. Set aside.

Take approximately 1½ cups of the corn kernels, spread them over a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan, and place under the broiler to lightly toast and heighten their flavor, which will add a light smokiness to the chowder. Work quickly, keeping an eye on the kernels to prevent them from burning or becoming popcorn!

Toasted corn, corn kernels, sliced shrimp

Set them aside to cool as you are now ready to assemble the chowder.

In a large stockpot melt 3 tablespoons of butter in 4 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. When the butter begins to sizzle, add the prepared onions, scallions, fennel, carrots, and celery, stirring to mix together and thoroughly coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté, stirring frequently until the vegetables begin to soften and lightly color.

Add the quartered potatoes, stirring to coat and incorporate into the sautéed vegetables. Continue to cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently until the potatoes are just fork tender but still slightly firm.

Add the stock, tomatoes, thyme bundle, corn both raw and toasted, additional salt and pepper to taste, and raise the heat to a gentle boil. If the chowder looks to be too dense add more water, 2 cups at a time, until you arrive at the correct consistency–not too thick like porridge but not too thin.

Lower the heat to a simmer and continue to stir cook and stir until the potatoes can be easily pierced with the tip of a knife. Now add the shrimp, turning them over to disperse throughout the chowder. Check and adjust the seasoning and add more water if necessary. Cook another 5 to 6 minutes until the shrimps are cooked through, remove the pot from the heat and cover. The chowder can be served right from the stockpot, however like most soups and stews, they are better on the second day as the flavors have had a chance to develop and improve overnight. If serving the next day, gently reheat, mixing from the bottom of the pot since most of the ingredients have settled to the bottom while resting overnight. Garnish a bowl with finely minced fennel fronds or parsley and accompany with toasted crusty bread or biscuits.

Served

A nice way to make use of the summer’s sweet corn and other garden vegetables you might have hiding in the back of your refrigerator. Enjoy!

Be well. Eat Well.

DM

Whenever possible, life should be a pattern of experiences to savor, rather than endure.

Note: A correction—in the Dessert segment of the last post, specifically the Crostada recipe, I failed to include a baking time. Use 40 to 45 minutes, checking at that time to make certain the crust is not too brown, and the fruit filling is gently bubbling.

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