Weird things are happening to me. First, I’ve heard before that certain people are genetically predisposed to find cilantro awful, and I used to be one of those people. Please note the past tense there: used to. What’s more is that I also used to hate tomatoes. Both of these things just weren’t palatable to me for years. And maybe it’s that I’m more open to trying out new flavors, or that in the last few years I’ve become a big foodie (and have found that stomaching certain things that just sounded outright awful to me before no longer seem unwelcoming); generally speaking, though, I’ve found that I am kind of starting to like the things I used to loathe.
I’ve always liked tomato soup, though, and this particular recipe is perfection. The minute I saw its picture peering out at me from Bon Appetit’s October 2012 Issue, I’ve had it on my To Do List. As you can tell, this list is very long, and sometimes I don’t get around to the things on it for quite some time. But when I do, it’s golden.
I tweaked the recipe slightly, because I know what I like, and I know that only San Marzano tomatoes will do if I’m making tomato soup. I also substituted olive oil for butter, to appeal to my many vegan friends (did I mention I used to walk among you? I think I did. I still love a good, vegan meal, and it’s nice to have the option for this soup!). Finally, I added vegetable stock in place of all the water that Bon Appetit prescribed, because a little extra vegetable flavor never hurt anybody. What resulted was a glamorous version of my childhood favorite, creamy and smooth and ethereal. In place of crackers, you should sprinkle a little buttered popcorn atop a piping hot bowl of this stuff. It’s surprisingly delicious.
Creamy Tomato Soup
Adapted from Epicurious
Makes 8 servings
1/4 cup olive oil
10 sprigs fresh thyme, tied together
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 28-oz cans whole San Marzano tomatoes, with juices
1-2 tsp granulated sugar
4 cups vegetable stock
4 cups water
1/4 cup heavy cream, plus more for serving (optional-without it, this soup is vegan!)
desired amount of sea salt and pepper
Heat olive oil in a large pot on medium heat. Add thyme, onion, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, and cook until onion is completely soft and translucent, 10-12 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high; add tomato paste. Continue cooking, stirring often, until paste has begun to caramelize in spots, 5-6 minutes. Add the tomatoes with juices, sugar, vegetable stock, and water. Increase heat to high; bring to a simmer. Simmer until flavors meld and soup reduces to about 2 quarts (8 cups), 45-55 minutes. Remove soup from heat; let cool slightly. Discard thyme sprigs. Working in small batches, purée soup in a blender until smooth. Return to pot. Stir in additional teaspoon of sugar and 1/4 cup cream, if using. Season with more salt and pepper (to taste). Simmer until flavors meld, another 10-15 minutes. Serve warm, with and additional drizzle of cream, if desired*.
*To make the design in the picture, drizzle desired amount of cream on soup in a swirl, then use a spoon to swipe or swirl through four lines in a zig zag in one direction, then do the same in a perpendicular direction.