Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Gift 2009: Creamless Creamy Tomato Soup

Every Christmas, I try to make a treat for neighbors who help me make it through my day-to-day life. However, I am not a baker, and though I LOVE it when others bring me cookies and treats, some days around the holidays, I think it would be so handy to have a quick homemade dinner (that I didn't have to make).

This year, I wanted to make pesto because it can be used for so many things, but when pine nuts cost $7.99 for a little over a cup, plus the copious amounts of good quality olive oil and parmesan cheese, I decided that may be a little pricey.

Then, inspiration hit...I could make this tasty tomato soup and put a little pesto on the side. Have you tried 1 (or 2) teaspoons of pesto in tomato soup? DELICIOUS!

And, it's a gift that has red and green! How festive! I know, I know, just call me, "Martha."

Creamless Creamy Tomato Soup
Cook's Illustrated

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling I only use about 2 T at the beginning; the recipe says to add more as you're blending the tomatoes, but I haven't found that to be necessary to the creaminess or flavor-enhancing
1 medium onion, chopped
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
Pinch hot red pepper flakes (optional) I haven't done this
1 bay leaf
2 (28 oz) cans whole tomatoes packed in juice I buy mine diced
1 T brown sugar I do 1 1/2 T brown sugar
3 large slices good-quality sandwich bread, crusts removed, torn into 1-inch pieces I measured 3/4 c of fresh bread crumbs that I've run through the food processor and keep in the freezer
2 C low-sodium chicken broth I think homemade stock makes the difference here because there are so few ingredients
2 T brandy (optional) I haven't done this
Table salt and ground black pepper I left out the pepper for purely aesthetic reasons and thought it still tasted fine
1/4 c chopped fresh chives I think this is unnecessary when adding the pesto

Heat 2 T oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion, garlic, red pepper flakes (if using), and bay leaf. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent, 3-5 minutes.

Stir in tomatoes and their juice. Using potato masher, mash until no pieces bigger than 2 inches remain (this is why I just buy the tomatoes already diced).

Stir in sugar and bread; bring soup to boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until bread is completely staurated and starts to break down, about 5 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf.

Transfer half of soup to blender. Add 1 T oil and process until soup is smooth and creamy, 2-3 minutes. Sometimes, I add this, but often, I don't. There's usually a little fat in the chicken broth, so I count that instead. Transfer to large bowl and repeat with remaining soup and oil.

Rinse out Dutch oven and return soup to pot. Stir in chicken broth and brandy (if using). Return soup to boil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve soup in individual bowls. Sprinkle each portion with pepper and chives and drizzle with olive oil. I omit this last sentence and instead add 1-2 teaspoons per bowl of this pesto. Serve with grilled cheese sandwiches for an easy dinner.

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