For this week’s post, I’d like to share with you one of my favorite summer soups which puts summer’s bounty of tomatoes and basil to great use. I happened upon beautiful plum tomatoes at my local Costco at the bargain price of $3.49 for a two pound package so I knew it was time to make this soup. This easy recipe was originally published in “The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook,” by Ina Garten (#inagarten) and was later featured on Ina’s Food Network TV show (#foodnetwork). It’s a great do ahead recipe with several convenient points where you can stop and resume later. Served hot or cold, you’ll find this to be a versatile first course for your summer menus. The recipe is popular with 350 reviews at this time and an overall five star rating. You can find it here.
The first step in the process is roasting the plum tomatoes, which provides a richer flavor. If I need to prepare the soup in stages, I find it is OK roast and then refrigerate the fresh tomatoes the night before I want to finish the soup. Just be sure to capture all of the yummy juices from the roasting process. One other helpful hint is to line your baking sheet with parchment paper which makes for easier clean up.
When you’re ready to proceed, you’ll sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil, and then add the remaining ingredients to the pot. You’ll note that the recipe calls for the addition of 28 ounces of canned tomatoes plus the ones you roasted. I use the Pomi brand of chopped tomatoes in my cooking. These are among the highest rated “canned” tomatoes although they actually come in a box. I find this packaging to be an advantage because when I need less than 28 ounces I can close the box and put the remainder in the refrigerator to use later. They are a bit more expensive so I stock up whenever I see them on sale. I also use a product called Better than Bouillon instead of chicken broth or stock. I keep a number of flavors on hand at all times, and consider the beef, chicken, and vegetable flavors to be kitchen staples. Once the soup has simmered, you’ll want to let it cool for safer handling – another potential stopping point if you’re making this ahead of time.
Here is where I diverge from the Contessa’s approach as I love a thick creamy soup. For my variation no cream is required, so there’s no need to feel guilty about the sinfully smooth texture. While running the soup through my food mill, I periodically scrape the bits which are stuck to the underside of the food mill into my work bowl (I use an 8 cup Pyrex measuring cup). I then pour the soup into my Vitamix and blend until smooth. One of the beauties of the Vitamix is that not only does it get the soup really smooth, it can actually reheat the soup for you so you can just pour it into your bowls ready to serve. Alternatively, if the soup was refrigerated and you’re planning to serve it hot, then you might want to reheat it on the stove since a full recipe would need to be blended in two batches. I like to top the soup off with a bit of pesto – either home made or store bought as a delicious finishing touch.
P.S. I have from time to time made half the recipe which works well, or if I make a full recipe I will freeze some to enjoy later. This soup freezes very well. I use glass freezer containers and reheat the soup in the microwave. Enjoy!