Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Spicy Tomato Soup

I could tell you a story about how this meal brought back cherished childhood memories of coming home from a blustery winter day from school, and how this soup would be waiting for me to warm me up.

But that never happened.

Growing up in an Asian household, tomato soup was never really in my repertoire. My mom's idea of making soup usually involved boiling unidentified meat bones and adding chinese radishes, cabbage and/or scallions into the broth. My only childhood encounters with tomato soup would be Campbell's from a can, which always tasted like tomato juice warmed over to me. And after this disappointment, I was hesitant to make tomato soup again.

But then I read this post on Cathy Erway's Not Eating Out in New York and I felt inspired again. I used the same basic method with some deviations. But am I glad I didn't give up on making tomato soup. This soup is awesome - spicy, tangy, and perfect for winter.

Spicy Tomato Soup
Adaped from Not Eating Out in New York

2 carrots, diced (if you buy the bunched carrots, like I did, chop up some of the tops too!)
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
About 1 cup canned diced tomatoes
About 2 cups chicken broth
1 small can (8 oz) plain tomato sauce (I used Hunt's)
1 crushed dried chile pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
10-15 fresh basil leaves, torn
Olive oil

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil with a crushed dried chile pepper to infuse the oil in a large pot. Saute carrots, celery, and onion, for about five minutes. Add garlic and chopped carrot tops (adding the garlic later prevents burning), and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until all the vegetables are lightly browned. Remove heat. Stir in diced tomatoes and chicken broth.

Transfer the mixture into a blender, and pulse until desired consistency. If it doesn't look thin enough, add more broth or water. Transfer back to the pot and simmer on low heat. At this point, I tasted it and felt the soup wasn't tomato-y enough so I stirred in a can of tomato sauce. But I see no problem in added the sauce before blending it. Add cayenne pepper and adjust seasonings to taste. Allow the soup to simmer on low heat for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in basil leaves. Garnish with olive oil and a sprig of carrot leaves, if desired.

For the ultimate comfort food meal, serve with a grilled cheese sandwich and a glass of milk.

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