Christmas is just a mere two days away and I find myself wearing short sleeve shirts, light weight jackets and the threat of shorts is a very real fear. This crazy bipolar weather we have in St. Louis, MO. Where’s the snow? Where’s the chilled pink cheeks and the steamed up glasses? Where’s the endless bowls of soup?!?
One of my most favorite things to enjoy on a cold day is a bowl of soup. Chicken noodle, chili, chowder, vegetable, but mostly tomato soup. There’s just something blissful about sitting down in your favorite chair with a blanket on your lap, wearing your ugliest yet most comfortable pair of yoga pants and a long sleeve shirt as you enjoy a bowl of creamy tomato soup. The acidic tang of the tomatoes, the slight undertone of celery and onion, maybe a tiny bit of heat from red pepper flakes just invoke a memory of when you were younger and you would crush up an entire pack of crackers only to end up with this amalgamated glob of tomato goodness. Combine that with a perfectly toasted grilled cheese sandwich which served as your eating utensil and your day was made! Nothing could top it sans Saturday morning cartoons or the promise of brinner (breakfast for dinner) later that day.
As a child growing up I was fortunate enough to have parents who placed value in even the most humblest of dishes. There was nothing fancy about tomato soup and grilled cheese. It was simplicity at its finest. Open a can of soup from the cupboard, if we had milk great if we had water, meh we made do. Grab a block of american cheese and some bread. Slather it up with butter and if feeling especially wild toss on a slice of onion or maybe a tomato and grill it up to the point where any longer and you run the risk of burning it and that was dinner. And it was always well received. And still is to this day. The only thing that has changed for me and mine is the method in which the soup is made.
Instead of going to the pantry for the old beloved standby I find myself more often then naught, making my childhood favorite from scratch. Sauteing up onions and celery with garlic, adding a can of crushed tomatoes (if none fresh are available), a bay leaf, a few peppercorns for good measure and a generous grind of sea salt. There’s just something about that smell that just makes even the toughest of days seem a little bit more tolerable. Then comes the grilled cheese. Oh that glorious toasted bread filled with rich gooey goodness. The tempestuous joy/terror when you bite into it, pulling it away only to leave a long string of molten dairy magma hellbent on either falling off and adhering to your face or dripping into your soup. It’s a delicate dance of antici……..pation (yeah I went there). It’s in that moment that I truly feel alive (okay so that might be a slight exaggeration but dammit, its pretty awesome!).
It’s not unusual for food to invoke happy memories in me. Most of my happy moments involve people who are preparing food. My father and his grilled cheese and tomato soup. My mom and her bread. My grandma and her Polish feasts of amazingness. Its happiness for me. And on days like today where its unseasonably warm and wrapped up in torrential storms I want nothing more then to wrap myself up in a bowl of happy memories and let the warm creamy liquid goodness take me away.
So. Now that I’ve somewhat dragged this on, one thing I plan on doing with this blog is sharing recipes of what I write about (if able) to share with you my readers. So since this entry is all about tomato soup I want to share with you my recipe for homemade tomato bisque which is a favorite in my home for both Kyle and myself.
Roasted Tomato Bisque with Rosemary: can substitute if out of season
- 15-20 heirloom tomatoes (can use a plethora of colors: yellow, orange, red. doesn’t matter)
- 1 medium yellow onion sliced thin
- 4 cloves garlic whole
- 10 whole black peppercorns
- olive oil
- sea salt (my current favorite is pink Himalayan sea salt)
- 2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 stalk celery diced
- 1 medium onion diced
- 2 carrots diced
- 1 4 oz can tomato paste (or can even use roasted tomato pesto if you like)
- 1 tablespoon rosemary
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 1 bay leaf
- 1-2 cups heavy whipping cream
- salt/pepper to taste
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees (204.44 Celsius) and line a cookie sheet with heavy duty aluminium foil. Wash/core/slice longitude across the tomato’s Prime Meridian (fancy huh? slice from where the stem is). Line tomatoes slice side up on baking sheet with onions and garlic scattered throughout. Sprinkle peppercorns, sea salt, red pepper flakes and sugar over the tomatoes an onions. Drizzle olive oil to coat tomatoes and place in oven to roast off for 45 minutes to an hour. Once desired level of carmelization has occurred remove and let cool completely. Transfer all contents, including roasting liquid to a separate bowl.
If unable to find ripe tomatoes (especially during the winter season) you can easily use canned tomatoes and just omit the roasting stages and pick up from here
In a large stock pot over medium heat, heat up 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Saute carrots, celery and onion until translucent (10-15 minutes). Add herbs and allow them to bloom until fragrant (2 minutes). At this point you’ll want to take a spatula and form a slight well in the center of your stock pot. This is where you will add your tomato paste to allow it toast slightly before incorporating it in with your sauteed vegetables. Allow to heat, stirring frequently to discourage scorching until the you smell the slight acidic tang of concentrated tomato goodness. It is at this time that you will add your roasted tomatoes (or if out of season as previously mentioned: your cans of tomato: can be diced, whole, petite, your choice: about up to 32 ounces or so). Drop in your bay leaf, bring up to a simmer, cover and reduce heat allowing the soup to simmer for about 45 minutes or until vegetables are fork tender. Carefully remove stock pot from heat, fish out the bay leaf and either transfer in batches to a blender to puree to desired texture or if you’re lucky utilize your immersion blender until desired texture achieved. After pureeing you can either return it to the same stock pot for continued cooking or you can pass the puree through a fine mesh strainer to ensure that there are no of vegetables left (for those friends that have texture issues like my friend Ruby) and then return to the stock pot. At this point you can add your heavy cream. Start with one cup at first and depending on the volume of tomato base you have you can either increase it or leave as is depending on your personal preference. Once heated through (about another 5-7 minutes) transfer to either individual bowls, or if serving family style a large ceramic dish which will retain heat. Serve with your choice of crackers or croutons as well as a fantastic grilled cheese sandwich or two.
Viola. Homemade tomato soup. Now I know not everyone has 2 hours to devote to making soup so please know that you can do all of this ahead of time and freeze for later consumption. Just omit the cream prior to freezing. Take out and thaw at room temperature, bring up to temp and add the cream. Or if you like it, go grab your favorite can of tomato soup and dig in :). Who are we to judge the vessels of our culinary happiness.