Cutting out the middleman

Campbell’s tomato soup and grilled cheese is one of my favorite comfort foods. Then my friend Jennifer had to go and make me this homemade Roasted Tomato Basil Soup from the Food Network. As huge of a fan of soup as I am, I don’t make it that often. With this recipe in my arsenal however, I can see myself cutting out the middleman and probably quite a bit of sodium.

Obviously the best time for this recipe is late-summer when tomatoes and basil are practically free (from your local gardener). I was happily surprised to find a great deal on some plum tomatoes at the market this weekend. They were a bit beat up, but I trimmed out the bad spots. The soup probably cost me a total of $10 to make, only because it requires four cups of basil, which is about $2.99/bunch at Wegmans right now. I had the rest of the ingredients around the house. It yielded about 10 cups of soup. I broke half of the batch up into single-serve containers for lunches and froze the other half.

Also, I used up some old bread I had in the freezer to make up some homemade croutons. I basically just cut the bread into bite-sized squares, coated them evenly in olive oil and tossed in garlic powder and fresh herbs. I baked them on a cookie sheet for about 20 minutes on 350 degrees, flipping them about half way through, until they were crispy.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 3 pounds of plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (I used more to give it a little extra kick)
  • 28-ounces of canned plum tomatoes with their juice
  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 quart chicken stock or water (I used water)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the tomatoes in ¼ cup olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread the tomatoes in one layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.

In a stockpot over medium heat, sauté the onions and garlic with the remainder of the olive oil, the butter and red pepper flakes for ten minutes or until the onions start to brown. Add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme and water (or stock). Add the oven roasted tomatoes, along with the liquid leftover from baking.

Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. The recipe calls for passing the mixture through a food mill fitted with the coarsest blade. Seeing as though I don’t have a food mill, I just used my blender. Be sure to remove the centerpiece of the cap on the blender and cover it with a towel to prevent the heat from forcing the lid off. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot or cold.

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