Thursday, May 15, 2014

Creamless Creamy Tomato Soup

We had dinner at Singer’s house last Wednesday.  She is a teacher and, this being the end of the academic year, Wednesday was a busy day for her.  She needed to prepare something quick and easy.  

No matter what it is, it’s always delicious.  

We are a grateful crew.

When you think quick and delicious, a few things come immediately to mind…a simple and reliable pasta sauce, anything grilled and, I would add, tomato soup.  There’s something uniquely satisfying, nostalgic and comforting about tomato soup; a trusty go to, kind of like your favorite pair of jeans, black pumps or LBD.  Here is an old Campbell’s Tomato Soup commercial reminding us that eating “soup everyday makes a souper you.”

The Campbell’s Kids agree.  

So do we.

Anyway, Cooks Illustrated borrowed an idea from the Italians (pappa al pomodoro) and came up with a creamy tomato soup recipe that doesn’t include a lick of cream.  You know, they are the test-kitchen masters of rising to a culinary challenge and they certainly did not disappoint with this perfect blend of tomato, onions, garlic, spices and white bread!  This recipe does not even include butter, but our friends in the test kitchen substituted olive oil to introduce an earthy edge.  Adding a bit of brown sugar dulled the acidity of the tomatoes, and brandy — a brew of wine and fruits — adds a bit of complexity and sweetness. 

The bread, added in pieces, disintegrates into the mixture and gives the tomato soup body and silkiness normally contributed by cream.  I have to say, I never would have thought of adding bread to tomato soup, but when you think about it, bread contains starches and starches naturally thicken.  

Creamless Creamy Tomato Soup
By:  Cook’s Illustrated, 2008

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling 
1 medium onion, chopped ( about 1 cup) 
3 medium garlic cloves, minced-pressed 
1 pinch hot red pepper flakes 
1 bay leaf 
2 (28 ounce) cans whole tomatoes with juice (I like San Marzano, less seeds and more sweetness)
1 tablespoon brown sugar 
3 large slice good-quality white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1-inch pieces 
2 cups chicken broth or 2 cups vegetable broth 
2 tablespoons brandy (optional) 
salt and pepper 
1/4 cup fresh chives, chopped 

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent, 3 to 5 minutes.  Stir in tomatoes and their juice. Using a potato masher, mash until no pieces bigger than 2 inches remain. Stir in sugar and bread; bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until bread is completely saturated and starts to break down, about 5 minutes. Remove bay leaf and discard.

Transfer half of soup to a blender, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and process until soup is smooth and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. Be extra careful when putting hot liquids in the blender. Never fill past 2/3 of the way full, and put a dish towel over the top just in case to protect your hands from getting burned by any hot liquid splashing up. 

Transfer to a large bowl and repeat with remaining soup and oil.  Rinse out Dutch oven and return soup to pot. Stir in chicken broth and brandy. Return soup to a boil and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle each portion with pepper and chives and drizzle with olive oil. 

Singer served the soup with grilled cheese, tomato and prosciutto to make the timeless twosome even more special. 

We cherish our Wednesday night dinners….we really do.

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