Monday, March 7, 2011

Tomato Soup

So remember how a little while ago I wrote about some blue cheese crackers that I was eager to eat with a bowl of tomato soup? Well, after I wrote that sentence I couldn’t get the idea out of my mind but there was one teeny problem with executing this plan, namely that I didn’t have a great tomato soup recipe.

The issue that I have with most tomato soup is that it is way too rich and intense to be enjoyed by the bowlful. It works well as a dipping sauce for grilled cheese sandwiches or breadsticks but that’s about it. I’ve found a few exceptions to this generalization, one of which is the tomato bisque posted below.

I found this recipe on a food blog and was immediately intrigued by the inclusion of butternut squash puree. In the same way that the potato in that broccoli cheese chowder recipe added some depth and thickness to that soup, so does the squash in this tomato one. It doesn’t add a particular flavor but keeps a soup that can easily become reminiscent of pasta sauce firmly anchored in spoon-and-bowl territory. Which isn’t to say that it wouldn’t be great paired with a grilled cheese sandwich, but for someone who wanted to enjoy her soup with just a few crackers, it was a perfect fit.

Tomato Bisque (adapted from

I made a couple of changes to the original recipe, posted here. The first was to reduce the amount of sugar it called for. I added half the original amount (1 tablespoon) when I first made it and I found that it gave the soup a sweet flavor that was totally not what I was going for. So from now on I'm just going to add enough sugar to take some of the acidic bite out of the tomatoes. I also switched up the cooking directions a bit so more flavor from the various seasonings gets infused into the soup.

1 medium butternut squash (for about 1 1/2 cups cooked squash)
1 tablespoon butter
¼ cup finely diced onion
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 can (14.5 ounces) Italian-style stewed tomatoes (or 1 can stewed tomatoes with 1 ½ teaspoons Italian seasoning)
1 cup chicken stock ( I used broth)
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 cup nonfat half-and-half (I used 1% milk and it worked beautifully)
Tapatio or other hot sauce to taste

1) Cut the butternut squash in half, lengthwise, so you have two long pieces. Scoop out the seeds and pulp from each half.
2) Place both sides cut-side down in a 9X13-inch pan. Add enough water to come about 1/4-inch up the sides of the squash. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for about an hour, or until squash is very tender when pierced with the fork in several places. If the flesh doesn’t easily give to the pressure of the fork, continue cooking in ten minute increments, and testing again, until the squash is tender.
3) Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the squash to a large cutting board or plate. Let it cool about 15 minutes before scooping out the flesh. If preparing the day before, scoop out the flesh and place in a tupperware. Let cool completely. Cover and refrigerate until using it in the soup. If using the squash immediately, scoop the squash into the blender.
4) While the squash is cooking, in a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and saute the onion until soft and translucent. Add the minced garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, chicken broth, salt, basil, and sugar and let simmer for about ten minutes.
5) Add the tomato mixture to the squash in the blender (or, if you have an immersion blender, add the squash to the tomato mixture and blend in the pot). Process until smooth. Pour the blended mixture back into the saucepan and add the half and half or milk. Heat over medium-low until the soup is warm (but don’t let it boil or simmer to avoid the cream curdling). Serve immediately and add hot sauce to taste, if desired.

P.S.- I also tried Mel's split pea and barley soup last week and it was delicious. Highly recommended.

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