Tangy tomato soup

20 11 2007

Creating a good tomato soup has eluded me for quite some time. I’ve only tried two at restaurants that I’ve really liked. One was a tomato-basil at a french cafe that had a pronounced basil flavor and made with heavy cream. I tried the other at a sandwich shop that had a bright orange color with a fresher, tangier taste. Many times I have tried to recreate both at home with minimal success, until last night.

On a recent visit to Orderup, a restaurant focusing on typical fast food made fresh, I was struck by the bright orange color of the pizza sauce. It had a sweet and tangy taste to it but lacked the heavy tomato-paste texture and flavor. The owner told me that they made the sauce from scratch by simmering tomatoes for a long time. Could my quest for tomato soup really be this simple? If I try this at home, will it work? To my surprise, it did! Remember that I cook by experimentation (see my Recipes page). So, the ingredients below are simply a starting point for you to experiment on your own.

Ingredients for serving a family of 5 (more or less)

  • 5 medium to large ripe tomatoes (the flesh should press in slightly and the color more red than orange)
  • 1/2 medium onion (yellow is a little sweeter) coarsely chopped
  • 3-4 large garlic cloves (whole)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped carrots
  • 1-14oz. can chicken broth (or vegetable, whatever you like)
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil (please don’t use dried basil)
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Core and chop the tomatoes into large chunks and combine in a large pot with the onion, carrots, garlic, broth, oil, salt and pepper. Simmer on low for at least 1 hour, or until your stew takes on an orange color (I stewed mine for about 2 hrs.). Remove from heat, blend thoroughly, return to pot, squeeze in lemon (this adds acidity and acts as a minor substitute to salt), salt and pepper additionally if needed. Serve and garnish with basil.

A couple of ideas:

  • Substitute cilantro for basil
  • Add a dollop (1 tbsp., maybe) of sour cream after serving to increase creaminess and decrease tartness
  • Add more carrots to increase sweetness and decrease tartness
  • Add about 2 cups of watermelon when blending (hey, why not?); if so, skip sour cream and garnish
  • Add texture with finely chopped apples, yellow and red bell peppers (I have no idea what this will taste like, but it sounds good)

Like I said, use the recipe as a base and let your imagination surprise you. Let me know how it goes.

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