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Warm up with smoky tomato soupOriginally Published May 9, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated May 8, 2013 at 9:59 a.m.
Spring is in the air. The season is evident at the market, in the garden and in the occasional beautiful weather. Don’t kid yourself, though — spring has its share of cold and rainy days, too.
I was recently reminded of this on a chilly day recently when I attended a book-club event in my honor. A group of women cooked recipes from my book. Then we discussed the recipes and menus. We chatted at length about how comforting this tomato soup is on just such a day. We also agreed that it would be the ticket to get us through our heated anticipation of fresh summer tomatoes that will start arriving in a few more months.
I like to use canned fire-roasted tomatoes for a delicious smoky flavor and a welcoming wave of heat that is further enhanced by a dash of chipotle Tabasco sauce. If you can’t find the chipotle variety, try adding a dash of your favorite hot sauce. You’ll notice that a few tablespoons of flour are added to the vegetables to help thicken the soup. If you prefer, you can skip that step, but know that the soup will be a bit thinner. Another variation is to add a rind of Parmesan cheese to the soup while it is cooking. Remove the rind before adding the milk, and garnish each serving with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
This recipe makes enough for eight. Sometimes, when I want a more substantial soup, I add diced cooked chicken or cooked quinoa. Serve this as a starter or as part of a main course, along with your favorite grilled-cheese sandwich, bagel chips or garlic bread. If you’re lucky, you’ll have some left over to enjoy for lunch the next day.
Smoky Tomato Soup
Serves 6 to 8
1/4 cup olive oil
4 leeks, light-green and white parts only, cleaned and finely chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Three (14 1/2-ounce) cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes, with their juice
6 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, or to taste
5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 1/4 cups milk or half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco chipotle sauce, or to taste
3/4 cup croutons, preferably cheese or garlic, for garnish
In a medium soup pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes or until softened. Add the carrots and celery and cook for another 4 minutes, or until they begin to soften. Add the garlic and cook for a minute, or until slightly softened.
Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables, reduce the heat to low, and continue to cook, stirring
constantly for a minute or until the flour is thickened and incorporated into the vegetables. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar and broth, raise the heat to medium high, and bring to a simmer.
Partially cover the pan, reduce the heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and all the flavors are well blended. With an immersion blender, purée the soup, or if you prefer a finer texture, use a blender. (If using a blender, cool the soup so the top of the blender doesn’t come off. And hold the cover down so there won’t be any unexpected surprises.) If you want your soup totally smooth, pour it through a fine-mesh strainer after you have blended it.
Add the milk to the soup over medium heat, stirring to combine, and cook for another minute. Add the salt and chipotle sauce and taste for seasoning. If you prefer the soup thinner, add more milk or broth to reach the desired consistency.
Ladle the soup into soup bowls and garnish each bowl with a few croutons.
Advance prep: The soup may be prepared ahead through step 3, covered, and refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month. Defrost and warm the soup, and proceed with the recipe.
Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including Seriously Simple Holidays, and is also a James Beard award-winning radio-show host. Contact her at www.seriouslysimple.com.