VeggieDag Thursday is an occasional Thursday post
on an animal-free diet and ecological issues.
A friend once told me that her perfect lunch would be a hot cup of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. Today, it's the tomato soup we'll discuss. And, now, at the end of summer, it's the right time to do so.
The perfect tomato soup fully embraces its central ingredient, and, crucially, it should only be made when the absolute best tomatoes are available. That time, roughly, is right now, when absurdly buxom tomatoes are spilling out of bins at local markets (and, if you’re lucky, your neighbor’s backyard). Seriously: Sad, ratty, out-of-season supermarket tomatoes will fail you here. The only real time to make tomato soup is when the nearby bounty is ripe.
That's Jeffrey Bloomer of Slate Magazine. Back to him in a moment.
But, first, here, from Joe Yonan, of the the Washington Post, it's information, so basic and, yet, so useful: how to store, peel, and de-seed tomatoes.
Now, here's how to cook up some 'Cream' of Tomato Soup. I've adapted the recipe from that of Mr. Bloomer, 'veganizing' it, removing the dairy.
'Creamy' Harvest Tomato SoupTime: 35 minutes
Makes 3 servings
- 4 to 5 medium, ripe, in-season tomatoes.
- 3 TBSP extra virgin olive oil (or butter substitute, such as Earth Balance).
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
- Pinch of sugar, or so, to taste.
- 1/3 cup vegan 'heavy cream' [recipe below].
Heat the oil (or Earth Balance) in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the tomatoes, cut side down, and season with a pinch of salt and and a twist of cracked pepper. When the tomato juice begins to bubble, reduce the heat -just- enough so that the juice simmers but doesn't steam off. Cook until the tomatoes have released most of their juices (but aren’t charred), 15 minutes or so.
Turn the tomatoes over, smash them a bit, and cook over just-less-than-medium-heat, until they begin to break down, 10 minutes, or so.
Remove the pan from the heat. Add most of the tomatoes and juice to a blender, reserving some unblended pieces in the pan. Add a bit of the 'cream,' and blend for a couple of seconds.
Taste, perhaps adding a pinch or two of sugar to cut the acidity. If more cream is needed, add and blend. Taste and adjust the seasonings (salt pepper, and/or sugar). Add back to the reserved tomato pieces in the pan, and serve the soup warm.
Store any leftover soup in an 'airtight' container in the refrigerator for up to a few days.
I was surprised to find so many odd and uninspired recipes for homemade tomato soup. Some are more accurately described as vegetable soup, so prodigious are their list of ingredients. Others drown the tomatoes in too-rich chicken stock. And some even call for canned tomatoes, which are preferable to the gritty varieties sold in winter but still result in the pallid flavors of their precooked brethren. No aromatics can disguise a lackluster main ingredient. And that really is the key: Tomatoes should be the star ingredient, and practically the only ingredient.
To make vegan 'heavy cream'
- 1/2 block of silken tofu
- 1/2 cup of unflavored, unsweetened almond milk.
- 1 TBSP lemon juice
Blend until thick and creamy and un-lumpy.
- I prefer almond milk because it's easier to find it in unsweetened AND unflavored varieties at the store. Most unsweetened soy milks still contain flavorings, for which you have to look long and hard hard at the listing of writ-tiny ingredients to notice.
- It's important to use so-called silken tofu (nèn dòufu, in Chinese): undrained, unpressed tofu that contains a higher moisture content than 'regular' tofu. When used in soups, or for baking, it yields a much less 'grainy' or lumpy consistency.
- Check the label on non-buttery spreads. Many contain lactose or whey, derived from milk. Avoid them if you want a vegan recipe. If not, why not simply use real butter? I choose not!