Saturday, February 27, 2010

Something for a Rainy Day

It's been pouring on and off since late last night. All grey and green outside my window -- I'm feeling cold on the inside, and warming up is what's called for.

The best bet is soup.

I want to tell you about a soup that I've been making since I was in college -- perhaps before? I mentioned
The New York Times International Cook Book by Craig Claiborne in a previous post. I took photocopies of quite a few of the recipes from that cook book with me to college. They got me started in the kitchen.

The recipe for Tomato Soup in the France section is stellar. It's been on my short list of go-to recipes for almost twenty years. It is a creamy, buttery puree that works perfectly well with canned tomatoes, so there is no need to wait for late summer to whip up a batch.

This soup is rich. I tend to cut back on the butter and often substitute half-and-half for the heavy cream. But this soup also makes you look like a pro, and it really is just a cinch to make.

I think the giant croutons are a must. At first they crunch, but I like them even better when they are soggy with soup. The hint of garlic rubbed on the bread gives a little bite to the mellow warmth in the bowl. Claiborne says you can skip them, but I don't agree.

And by the way, good news! Fe is a fan!

Tomato Soup

3/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced (about two cups)
2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
4 basil leaves, chopped, or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 1/2 pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes, cored, or 1 35-ounce can tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 3/4 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
croutons for garnish (see below)

Heat one-half cup of the butter in a large pot and add the olive oil. Add the onion, thyme, basil, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is wilted.

Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and stir. Simmer ten minutes.

Place the flour in a small mixing bowl and add about five tablespoons of stock, stirring to blend. Stir this into the tomato mixture. Add the remaining chicken stock and simmer thirty minutes, stirring frequently, to make certain that the soup does not stick or burn.

Put the soup through the finest sieve or food mill possible (I used a food processor, but you will get a more refined soup with the sieve or mill.) Add the remaining butter (I didn't do this either. Enough is enough!) swirling it through the soup. Top each portion with crouton, and serve.


8 slices crusty, day-old French or Italian bread
1 large clove garlic, halved
8 teaspoons olive oil, approximately

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Rub the bread slices on both sides with the garlic, then brush generously with olive oil. Place the bread on a baking sheet and bake until golden, turning once if necessary.

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