It sounds basic enough, but I tell you one of the things I have long wanted to conquer was the winter classic. Well, I consider it a winter classic. A mug of steaming cream of tomato soup with a toasted cheese sammich was the best thing to warm me up. It was one of my ultimate comfort foods when I was younger, and for some reason I was never able to explain was the lunch we all never wanted to miss; Fridays in the cafeteria at EMU was always grilled cheese and tomato soup day and nary a music student ever missed it. If you had a friend with a Flex plan they would treat you to this lunch even if they only half liked you.
But there is something about the canned glop that just doesn’t have the same effect. Soup that maintains its shape when I dump it out of a can never really strikes me as something I want to serve my Kid if I can help it. It is great if I have a budget to maintain, but I have actually found recipes that run me around the same price if I have the time and energy (something that I occasionally do have the privilege of). This one was only slightly more, if you count the price of the extra non-tomato ingredients, but I had them on hand from other things and they needed to be used up or they would have to have been tossed out and wasted. I also find that tomato soup (or homemade sauce for that matter) is a good way to sneak in some veggies for kids who are fussy (not that mine is, but it is also a smaller meal, ideal for a packed lunch).
So, this recipe, slightly altered (surprise, surprise) from a cookbook by Annabel Karmel called Cook It Together. It’s a fun cookbook which introduces a few basic food items to kids, then teaches them how to use them in cooking some simple recipes. We have about three or four of her cookbooks so Kid can learn to help with menu planning and meal preparation, which I think is an important life skill. The recipes are all very simple, even the main dishes, but not basic on taste or nutrition.
The original recipe calls for carrot, which I didn’t have, and more ketchup, which I thought was odd, so I didn’t use nearly as much of it. It called for fresh thyme, which is unavailable to me so I used dried, and I cut back on the sugar, because, well, I don’t like adding sugar to tomato things because I just don’t like the taste.
A note on “from scratch”: Yes, I used canned tomatoes. My grandmother, father, and mother, who have been making homemade Italian meals since before I could remember, always used canned tomatoes. They are cheap, and as far as she knows, even Italian people in Italy use them, because tomatoes are plentiful in one season, and they don’t stay that way all year. So, you can. Some day when I have a yard and I live in one place longer than a couple of years at a time I will can my own damned tomatoes.
Tomato soup, as slightly altered from Annabel Karmel’s Cook It Together
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bell pepper (I used red, and the recipe said to use red, but I am sure you can use any)
1 clove garlic
2 Tablespoons EVOO
1-24 ounce can diced tomatoes, with juice
a couple of good squirts ketchup, about 2 Tablespoons (I used organic but you can use any kind)
1 Tablespoon sugar (the original called for 2)
a palmful of dried thyme
salt and pepper
4 Tablespoons heavy cream
Heat the oil in a stock pot and saute the onion, garlic, and pepper (and a shredded carrot if you have one, I was going to toss in a zucchini but I didn’t have one of those either. Maybe next time.) in the oil for about 5-7 minutes to soften slightly. Pour in the tomatoes and their juice. Bring to a simmer and add the ketchup, sugar, and thyme. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Using an immersion blender, or in food processor or blender in batches, blend the soup into a fine puree (to your desired consistency). Salt and pepper to taste. Add the heavy cream and serve.
The original recipe has all kinds of nifty add-ins for making faces in the bowls of hot soup for your kid helper, such as black olives for eyes, and piping on sour cream faces, but since I made this to pack in school lunches I didn’t bother with all of that. I like to add a few Goldfish crackers to the lunchbox or some of my fresh naan. This is some hearty soup. From here I should be able to alter the basics and turn it into a nice Florentine or skip the cream and stir in Parmesan cheese after pureeing it to make it cheesy. I love how versatile tomato soup is! Read as I sing the praises of tomato soup! Perhaps by summer I will have come up with a gazpacho I can stand behind and stomach! Yay for tomato soup!