Tag Archives: soup

Attack of the Tomatoes, Part 1

This is just one day's worth of tomatoes from my little urban garden.

It’s the middle of July and my vegetable garden is beginning to overflow with tomatoes. I’ve also got some cucumbers that went from cute little green pups to slightly obscene 14-inch-long two-pounders overnight, but that’s another story. Right now I am focusing each day on what to do with the tomatoes while they are perfect and fresh, so that I can enjoy the memories in January when I am over the winter euphoria.

Because it’s July, it’s also bloody hot, so we are mostly eating a lot of raw tomatoes: in salad with a nice vinaigrette, on bruschetta, or just munching on them like apples or cherries, depending on the size. As usual, I’m growing several varieties this year, including Grape, Strawberry, Roma, Better Boy, Big Beef, and, of course, a wonderful heirloom tomato called Old German, which I plant each year in honor of my in-laws (and maybe now my husband, since he’s turned 50).

But sometimes you just wanna cook, so I opted last night to make a Tomato and Basil Bread Soup, which is delicious served hot, but also is terrific cold if you can chill it for about three hours before serving. I really hadn’t thought before to make a bread soup during the summer, but I recently had an amazing version of this soup at Acqua Al 2, a wonderful new Italian restaurant on Capitol Hill (a real favorite of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and many other members of Congress from both sides of the aisle), and it reminded me that it would be a great recipe for using up some of the tomatoes taking up real estate on my kitchen counter.

Even though I actually had to turn on the stove to make this beauty, the cooking time is pretty quick, so your kitchen shouldn’t get too overheated. We had this as a main course, so I included garbanzo beans for a little extra protein, because that’s what I had on hand, but it would work great with cannelini beans or even chunks of Italian sausage (make sure it’s already cooked when you add it to the soup). Whether you grow your own tomatoes or pick them up at the farmer’s market, this soup is a great way to enjoy summer’s bounty, and is particularly good when followed by a glass of chilled Limoncello. Buon appetito!

Tomato and Basil Bread Soup

1 baguette, slightly stale and sliced into 1-inch slices

4 cups vegetable stock

3 cups fresh tomatoes, seeded and roughly chopped

1/2 cup packed basil leaves, finely sliced into a chiffonade

2 cups cooked garbanzo beans (canned is fine — just rinse in cold water)

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 TB balsamic vinegar

Olive oil

Salt & pepper to taste

Grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Toasted baguette slices and fresh basil for garnish (optional)

In a large stockpot, heat 3 TB olive oil over medium-low heat, then add baguette slices and stir them around to coat in the olive oil. Allow them to brown lightly, turning down heat to low if they are cooking quickly and drizzling with a little more olive oil. Add the tomatoes, stock, and garlic and stir all the ingredients together; the bread will start to break apart, thickening the soup into something akin to a stew.

Let the soup come to a simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes. Add the chick peas, basil, vinegar, and salt and pepper and allow to simmer for a further 5 minutes. Serves 4.

To serve hot: Ladle into bowls and garnish each, if you wish, with 2 toasted baguette slices, a tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese, some fresh basil, and a little drizzle of olive oil.

To serve cold: Allow the soup to cool to room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 – 3 hours before serving. Garnish as above, or just top with a dollop of mascarpone.



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The Cure for the Common Cold

A long cold winter has required a lot of bundling up, but even the thickest Gore-Tex can't always keep the bacteria at bay.

I have had a sick child at home the past couple of days, which is unusual. She’s pretty tough, so when she complains of a scratchy throat or a headache, I tend to pay attention. Of course, it turned out to be strep throat and an ear infection, so I bundled her off to bed with some DVDs and my grandfather’s cure-all — a spoonful of honey mixed with lemon juice — to accompany the antibiotics.

It will sound strange, but I used to love being sick when I was a kid. My mom was the best caregiver; she would rub my achy back with cool rubbing alcohol, fix my favorite sick food (a soft boiled egg with cubes of toasted bread mashed into it), and let me curl up in the middle of her bed. For a sore throat, my dad would make me very thin milkshakes with coffee ice cream; that cold creaminess calmed my throbbing tonsils and the sugar perked me up enough to keep me awake during reruns of “Gilligan’s Island”.

The only part I did not like about being sick was the Vitamin D Cure, which involved sitting outside in the sunshine for 15 minutes. This was okay during the time we lived in Florida, but I still vividly remember having a bad cold at my grandmother’s house in New Jersey one winter and being made to sit in an aluminum lawn chair in the middle of the back yard wrapped up in a blanket, my breath hanging in a fog around my head.

It was cloudy today, so my daughter was saved from the Vitamin D Cure. Instead, I opted for some extra vitamin C and a shot of antioxidants by whipping up a chilled strawberry soup. This is a lovely little soup that I usually make as a starter for Christmas dinner; it is pretty and festive and makes a nice palate cleanser before eating a heavy meal. Even better, it takes about five minutes to make.

Chicken soup may be the standard when battling the common cold, but I'd stack my strawberry soup against it any day.

I make my strawberry soup with frozen berries. I am a big fan of frozen produce, which tends to retain more vitamin content because of being frozen quickly after being picked. This is not to say that I don’t prefer fresh broccoli over frozen, but some fruits and vegetables are good when frozen, at least for certain purposes. A strawberry soup is kind of like a soupy version of a smoothie, but just a bit more sophisticated. I like to soak the frozen berries in a couple of tablespoons of red wine for a few minutes, although white wine and even champagne are terrific alternatives. If you don’t want to use wine, then substitute a little orange juice.

Most importantly, a bowl of strawberry soup feels like a treat, and, when you are sick and grumpy and not feeling quite like yourself, then that is the time when you deserve a treat. Get well soon.

Chilled Strawberry Soup

1 bag of frozen strawberries

1/4 cup red wine (a Pinot works really well)

1 cup apple cider (use extra if needed to get the right consistency)

2 TB honey

1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

1/2 tsp. dried tarragon

Soak the frozen strawberries in the wine for 5 minutes, then pour them into a food processor or blender with the honey and 1/2 cup of the apple cider. Whiz together on high speed until the strawberries begin to smooth and add more cider a bit at a time until you get a thin soupy texture. Add the tarragon and vinegar and mix again for a few seconds. Strain the soup through a sieve into a bowl, using the back of a spoon to help push the mixture through the sieve if it gets clogged. Serve in a bowl garnished with a spoonful of creme fraiche or plain yogurt if desired.

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