Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Comforting tomato soup ... quick and easy on a work day

The weather turned a bit cooler here in the Inland Northwest this week, ie 70s instead of upper 80s to lower 90s. It's supposed to warm back up by the weekend, but the nights are getting cooler, and there is a definite chill in the air. Autumn is definitely on its way, and with the cooler temperature, soup sounded perfect for dinner last night.

I love soup. I do not love store-bought processed nasty canned flavorless full of sodium soup. I love making soup from scratch. It's hearty, easy and quick, all things I require for meals on work days. And what soup sounds perfect on a cool day? Tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches (on homemade bread).

My cooking style is like Rachael Ray's: I don't really measure, recipes are jumping off places to coming up with my own version, and I change things up a lot to suit the ingredients I have on hand, sometimes substituting this, leaving out that, or adding this. I generally always have the ingredients for tomato soup, and here's how I make it:

3-4 turns of the pan of vegetable or olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3-4 stalks celery, preferrably the inner portion of the bunch with all the leaves (leaves have so much flavor!), chopped
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
4 14 oz cans cut up/stewed tomatoes
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 Bay leaf
Palmful dried basil
1/3 palmful dried oregano
Pinch dried sage
4 cups chicken broth
3 - 4 tsps sugar or honey (the absolute key to any tomato based soup/sauce!)
1 Pint heavy whipping cream
Salt to taste

Over medium heat, heat oil in a stock pot or Dutch oven, add onion, celery and garlic. Sautee until tender, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, paste, Bay leaf, basil, oregano, sage, and broth. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 - 30 minutes. At this point, I like to use a stick blender to smooth the soup out a bit, but you could leave it as-is if you prefer. If you want to smooth it out a bit, do that just before adding the sugar, heavy whipping cream and salt, if desired, then serve.

Makes approximately 8 large bowls. I can never tell, Rick eats it so fast I lose track of how many bowls!

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