My favorite season is fall. The leaves are changing to reds, oranges and yellows so taking random weekend drives are even more gorgeous than any other time of the year. Finally, the weather is cooling down when you’re living in hot climates, which I’ve done as an adult (not fun). And my cats finally stop shedding, so that’s a bonus.
But as a chef, the ultimate reason why I love the fall so much is because I finally get to make large batches of soups and sauces. The options are endless and as long as you have the basics, it’s really up to your imagination of where you want to go with the spices and herbs.
Last weekend, I decided to whip up a batch of cream of tomato soup. I was going to make a bisque but chose to add cheese at the end instead. You may be wondering what the difference is between a soup, cream of and then a bisque.
Well, soup is your basic building block when you’re making a batch. You need stock (or broth) veggies or meat — in this case lots and lots of tomatoes — and then spices and herbs. From there you add heavy cream and it’s the amount you add that will result in your soup turning into a cream of or a bisque. Because I used cheddar cheese (yum) as a creamy thickener, I only used a small amount of cream. My recipe can be tweaked so that if you want it more bisque(y), please feel free to add more cream and less cheese.
Soups are perfect for experimenting with — you can always add more liquid if it’s too thick and visa versa. The longer the pot sits on the stove, the flavors marry and you have a more pronounced taste, but if you’re in a hurry, you could easily make a pot quickly and still make a quick, yummy batch on the go. Your options are endless and I welcome you to use my recipe as a base to explore flavors in your own kitchen. Follow the recipe the first time and then add spices from your cupboard the next time like oregano, garlic or onion powder then veggies such as fennel, peppers and shallots would also be delicious additions.
There is one step that I do for my recipe that you may not see in other recipes which is take the tomato skins off. I do this because the consistency is smoother without the tomato skins in the soup, and because if you keep the skins in a soup, sometimes the soup is stringy. And there is no canned product in this recipe, so there’s nothing to mask the natural beauty of the tomato. But don’t worry, I have step-by-step easy instructions for this yummy soup.
I’d love to hear your take on my recipe, whether you make it into a bisque or if you like it cheesy like I do. Just as a heads up, the amount of cheese to tomatoes and cream is a perfect amount so don’t be overwhelmed that it’ll turn out to be mac-n-cheese tomato soup. I promise you it won’t!
I hope you enjoy the soup and fall weather and as always, live zestier!
4 pounds of tomatoes (mix and match your favorite kinds — house, heirloom, roma, cherry … the choice is yours!) *See first step for tomatoes but skip this step for cherry tomatoes*
1 large carrot, roughly chopped
1 medium sweet onion (1 ¼ cup), roughly chopped
⅓ cup fresh basil, roughly chopped (more for topping)
½ cup heavy cream
¼-½ cheddar cheese, shredded, not pre-packaged (start with ¼ cup, taste and add the other ¼ cup if you want it extra cheesy)
3 cups vegetable broth (low sodium if possible!)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons dry basil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon black pepper (more to taste if needed)
½ teaspoon salt (more to taste if needed)
*Bring a pot of of water to a rolling boil. Place a bowl of cold water next to the stove so it’s easy to do one step to the next. Rinse the tomatoes, remove stems and mark and shallow “X” at the bottom of the tomato (opposite of where the stem would be). Once the water is boiling, you can place 3-4 tomatoes at a time into the water (carefully) and when the “X” begins to open up — don’t boil longer than 30 seconds — quickly take the tomatoes out with a slotted spoon and place them into the bowl of cold water where you can peal the skin off.
In a large pot, simmer olive oil and only 1 teaspoon of dry basil on low heat for two minutes — this will start to infuse the oil and bring out the flavors more. Add the chopped onions and carrots and cook for an additional five minutes. Add garlic, other teaspoon of dry basil, salt and pepper, sugar and all the chopped tomatoes; stir until tomatoes are coated with veggies, herbs and spices. Slowly add the broth, bring the heat to medium and bring to boil.
Lower heat to medium-low, add fresh basil, stir and simmer for 30 minutes. When timer is up, blend until smooth — the easiest way to do this process is with an immersion blender (hand-held blender), but if you don’t have one, in small batches, carefully transfer the soup to a blender and blend until perfectly smooth.
Once smooth, with the heat on low, slowly stir in the cream and ¼ cup cheese. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed and the extra ¼ cup of cheese. Serve it immediately and garnish it with creme fraiche, fresh basil, cheddar cheese, chives, homemade croutons or just good ol’ out of a soup mug with a spoon!