Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Homemade Tomato Soup

Back when I was a child, my mother used to buy huge amounts of tomatoes when they were in season and "stew" them for canning. I'm not sure how she did this as the process was of no interest to me, but I only knew the result was vats of smelly, wet, over-cooked tomatoes and jar after jar of them which were put in the cellar for later consumption. When she used those tomatoes, it was always in a manner which pretty much ended up with us simply eating the tomatoes as they were right out of the jar. I think one of her favorite ways was to slop some of them on bread with nothing else.

I love tomatoes and I eat fresh ones with a little salt and pepper several times a week. They're very good for you because they're full of vitamin C. When I was a kid, I'd eat them like apples (and without salt). However, my mother's methods of preparing and serving canned tomatoes put me off of them for decades. Since fresh tomatoes are relatively expensive in Tokyo (about 80-100 yen each unless you get a good deal and buy them in bulk), using fresh ones for cooking can get really pricey. Last week, I saw a can of "Frana" Italian tomatoes imported for Meiji for 100 yen and decided that I'd make a soup recipe I ran across via the Kitchn web site.

As is so often the case though, modifications were necessary because of differences in ingredients in Tokyo, free time, my personal tastes, and expenses. I'm not a fan of celery, and it costs a fortune here anyway, and I can't buy canned chicken soup stock nor get my hands on a whole chicken to make some (or even chicken with bones other than tiny little pigeon-sized drumsticks). I decided to omit the celery and substitute chicken consomme soup for the stock. I think it may actually have turned out more flavorful for using the dehydrated cubes instead of real stock. I used Knorr (the type sold in green and yellow boxes with a white chicken graphic on it), but any type will probably do.

One of my students bought a case of Campbell's tomato soup at Costco awhile back and gave me two cans because it was too sweet for her. I'm not a big fan of Campbell's soup, but at least I have sampled it recently enough to compare this homemade stuff to the usual dreck and this is much, much nicer. We had the soup with grilled sandwiches, but I think it'd be really tasty with bread or toast for breakfast.

Tomato Soup:

1 tbsp. butter
1/3 medium onion (or 1/2 of a small one as the original recipe stated)
1/3 medium carrot
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp. dried parsley
2 cubes chicken consomme
2 cups near boiling water
dash (about 1/4 tsp.) coarse black pepper
salt and cream to taste

Melt the butter in a heavy bottom sauce pan then saute the onion until softened. Add the carrot and cook for about minutes. Add the dried parsley and let it "cook" for about thirty seconds. Stir in the parsley and add the tomatoes. While the tomatoes and vegetables are heating, dissolve the consomme cubes in the water and add it to the pot. Add the black pepper and simmer the soup until the carrots are tender. This should take about a half hour.

Remove the pot from the stove and use a hand mixer or food processor to purée the vegetables to an even consistency. A hand mixer is better because you can directly work in the pot and it's not as messy (and the soup stays hotter). Taste the soup and add salt as you feel is necessary (I added 1/2 tsp.). Depending on how potent you like your soup, add cream. I added two tablespoons of cream, but the original recipe called for up to 1/4 cup.

My husband is not a fan of tomatoes or tomato soup, but he gamely gave this a try because he's caught a cold and I told him it'd be good for him. He said it tasted "sharp" because of the strong tomato flavor. I'm guessing that more cream would have taken the edge off of it, but he declined to have it diluted more. I loved this as it was, and probably could have skipped the cream completely. This was so good that I'm sure to make it again some time. It's also very cheap, even if you're buying the ingredients in Tokyo.


Kelly said...

Can you clear something up for me? Hubby and i are aguing about tomatoes at the moment. I say it's a fruit and he says it's a vegetable. He says he learnt in school that it was a vege, i learnt in school it is a fruit. When i've looked online no one gives conclusive evidence one way or the other.

I love tomato in salad but i am not a fan of it in soup or as a drink.

Orchid64 said...

Depending on how you look at it, it's both or either. Botanically, it's a fruit because it is grown like a berry. In cooking though, it's a vegetable because it's not sweet. From a botanical viewpoint, anything with seeds is a fruit (including things like cucumbers).

"Vegetable" appears to be a non-scientific category of food. It's just an arbitrary way to separate food used in cooking one way from food that tends to be used another way. It's sort of like dividing foods into "main dishes" and "appetizers".

Girl Japan said...

Oh Orchid, you are teasing me here with good eats, I envision a nice crusted toast with Gouda cheese melted.. as I dip away in that luscious bowl of soup. I like tats for their iron, and when I feel I am not getting enough veggies into my diet I drink 100%, sometimes I heat it up in the microwave and pretend I am drinking soup... ah.. lovely dish Orchid.

Orchid64 said...

Hi, GirlJapan, and thanks for your kind words and for commenting. Right now, I have a cold, and I made a big pot of this soup. It's an immensely good perk-me-up when you're sick.

I ran out of chicken consomme and made it with beef and it's just as good, though the beef cubes are smaller so I had to use 5 of them for a double batch instead of 4.