Tomato Basil Soup

Do you remember having soup as a kid? Wait, I should amend that and ask only those readers older than age 40. The reason I make that distinction is because younger readers grew up with more store-bought soup choices than older readers did. Soup is now easier to get.

When I was a kid, there was only one real choice when it came to store-bought soup and that was Campbell’s. And, there were only two flavor possibilities: tomato and chicken noodle. There was also cream of mushroom, but that wasn’t really to be eaten as a soup, but rather used in casseroles such as string-bean casserole or chicken dishes.

Today, it seems like anyone who makes any kind of food product also makes soup. Take for example, Progresso. It was around when I was a kid offering a spaghetti sauce. Swanson offered frozen dinners not broth. These days you can buy soup in a can, frozen soup, even soup in a bag or pouch and there are a variety of flavors.

In the day, chicken noodle was always the choice if you were sick. No matter whether you just had a cold or the flu, Mom would heat up some chicken noodle soup to make you feel better. Tomato soup was a meal, most often served with a grilled-cheese sandwich.

As a kid, I remember wondering why the tomato soup wasn’t red like tomatoes are. It struck me as a little odd. Have you ever ordered tomato soup in a restaurant or even made a batch and noticed it was more orange than red? Not carrot orange, but definitely not the deep red of tomatoes.

There is a reason for the color change and, no, it isn’t the addition of chicken stock. Although the onions, garlic and chicken stock will tend to dull the color a bit, what turns the soup more orange is the method used to puree it. Using a blender or food processor to puree soup incorporates more air into it and it will appear orange. The better method to keep the brighter, red color is to use a food mill or force it through a strainer.

Strain the soup through a strainer with reasonably large wholes first to break it down. If there are still seeds, push it through a finer mesh strainer. This will keep the color a deeper shade of red. Using a blender or food processor will affect the color and the texture, but not the flavor.

This recipe is easy and uses canned tomatoes. If you want to use fresh tomatoes, try cutting them in half lengthwise and roasting them on a sheet pan for 30 to 40 minutes first. Be sure when you add them to your pot to scrape all the juice off the pan, too. Now, make a grilled-cheese sandwich and some tomato soup and enjoy.

Tomato Basil Soup

From the kitchen of Chef David “Smitty” Smith

1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
1 20-oz. can tomatoes
1 12-oz. can tomato puree
24 oz. tomato juice
24 oz. chicken or vegetable stock
1 T butter
1 T oil
¼ to ½ bunch basil

Sauté the onion in the oil and butter on medium high until the onion starts to caramelize. Add the garlic and sauté a few more minutes to sweat the garlic. Add all the ingredients, except the basil, bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer. Let simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. If the soup is extremely thin, you can thicken it with roux.

Puree it by pushing it through a food mill or strainer. Season with salt and pepper and start with half the basil and add more to taste after giving it a few minutes to bloom.

Equal parts butter & flour

Melt the butter over medium heat. Slowly add the flour, whisking constantly. Cook about 2 to 3 minutes, while whisking.