Sunday, October 9, 2011

You Never Get Tired...

...of some foods.  Take a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of piping hot tomato soup.  Remember that when you were a kid?  I do.  White bread slathered with margarine, three slices of white American cheese, grilled just a little past the well-done side, cheese oozing, and for me, a bowl of Campbell's ABC Vegetable soup.  I could taste it before I even took a bite.  It was always 'right.'  Perfect comfort food; perfect for lunch or dinner, in summer or fall, on a bright day or with a storm raging outside.

The palate changes as you age.  You find new favourites and try new cuisines with tastes subtle or bold.  Then you think about the old stand-bys and what would happen if you tweaked the ingredients.  You think it's time to venture past that can of Campbell's and the loaf of Stroehmann bread.

It might look something like this:

Barbari bread replaces your white bread, Mozzarella and Fontina stand in for the American cheese, and (what would surely make most children cringe in disgust) a few leaves of spinach between the cheese.  You think it's high time you made your own tomato soup and find another use for the tomatoes you cannot stop roasting.

Still right, even on a sunny 85 degree day in Los Angeles.

Cream of Tomato Soup
(Adapted from a recipe on the kitchn)

2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
pinch of ground cloves
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups roughly chopped oven-roasted tomatoes 
pinch of baking soda
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock 
1 cup milk
tomato paste, as needed
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large pot on medium heat and cook celery and onions until soft.  Add basil and cloves.  Left flavours mingle for a minute or two.  Add flour and cook for an additional couple of minutes.  Add tomatoes, baking soda, and stock.

Lower heat to simmer and let cook for another 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove pot from heat and puree soup, either in batches in a blender or with an immersion blender.  When soup has been pureed, return pot to heat and add milk.  Stir to blend.  More milk or stock can be added to thin soup if it's too thick.  Add tomato paste, if necessary, to impart stronger tomato flavour.  Add salt and/or pepper to taste.  Can be topped with chopped fresh basil, a dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream, or homemade croutons.  

**Notes:  I used Roma tomatoes and low sodium chicken stock from Trader Joe's.  I ended up using 3 tablespoons of tomato paste, because I really wanted a strong tomato flavour.  I also topped the soup with a  healthy dose of creme fraiche.  For leftovers on Day Three, I added cooked spaghetti squash to the soup and topped it with homemade garlic croutons.

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