I’m so fascinated by other people’s genius and recipe-making creativity that I have lately found myself NOT making up recipes like I used to. There are just so many amazing chefs to look to for brilliance that there’s almost no need to make something up off the cuff. And yet somehow, while reading recipes and thinking about spring and the upcoming summer, I found myself planting tomato seeds and herb seeds. Inevitably this led to thinking about ways to use these anticipation-inducing foodstuffs and I thought of tomato soup. Yes. Another soup.
My big problem with bought tomato soup is that it so often tastes like thickened V-8 juice which I just can’t stand. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll slurp up some tomato soup with a grilled cheese in hand any day, but it’s just always lackluster and sort of a waste of calories. I love, adore, crave, and yearn for awesome tomatoes. My grandparents used to grow them at their place in Virginia…YUM. I just saw the first sprouts of my tomatoes (cherry and roma) and while I’m anxious to try making soup with them, for now I’m more than content with canned san marzano tomatoes. This soup is intensely tomato-flavored. There is no water or cream in this soup to mellow out the tomato so anyone who is ho-hum about tomatoes will probably find this too rich. Chad and Meredith fall into this category. I groaned and ate spoonful after spoonful while they ate a bit and pushed the bowls away, claiming it was “too tomato-y.”
I should have known.
You knowing food enthusiasts might notice that I’m not using DOP San Marzanos. I’m using the New Jersey grown tomatoes that are grown from the same seeds. I’ve had both and I’m happy to sacrifice authenticity for the 40% in savings. I use these tomatoes a lot and I’m not about to spend that much money on canned food. Sorry America.
1 14 oz. can of yummy tomatoes (Whole, crushed, or diced work equally well. Here I used crushed.)
1 shallot or onion, whole
1-3 cloves garlic, whole
1 C red wine (whaaaaat? I know)
3 Tbsp butter
pinch of salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
handful of grated parmesan
8 basil leaves
3 Tbsp olive oil
Dump the tomatoes in a medium saucepan and add the butter, onion, garlic, and wine. Bring this to a simmer and stir in salt and pepper. Let this simmer for at least 1 hour…while you prep everything else!
Go outside to your herb garden (because you just started one outside too, right?) and pluck 8-12 basil leaves. Wash em off and add them to a sauté pan with the olive oil. Let the basil leaves fry in the hot oil. Your kitchen should smell incredible by this point. You’re welcome.
Preheat the oven to 375. Grate a handful or so of parmesan cheese. I finished off the rest of my parmesan reggiano and made the rest of the tuiles with some Argentinean parmesan that I was really curious about in the grocery store. They were both good but the Argentinean parmesan was sort of Gruyère-y. Put little spoonfuls of cheese onto a silpat or similar mat (mine are Kitchenaid brand and Meagan got them for me for Christmas!). Place in the oven at 375 until you see that they are crispy and thoroughly melted. The time varies here.
When the basil leaves and parmesan crisps are done, transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate but don’t get rid of that basil-infused oil. Wait anxiously for the soup to keep simmering. Tap your foot. Wring your hands. Stick your head over the pot a zillion times to smell the yumminess. When the soup is done simmering, fish out the onion and garlic (or don’t if you can’t find them…like I couldn’t find the garlic-ha!) and use an immersion blender to purée the tomatoes. Use a regular blender or food processor if you don’t have an immersion blender.
Pour the soup in a bowl and top with a tuile and a basil leaf. Sprinkle on a few drops of the basil oil and chow down. You can also break the parmesan and basil over the tops–you can get away with eating more this way. The parmesan tuiles will just barely melt in the soup and the basil will be mellow and less intense than fresh basil. This is why I use the basil oil too. You get the light basil flavor from the fried basil and more light flavor from the oil.
It is the most flavorful tomato soup you can imagine and the wine and basil and onion flavors are subtle but really add something. Oh and the garlic is divine. Tomatoes and garlic are bffs after all. This soup would be perfect as a side to a pesto pasta or a thick steak. I must confess that it is very intense for a main course but for lunch with a pasta and some bread it would be awesome.
I, of course, ate a huge bowl and an extra tuile after…just because.