|Tomato Soup & Fresh bread for lunch. Life is good.|
When I was a kid, I didn’t like tomato soup. At all. Sunday afternoons, we’d get home from church, and standard fare would be tomato soup and open-faced grilled cheese sandwiches (definitely better than some versions): Thick round slices of homemade bread topped with a generous hunk of Tillamook orange cheddar cheese, and often finished off with slice of summer sausage (metwurst) before being grilled at high temps in the oven until the cheese melted, started to bubble, and turned all lovely and crisp around the edges. The sandwiches were great and I happily ate those. The tomato soup, on the other hand, was not. Ah, Campbells! What did you do to us? Someone (not me – I refused to touch the stuff), would pull out several cans of Campbell’s tomato soup from the cupboard, empty it into and appropriate-sized pot, and heat up for everyone else to enjoy. Condensed soup out of the can. High in sugar (why? cheap flavor). High in sodium (same reason). High in vitamin C (thanks to the tomatoes). You know you can do better than that.
It wasn’t until I had passed my third decade and was sent off to complete a project in Bielefeld, Germany for a month that I finally had tomato soup worth talking about. I stayed, for the duration of the project, in the Mercure Hotel at the center of town, and because I was working long hours, ate a good number of my meals there too. Hotel restaurants don’t typically change their menus very often, and so one night, having exhausted all the other menu items a few times too many, I decided I had nothing to lose by ordering the tomato soup. A white bowl was placed in front of me with a few fresh, chopped tomatoes, some roasted pumpkin seeds and chopped basil. Over this was poured a steaming hot, fragrant tomato soup. I dug right in and ate with relish, only coming up for air when the bowl was empty and my stack of German bread (oh my how I love German bread) was gone. A revelation!
Since then I’ve made many tomato soups, and it’s a simple meal I love when time is short but I want something warm and savory to fill my belly, as I did last week while working from home and needing something quick for lunch. This is a soup that needs very little coddling, comes together quickly, and is deeply satisfying. Leftovers, if there are any, taste just as good the second day, and of course you could freeze it – though thawing & reheating would probably take the same amount of time as making it fresh. The red pepper flakes add a nice hum to the soup and the vinegar adds depth. You could leave either or both of them out, but I highly recommend adding them in – it makes a big difference in the overall flavor of the soup. And I guarantee you that either way, it’ll make you a lot happier than the aforementioned Campbell’s soup.
Let’s dig in.
|Simple Tomato Soup|
In a pot over medium heat, pour:
2 tablespoons olive oil
Heat for about 30 seconds and then add:
one onion, chopped
1/4 cup (about 1 stalk) celery, diced
Saute the onion mixture for 3-5 minutes until softened. Add:
1 bottle (650 g) tomato passata (or two 15 oz cans of tomato sauce)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Bring the mixture to a boil; reduce to a simmer; cook 5 minutes. Blend the mixture in the pot using an immersion blender, or carefully transfer it to a blender and blend until smooth.
Serve garnished with a drizzle of olive oil and a few fresh basil leaves.