Soupalooza: Best tomato soup starts with a can
Seems to me, some convenience foods are good enough. Actually, some are more than good enough.
When I have a hankering for french fries, I am perfectly happy buying them from a certain golden-arched restaurant. When I crave a caramel macchiato, my friendly neighborhood barista is a master so why in the world would I bother attempting a homemade version?
Until recently, canned cream of tomato soup that's mmm-mmm good suited me just fine. On a frostbitten afternoon I don't need much more than an oh-so-gooey grilled cheese sandwich (Monterey Jack on wheat bread, thank you very much) and a can of soup.
Or so I thought.
This summer, faced with an abundance of garden-fresh tomatoes I actually made tomato soup from scratch and found it's almost -- almost -- as easy as opening that red and white can and is much more deeply flavored and satisfying.
I made my first batch at summer's end when I'd had my fill of salsa and pasta sauce. (Hard to imagine, I know, but there were a lot of tomatoes last year.)
My first attempt was OK, but strangely anemic. There just wasn't enough tomato flavor; definitely not enough to get me to give up the canned variety.
Besides, I felt like I had wasted perfectly lovely home grown tomatoes.
Yet I persisted, opting to roast home grown tomatoes for my next batch. That improved things a bit by adding more depth to the flavor; a dab of tomato paste also helped round out the taste and added some complexity to the dish.
I was on to something with the roasting, but the extra effort still wasn't quite worth it, especially when you consider the mess chopping tomatoes can produce.
Batch 3 started with canned roasted tomatoes, a dab of tomato paste and some sugar. The result tastes like my canned favorite, but on steroids; deep tomato flavor, but somehow richer. I used an immersion blender at the end, leaving a few chunks to add some texture, but that's completely up to you. You can make this soup as smooth or chunky as you like.
The beauty of this soup is you easily can go for a creamy version by adding dairy such as half and half or whole cream before blending, or skip the dairy and add more stock for a soup that's still satisfying, but packs fewer calories per serving.
Either way, homemade tomato soup is super easy and really mmm-mmm good. I'll even go one better and say mmm-mmm-mmm good.
• M. Eileen Brown is the Director of Innovation for the Daily Herald and an incurable soup-a-holic. She specializes in vegetarian soups and is starting a blog, www.soupalooza.com.