Recipe for A Souper Life

I eat soup everyday. And so does my husband. We met as volunteers in a soup kitchen and you could say was the start of a very beautiful love affair, with soup.

It doesn’t matter if it’s 100 degrees outside. You’ll find us spooning any variety of steamy broths be it congee, chowder, chupa, consomme, dashi, miso, matzo, borscht, potage,  okroshka, mulligatawny, gazpacho, gumbo, menudo, tom yam gung, minestrone, caldo verde, ramen, bourride, buridda, bouillabaisse,  bisque, solianka, cioppino, matelote, rasam, pho, pistou, what have you.

I remember my first attempt. I was twelve and it was summer. We had a bountiful harvest of vegetables from our garden: corn, squash, onions, tomatoes, green beans, potatoes, and cabbage. I figured, how hard could it be to make soup? Just throw together vegetables, add water, salt, pepper and stir, right? Well, needless to say the result was a huge bland mush. I later learned that making soup is like building a house, you have to start with a foundation, a soup base, and then add the walls, the doors, the paint; ingredients need to be layered in stages to maximize flavor extraction.

Barbara Kafka’s Soup: A Way of Life literally changed my life. I learned the art of making stocks, broths, and finished soups. Barbara provides 30 different stock recipes as well as several dozens of ways to use seasonal ingredients for soup enjoyment year-round.

When I started our baby on solid food, I fed him simplified versions of our weekly soup. If I were cooking potato leek soup, I riced boiled or roasted potatoes and depending on what other foods he’s been introduced to, I might add home-made chicken stock, milk, butter, leeks, etc.

Now that he’s a toddler and eats almost anything that we eat, it’s an even simpler routine. I cook a big batch of soup and reserve about 1/2 a quart to puree for the little man. Each morning I send him to day care with a baby-size thermos filled with soup. While the circumstances of a working family doesn’t allow us to have lunch together during the weekdays, but eating soup everyday is one way for us to share a meal in our separate settings.

Tomatoes are in peak season in August, so I want to share my recipe for tomato bread soup. It’s what my little family will be slurping this week. Wishing you a souper week!

The secrets to making a thick, hardy tomato soup I learned are 1) add a cheese rind to the stock to bolster the umami (or savoriness) flavor, and 2) add crusty sourdough bread for a thick, rich consistency. I like using plum tomatoes, but Heirloom varieties are great as well, or if tomato is not in peak season, use canned San Marzano Italian tomatoes. If using canned, use two 26oz containers, for fresh tomatoes use about 2.5 pounds.

An alternate way to make this soup is to slice the plum tomatoes lengthwise and place them cut side facing up, sprinkle with salt and pepper, add whole peeled garlic, thyme sprigs, and drizzle generously with olive oil. Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 30-45 minutes.  Add the roasted tomatoes to step 6 and follow the rest of the recipe.

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Tomato Bread Soup
Ingredients

2.5 lbs. fresh plum tomatoes, chopped, or 2 X 26 oz cans
2 sprigs of Thyme (plus about 1 sprig of thyme leaves removed from stem)
2 Bay Leaves (tie the thyme and bay leaves with butcher twine to create a bouquet garni)
1 large Vidalia Onion, chopped
4 cloves Garlic, chopped
1 bunch Basil Leaves, rough chopped
2 quarts Chicken Stock
1/4 lb. Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese Rind (plus additional for grating)
2 Tbsp. Tomato Paste
4 Celery ribs (use inner stalks with leaves), chopped
1/2 loaf of crusty sourdough bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
Olive Oil
Coarse Kosher Salt
Freshly ground Black Pepper

1. In a dutch oven, or large soup pot, heat chicken stock with bouquet garni over medium-low.
2. In a sautee pan, add about 2 tablespoon olive oil, enough to coat pan, over medium-high heat.
3. Add onions and let sweat for 2 minutes, then add garlic and stir to keep from browning for an additional minute.
4. Rub thyme leaves between palms of your hands and add to the onions/garlic. Add tomato paste and mix well and adjust heat to keep from burning and cook for about 1-2 minutes. Add 1 tsp. each of salt and pepper.
5. Add cheese rind to chicken stock, then add the onion/garlic/tomato paste mixture to stock. Add a ladle of chicken stock to pan to release the remaining onions, garlic, and tomato bits and return to the stock pot.
6. Add the tomatoes (fresh or canned) to the stock pot and adjust heat to medium-high.
7. Cook soup to almost boiling, then add celery and let simmer for another 5-10 minutes until celery is about cooked through.
8. Add the bread to the soup and stir until incorporated. Remove cheese rind and bouquet garni. Add basil leaves.
9. Use a hand blender (or food processor) to puree the soup until the desired consistency.
10. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
11. Serve with additional grated cheese, basil leaves, and some cheese crackers. Enjoy!

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