Monday, December 5, 2016

Simply Tomato Soup

I love soup, and one of my favorite soups is tomato. Sometimes I like it with rice, sometimes I like it with noodles, and sometimes I even add carrots. I love tomato soup so much that I even like the stuff that comes in the red and white cans. And it makes a nice companion for a grilled cheese sandwich.

When I found a tomato soup recipe in a book called The Quick Six Fix, I had to give it a try. I mean, it's tomato soup. It would have been crazy for me not to give it a try.

The concept of the book is that there are pantry ingredients that you should have on hand at all times, and you should need no more than six additional items to make any recipe. Also, you should be able to do the prep work in six minutes or less, and the cleanup should also take six minutes or less.

Most of the recipes also cook quickly - 30 minutes or less. Some take longer, but it's generally hands-off cooking. And ... there are cleanup tips within the recipes. Like, if you've just emptied a pot in the middle of a recipe, it might tell you that you ought to soak the pot now for easier cleaning when you're all done.

As far as on-hand ingredients, most of us have things that we keep around at all times because they're the ones we know we like enough to keep them in the pantry or fridge.

What you keep in stock is probably different from what I have on hand, but there are probably some things that most of us have. The basics of salt, pepper and olive oil (or another cooking oil) are pretty obvious, but this book has a more comprehensive list of "must have" and "nice to have" items.

I agreed with most of it, except perhaps the coconut milk (I don't like coconut) and the heavy cream. I don't use heavy cream often enough for it to be something that's always on hand. I buy it when I need it for a recipe, then I find something else to do with the rest.

On the other hand, my list of must-have items is probably longer than what's in the book. I have more spices, for sure, and several types of cheese. And tortillas. And bread flour, whole wheat flour, semolina flour, dry yeast ... but that's just me.

If someone was starting a new kitchen, they could take his list to the store and have a good selection of food to work with. Of course, eliminating things that they don't like. If someone doesn't like olives, there's no reason to buy them right?

So anyway, when you get to recipes in the book, the non-standard items are in bold print, so if you actually follow the concept, you'll know right away what you need to buy. In this recipe, there were only two non-standard items: the baguette and the basil leaves.

I decided not to make the baguette toast, and I substituted a few other things. I always have tomato products on hand, so I used what I had and didn't go looking for San Marzanos. I knew it would be an annoying search to find exactly the tomatoes listed in the recipe. I know for sure that I can find whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes, but I've never seen diced ones at the stores I go to. I'll look for them next time I'm raiding the tomato aisle, though. But I always have at least a few cans of other types of diced tomatoes.

And then I used some frozen basil that I had, rather than going out to the store for fresh. While fresh basil is great, this was getting stirred into a hot soup, so I didn't think it would make that much different. So I made this without needing to go shopping at all.

I'd suggest that if you make this, you add the chili flakes, salt, and pepper to taste. Particularly the chili flakes. Those can be fairly mild or they can be raging hot. So add as much as you like, keeping in mind that this is soup and not salsa. When it comes to salt, I usually start with about half of what a recipe suggests and I add more until it tastes right to me. Sometimes I don't need as much as a recipe suggests, and sometimes I need more.

A nice garnish for this soup is a little dollop of Greek yogurt. Or with crackers and some blue cheese, if you don't feel like making parmesan toast. Just my suggestion.

Simply Tomato Soup
Adapted from The Quick Six Fix by Stuart O'Keeffe

For the soup:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon dried chili flakes, or to taste
2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
2 28-ounce cans diced San Marzano tomatoes
2 cups vegetable stock (I used chicken stock)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
10 basil leaves, torn

For the toast:
3/4 cup shaved parmesan
14-inch length of baguette. sliced diagonally into 1-inch slices

Heat the oil over medium heat in a pot large enough to hold all the soup ingredients. dd the onion, garlic, chili flakes, salt, and pepper. Cook for until the onions have softened, about 5-7 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, vegetable stock and sugar. Simmer on medium for 10 minutes, then turn the heat off.

A couple notes here. First, I used chicken stock, because that's what I had. Also, it comes in 1-quart (4 cup) boxes. I measured out 2 cups to set aside, but my tomatoes were really thick, so I ended up using the whole 4 cups. And last, it took a while for this to come up to a simmer. So be prepared for that. Oh, and really last, you can let it simmer longer if you like.

Sprinkle the parmesan on the bread and toast under the broiler until the cheese has melted. Watch carefully. It goes from nothing to char pretty quickly. Timing depends on how close your oven rack is to your broiler.

Puree the soup, along with the butter. You can use a stick blender, or pour the soup into a blender.

Return the soup to the pot (if you used a blender) stir in the basil, and serve warm with the toast.

I received this book from the publisher at no cost to me.