Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tomato Soup with Rosemary

If one were to think of clothing as food, then tomato soup is as basic as socks and underwear. You know what I'm talking about, that favorite pair of flannel boxers ... and woolly, thick warm socks to pad around on cold floors during frigid winter. Or how about those wonderfully comfortable blue jeans lined with a striking design of plaid flannel!

If you have a tin of tomatoes, a bit of onion and garlic--even a rubbery carrot and celery stalk, you can make this. Yes, you can! I'm leaving it rather basic--other than the rosemary, simply because I have an abundance of it right now--which includes a blue flower or two. How lucky am I?

Below are some embellishments. But, for now, let's start with the basic, comfy, sock-and-underwear version. And, hopefully, it will be shared ... Flowers? You decide. Although I believe ... ingredients such as these ... are our planet's greatest flowers.
  • 1 yellow onion peeled and sliced, a good 8 - 10 oz.
  • 1-2 stalks celery, chopped, about 4 oz.
  • 1-2 carrots, chopped, about 2 oz.
  • 2-3 plump garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 pinches red-pepper flakes or to taste (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
  • 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar, preferably dark
  • 6-8 tablespoons butter (Yes ... you heard me!)
  • 1, 28-ounce can whole tomatoes or two 14.5 cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1, 14.5-ounce can low-sodium chicken stock
  • 3 to 4, 3-4-inch whole rosemary sprigs, unstripped
  • Salt, not too much--no more than 1/2 teaspoon
  • Freshly ground black pepper, 10 - 20 twists
  • Smoked Gouda for garnish
Using a low-medium heat, gently melt the butter without browning in a medium saucepan. Add the onion, celery, carrots, garlic cloves, red pepper flakes. Lovingly and slowly simmer for about 20 minutes. The idea here is simply to flavor the butter and to stew the veggies. Put your face over the pot. Inhale. Are you happy?

Add the tomatoes and tomato paste. Add salt and pepper. Stir. Turn up the heat a bit. Add the brown sugar. Lightly bruise the whole rosemary stems with a rolling pin/wine bottle/soda can to release the oils. Sink them into the tomato mixture. Bring to a slow simmer. Add chicken stock. Cover and continue to simmer for 20-30 minutes until tomatoes are mushy and cooked through. Taste and re-season as necessary.

Remove spent rosemary sprigs. Here, you have two options. If you have an immersion blender, blitz the mixture until smooth; or, remove to a blender and whirl until smooth. I have an immersion blender and blitz until everything is well blended. Then I like to force the mixture through a sieve ... to make it even smoother.

Return to pan. Taste. Add another sprig of rosemary. Maybe a few slices of garlic. If desired, swirl in a few tablespoons of whole milk, half-and-half, cream. Grate with some smoked cheese ... Actually, I'm not too impressed with uniform grates of cheese ... crumble some with your fingers ... Feel it. Love it. Share it.

If you wish to dress this up (bereft of blue flowers), here are your other accessories. Do not, under any circumstances, pine away if you do not have them on hand. And do not run to the store to buy them:
  • Saute the veggies in bacon or pancetta before adding the butter.
  • Add a can or two of white beans; preferably, seasoned and smoky.
  • Corn? Okra? Go for it.
  • Lightly brown diagonally-sliced hot dogs or sausages to multiply said equation.
  • Kale? Spinach? Go ahead.
  • Basil? By all means. One can not subtract from this recipe.
  • Do you live on the edge? Then you want a bit of citrus zest--lemon or orange.
  • Want to gild the lily? Want to thumb your nose at a Campbell's kind of world? Then cast your vote for cheese. A genuine winner. Smoked cheese. A swirl of tangy sour cream or yogurt. A sprinkle of goat cheese, flavored or plain. And, of course, blue cheese.

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