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Homemade Tomato Soup

October 7, 2014 - Radio Kitchen - Homemade Tomato Soup

It's been a great year for tomatoes, and I have personally enjoyed some of the best I've ever tasted.  Between tomato sandwiches and assorted salads, I've polished off a lot.  But there's one thing I didn't try... and as I asked around, no one else has either.  How many people do you know who have tried to make home-made tomato soup?

I've been pondering this odd fact, and I have come to the conclusion that Campbell's tomato soup is not only tasty and easy, it's iconic.  In our minds at least, it's a tough act to follow.  It's also an odd thing, since most of us wouldn't think twice about making a tomato sauce, which is practically the same thing .  So with all this in mind, here are some pointers, guidelines and options.

1.  Use fresh tomatoes, please!  We live in tomato heaven, and we have literally dozens of choices to work with.   Standard tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, yellow tomatoes... they are all valid.  The only thing I wouldn't try are green tomatoes, but hey, there may be a recipe somewhere.  Whatever your choice, you'll want one pound per cup of broth.

2.  The choice of broth is important.  Many recipes call for chicken stock, but I think this is a perfect opportunity for vegetable broth.  One short cut I would stay away from is using tomato juice or something like V-8.  That's just too easy.

3.  Prepping the tomatoes is important.  You'd do best to remove the skins by using the time honored technique of blanching the tomato in boiling water, setting it aside to cool a little, then washing the peel off under the kitchen faucet.   Next, I'd cut them open and scoop out the seeds.  But here is one tip:  do this over a strainer so you can collect any of the precious tomato juice that naturally is going to run free.

4.  Additional vegetable are customarily used, and here are some ideas. Onion and garlic are nearly universally recommended.  To those I would add celery, carrots and possibly sweet red peppers.

5.  Seasonings are simple:  salt and pepper with options like basil or oregano make sense.  Thyme actually makes a great deal of sense, since its fragrance matches well with tomatoes.  And some kind of sweetener is always good.  We think this is a good time to use brown sugar or honey.

6.  As to procedure, there are two parts:  cooking and puréeing.  As in many recipes, the first step is to gently sauté the onions and other vegetables until they are translucent and tender.  Add the garlic last, and cook briefly to avoid browning it.  Toss the cooked vegetables into your soup pot and add the broth and the tomatoes.  The best advice is to cook this long and slow in a covered pot.  An hour would be barely enough in our opinion.

7.  This is the perfect chance to use your submersible blender.  Just stick it into the pot of chunky soup and let fly.  A couple minutes will yield you a lovely smooth soup.  However, just to make sure it's as smooth as you can get it, pour the soup through a fine mesh strainer, or even better, a china cap.  Discard any solids  (mostly random seed parts) and you're all set.

8.  Check the seasoning one last time.  Then refrigerate the soup for a couple of hours to let it come together.  Re-heat, garnish in the manner to which you are accustomed, and serve to an amazed dinner table.

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.