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Cauliflower soupSoup is the socks of food. Rarely fashionable, unglamorous, utilitarian, nobody’s favourite. Outshone by gaudier desserts, manlier stews. And yet despite being the kind of thing you don’t devote much thought to, tucking into one can bring a warmth and simple pleasure that can light up your day. Let’s hear it for soup!

So, I don’t know if you’ve noticed from the recipes I post, but my kitchen is basic. No food processor, no blender, no electric mixer, no frills. If I’m going to try a new recipe, it has to be one that can be made with, pretty much, my bare hands and a stove. That rules out a lot of things, particularly in the soup universe. So I was stoked to find a cream of roast tomato soup that embraced a rustic, un-blended texture… and ecstatic to find that it’s make-me-every-week delicious.

Cream of roast tomato soup

tomato soup

(Adapted from Food 52)

  • 8 big tomatoes (try beefsteak) cored and quartered
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 1 cup cream
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 F (190 C). Lay out quartered tomatoes, cut side down, on a baking try lined with foil. Add garlic cloves (unpeeled) to tray, douse with some olive oil and salt. Roast for about an hour, or until the skins are puckered and flesh is soft and caramelised. Let the tomatoes cool.
  2. Peel tomatoes and add the pulp and flesh to a good-sized pot. This is a messy business so I just went ahead and squeezed and squished the tomatoes with my hands for good measure – you’re going to lay into them with a potato masher soon anyway. Pop the garlic from its skin and add to the pot. Over a medium heat, mash/bash/squash tomatoes and garlic into pulpy submission with a potato masher or your torture implement of choice. You could use a food processor here if you want, but keep it pulpy. When the mixture is hot (not boiling) stir in cream and season with salt and pepper. I can’t get enough of this soup so I even add ½ to ¾ cup of water at this point to extend it – it’s flavoursome enough to handle it. I let the rosemary and thyme hang out in the soup for a while too, though best to fish it out before serving. Unless you like making cheesy “it’s thyme!” puns during dinner.

We have developed an unhealthy (but heavenly) habit in our house of serving this soup with a decadent grilled cheese – ideally slices of Swiss between sourdough, fried (!) in butter on the stovetop.

BUT I have been planning for a long time to invest in a machine that can perform as many of the chopping/mixing/blending functions necessary to bring soups/cocktails/cakes/pesto/etc to my world. I had settled on a handheld immersion blender but before I hit the trigger on Amazon I happened past a Sunday flea market at a Park Slope school and, therein, a mint condition Cuisinart 5 cup blender for $10. The price was right. And now the fridge is sloshing with multiple leftover soups.

The new blender was christened with a minimalist cauliflower soup that had garnered rave reviews from the Food 52 community. With all the hype my expectations were high, perhaps too high for a dish consisting simply of a cauliflower, an onion and water. But there’s no denying it’s an elegant soup, miraculously creamy considering said ingredients, and costs all of $3 to make. The boy, arriving home famished after many hours of football watching (and its attendant beer consumption) declared poetically that “it tastes like being in a cloud”. I like that. With a drizzle of good olive oil, some toasted sourdough and a crisp salad (maybe a glass of grigio) this makes a very grown-up working-from-home lunch.

Cauliflower cloud soup

(Paul Bertolli’s Cauliflower Soup from Food 52)

  • 3 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 fresh head of cauliflower, broken into florets
  • Salt, fresh ground pepper and extra virgin olive oil to taste
  1. Warm olive oil in heavy bottomed pan. Sweat the onions – don’t let them brown – over low heat for 15 minutes.
  2. Add the cauliflower and ½ cup of water, salt to taste. Cover tightly and raise the heat slightly, stewing the cauliflower for 15-18 minutes until tender. Add 4 ½ more cups of water and bring the pot to a low simmer for 20 minutes uncovered.
  3. Puree the soup in batches to a smooth, creamy consistency. Let the blended soup stand for 20 minutes as the flavours develop.
  4. Thin the soup with another ½ cup hot water, then reheat. Serve hot with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and cracked pepper and sea salt.
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