Rainy Day Tomato-Basil Soup

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Well, it doesn't actually have to be raining, but Fall is upon us and that means soup weather.  Still, a lighter fare is in order.  It's raining here today, so I thought a quick soup would make an easy, and tasty lunch.

Tomato soups are amazingly versatile.  If you think about it, the same basic building blocks for a soup can be ramped (and combined with other things) to make a full-on pasta sauce.  But I talked about that here, so let's not go there.  In soup form, I like this sort of soup because it can be served hot or cold (as a bisque) depending on outside temperature and mood.

Tomato and Basil Soup

Tomato and Basil Soup

Anyway, what was I saying?  …Oh yeah.  Tomato soups are a lot like pasta sauces in a way – they share some of the same fundametal building blocks: tomatoes, and the gamut of Italian spices. In some ways they're easier though, since you're not adding stuff based on what you think it's going to taste like in 40 minutes.

This one is a fairly simple tomato-basil soup, as I mentioned in the headline.  Those two are the rock stars today, making the drummer wish the girls would look at him at least once in a while… 

Anyways, what you do for key ingredients will drive everything else.  I use Cento (canned) Italian tomatoes because they have a nice flavor, and they come in sauce, rather than red-colored water.  They also make for a thicker soup without resorting to tomato paste and/or longer cooking times (which increase the chance of crossing the pasta sauce barrier).  Fresh basil is best too, but if that's not an option the dried stuff can do in a pinch.  More on that later.

I know… tl;dr so let's get down to business.

The first order of business is to gish up the tomatoes in a bowl.  The more you gish the better, but it doesn't have to be perfect.  Just crush  as many of the large chunks as possible.  If you're not using whole tomatoes you can probably skip this step.  

Next tomatoes in the pot (and if you're using straight tomato sauce, add some tomato paste as a thickener, and wish you'd bought the whole ones).  As that warms over a medium-ish heat, add in the basil – fresh about 1/2C measured, then coarsely chopped, or 2tbsp dried.  Also toss in a teaspoon of thyme and a heavy teaspoon of parsley.  Stir occasionally as you go.

That's all there is to the soup, really.  I swear.  BUT there is one thing better – a little cream to urge it along.  

To that end, ideally you'd have some heavy whipping cream around, so you could make a nice fat gob of whipped cream, but you're probably like me and hardly have half-and-half in the house.  The destructions are identical, just with different results, so we'll all just pretend.  Put 1/2 to 1c cream in a bowl, along with a tablespoon or so of sugar, and whisk the hell out of it.  If you do it right – with half-and-half you'll have whipped cream better than Reddi-Whip ever imagined, and the rest of us will have a slightly thickened and sweetened cream.  Either way, set it aside.  The soup is probably done.

When the soup is done (hot, tastes bright and nommy, etc) it's time to deal with the texture.  In this case, I used a Chinois, but a food mill or even a stick blender would do.  The idea is to get out the big fibers and leave a smooth, creamy consisteny. Personally I prefer the older, mechanical means, and they have less of a tendency to turn everything into baby food.

And now, to bisque, or not to bisque.  That is the question.  Whether it is far nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of a really hot soup, or take arms against a sea of cold tomatoes. And by opposing them, to sigh; to eat no more; and by eat, To say we end the heart-ache, and the thousand Natural Noms a tomato is heir to?  'Tis a consumption devoutly to be wished…

Once you've decided, plate and top with a bit of that cream goop you made earlier.  Garnish isn't necessary, but it makes for pretty photos.

Feeds:  Two
Shopping List:

  • 35oz can whole peeled tomatoes (again, Cento, really.)
  • Basil (fresh if you're going to the store anyway)
  • Thyme
  • Parsley (dried is just fine.  It's all about that Basil biatch anyway)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Heavy whipping cream (preferred.  Half-and-half in a pinch)