Comfort. By the time March rolls around in the Midwest, I am looking for comfort from the cold in everything. I want a big fleecy woobie (blanket made from fleece with a colorful pattern) around me at all times. My weekend wardrobe consists of something with elastic around the waist and fuzzy material. (Yes, I wear pajama pants around the house but ONLY the house.) And all of my meals must be HOT and give me comfort from the cold!
A comfort food is defined as a food which invokes a positive emotion in your brain. You don’t consciously remember when you first ate this food but you do know that it gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling inside that you crave. (I will not give into the sexist stereotypes of women only wanting chocolate!)
One of my favorite wintertime comfort foods is tomato soup. From the first spoonful, it seems to warm me from my head to my toes The tomato-y richness is satisfying and doesn’t make me want anything else. (Unless we are talking bout a grilled cheese with said soup…)
I love the smooth tomato soup that most of us grew up with from Campbell’s. It is that simple, tomato-y taste that ignites my craving. And most of us have a can in the pantry.
So Barb, why don’t you just let us make a store-bought can of soup? You can do that and I would not snub my nose at you. (Okay, I might.) But what about trying to make your own?
It isn’t that hard and the flavor will have certain soup companies knocking on your door for a bowl. (I am on Neighborhood Watch, I need to say I am not encouraging anyone to allow strangers into their homes.)
I have made a lot of homemade tomato soups. Each time I make it, it has never fulfilled my comfort craving UNTIL this past week. I talked to one of my cooking pals and he told me a simple hint, he told me to put the soup in a chinois after I blend it! (A chinois is a fine, conical sieve. If you don’t have one, use any fine mesh sieve you have in the house or eat lumpy soup!)
The other thing I learned is that a little contrast in texture and flavor is nice. I was impressed with the presentation that Michael Jordan’s Steak House did during restaurant week with their delicately roasted tomatoes in the center of the creamy tomato soup. (Impressed so much that I had to imitate it in my own kitchen.) It gave an unexpected sweet bite to compliment the creamy tomato goodness.
Hopefully the weather will warm up this March so I can stop engulfing myself in fluffy thermal clothes, but until then I will keep trying to master all of my comfort foods. (Project Meatloaf: Coming Soon!)
Creamy Tomato Soup with Roasted Tomatoes
1 sweet onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pint grape tomatoes
2 28-ounce cans of plum tomatoes (Did you do any canning last year?)
14 ounces chicken broth
Salt and pepper
Optional: Heavy cream or chopped basil
Oven at 375.
Mix grape tomatoes with about one tablespoon of olive oil sprinkle lightly with salt.
Place tomatoes on a large baking sheet with parchment paper and roast for 40 minutes. (At the halfway point, stir them up and check their progress. If they are browning too fast, check again every ten minutes.)
Meanwhile, in a large soup pot, heat another tablespoon of olive oil. Saute the onions until they are nicely carmalized. (Don’t burn them or you will make your soup bitter.)
Add garlic and cook until fragrant.
Add plum tomatoes and break them down with wooden spoon. (You are going to blend all of this at the end so it is okay if you can’t mash them completely.) Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Add Chicken broth.
Simmer for 20 minutes.
With an immersion blender (or regular blender) puree soup and strain mixture in your chinois. (The soup is going to be hot so be careful and do this in batches.) There should be about a half cup of pulp leftover that you can pitch.
The soup should be smooth. Taste it for seasoning and add salt if necessary.
DING! The roasted tomatoes should be done at this point and your soup is ready to serve.
Place a small mound of roasted tomatoes in the bowl and pour some of the smooth tomato soup around it. Swirl in a bit of cream or sprinkle with basil if you desire but this is one soup where less is more. (I added cream and kind of regretted it afterwards because it didn’t’ need it. Let the tomatoes shine, it will be worth it.)
Yes, the blending/straining part of this recipe is a little tedious but it is well worth it. Trust me! (If you really won’t do these steps, at least add some roasted tomatoes to your canned soup.)
I am hoping this month’s weather warms up but until then I will eat my soup in my monkey jammies under my woobie.