Monday, October 1, 2012

Creamy Tomato Bisque (without the cream)

Creamy tomato soup with crumbled goat feta
I did top my bowl with some marinated goat feta from the farmers market... and it was a good move!
Pumpkins, squash, beets, and potatoes are taking over the local farmers markets, but I've been savoring the last of local, fresh tomatoes. My harvest was very modest this year, so I've bought over 20 pounds in the last month from Kimball Fruit Farm at the Union Square Farmers Market so I could can and dry some and make tomato soup with the rest.

Speckled Roman tomatoes are known for their meatiness. They have few seeds and make great sauces and pastes.
Finding a tasty tomato soup on a menu isn't hard, but they're often full of sodium, saturated fat and excess butter and oil. Heavy cream isn't needed to make a delicious tomato soup, though. Neither is butter, flour, or tons of salt. What you really need is quality tomatoes and fresh basil, parsley and generous amounts of dried oregano, and thyme! I've adapted Tal Ronnen's recipe for Tomato Bisque from The Conscious Cook a few times and finally have a version I like, although it's different every time and I confess, I haven't been using measuring cups at all! I made this soup last night and once again, cashew cream stood in for heavy cream and you would never know the difference. The soup came out creamy, rich, and delicious!

1/2 c cashew cream (Recipe here)
5 lbs fresh tomatoes (plum, roma, san marzano will work best. I used speckled roman. Canned tomatoes work, too!)
2 tb extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 tb dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 small rib (organic) celery, chopped
1/3 c fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons
1/4 c fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Can you see the skins peeling off?
If using fresh tomatoes: Set a bowl of cold water with a few ice cubes in it next to the stove. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Cut "X"s in the bottom of the tomatoes and drop them in the boiling water until the skins start to peel away (this usually happens in less than a minute). Transfer tomatoes to ice water bath using a slotted spoon until they cool enough so you can handle them. Peel the skins off, slice in half, and discard excess seeds (there won't be many if you use plum-shaped tomatoes). 
Note: Don't try to remove the tomato from the boiling water with your hand. It hurts. Trust me. 
Saute the onion in the olive oil over medium heat. Add a pinch of salt here to bring out the sweetness of the onion. When the onion is translucent, add the oregano, thyme, carrot, and celery. Stir and continue to saute until veggies soften. While the veggies are sauteing, chop the tomatoes.


Don't go overboard with the carrots or celery. 
Once all the veggies are soft, add the tomatoes. Give the pot a good stir and adjust heat if necessary. Simmer for at least 45 minutes, but up to 3 hours. The longer soup simmers, the more time the flavors have to get to know each other ;-)
Fresh tomatoes mean this soup tastes nothing like Campbell's!
Once the tomatoes have broken down and the soup has come together, stir in the cashew cream and blend the soup using an immersion blender (you can use a stand-up blender, but don't fill it more than 2/3 full and cover the top with a dish towel, as hot liquids tend to explode blenders). Leave some big chunks of tomato or blend it until perfectly smooth... totally your call!
This pot of soup simmered for about an hour, filling the whole house with the aroma of warm tomatoey deliciousness. 

Just before serving, add the freshly chopped parsley and basil ribbons. Ladle into bowls and top with your favorite garnishes. Bread and cheese are natural choices, but it might be fun to get creative and make some croutons out of a whole wheat sourdough or use a less obvious cheese choice.
I submerged some homemade croutons in the bottom of my bowl and topped it with some goat feta.
James loaded his with Parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, and croutons.
Enjoy your tomato soup!