As we head towards autumn (boy, has this summer gone by quickly!), and a whole new and wonderful palette of ingredients, I thought I’d share a favorite recipe using heirloom or dry farmed Early Girl tomatoes, which will continue to be available through October at least—so you’ll have plenty of time to try this great soup. Please, don’t make it with artificially ripened supermarket tomatoes, you will be disappointed in the results.
Yield: 6 servings
- 2 lbs. (about 6 medium ) ripe, flavorful summer tomatoes, any color
- 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil or butter
- 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
- 2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
- 2 Tbs. flour or 2 Tbs. raw white rice
- 6 big basil leaves, coarsely chopped* (optional)
- 2-3 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth or water
- salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
- garnish options: a few tablespoons heavy cream or sour cream , chopped chives, scallions, basil, or mint
Peel tomatoes by removing the stem, scoring the base and either placing tomatoes in a pot of boiling water for about 15 seconds, until the skins loosen a bit, or by placing each tomato in turn directly over a gas burner turned to high until the skin blisters. Remove skins, halve tomatoes and squeeze out seeds over a strainer placed in a bowl, to catch the juices. Set aside tomatoes and juices, and discard seeds.
Warm the oil in a heavy 4-5 quart pot. Add the chopped onion and celery, stir and cover. Cook over medium heat, checking and stirring every minute or two, until onion becomes translucent and celery softens. Do not brown vegetables. Add flour or rice, stir to incorporate and cook for 1 minute. Add tomatoes and basil, and cook about ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Tomatoes will soften and break apart. Add 2 cups broth or water, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook about ten more minutes. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. You may not need salt if using canned broth.
Transfer to blender in batches, (or use a hand-held immersion blender) and process until smooth. If you think you’ve missed a lot of seeds when you prepared the tomatoes, you can strain the soup. Re-heat, taste for salt and pepper, and adjust thickness with more broth or water if necessary. For cream of tomato soup, bring soup to a simmer and stir in about 1/4 cup heavy cream right before serving. Do not boil after adding the cream, as this may curdle the soup.
Garnish as desired and serve hot. The soup will keep for up to one week in the refrigerator, and may be frozen (do not add cream) for a longer period of time.
*here’s a great cooking hint—to keep your bunches of basil fresh, put them like a bouquet of flowers into a glass or small vase, and then pop a plastic bag over the top of the leaves, creating a “green house” effect. They’ll last a week that way!