Tomato soup and rustic country-style bread is the perfect quick meal for me, especially on a cold rainy day, like pretty much all of this week. Then again, I always like soup... any kind of soup, anytime. Asian style, European style and of course creamy Boston-style clam chowder. Soup is soothing, sates the appetite and is easy on the stomach.
Once, a long time ago, an old Chinese friend told me that drinking too much soup makes a person very emotional. That is why he and his family do not eat soup very often. I was so surprised when he told me that, as I had never heard such a story, and soup is so common in the daily diet, along with rice, for almost all Asian people. They are accustomed to and enjoy it whether the weather is cold or hot. I remember he told me that his father had a strict military background, and he was trained to not consume much soup, for discipline reasons. I still don't know whether the story was true. I eat soup often. Maybe that is why I am a bit emotional, particularly about good food and wine.
Tomato Soup with Rustic Bread
Makes about one quart (4 cups)
1 can (28 ounces) whole plum tomatoes
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 stalk celery, diced (optional)
1 small carrot peeled, diced (optional)
2 cups light chicken stock
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
salt and freshly grated pepper
a pinch of chili pepper (optional)
¼ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley or basil for garnish (optional)
In a medium-sized sauce pan (3½ to 4 quart) melt olive oil and butter over medium heat. Cook onion and other vegetables (if you are using) a few minutes, until soft. Add garlic and season lightly with salt and pepper. Pour in whole can of the tomatoes, chicken stock and the bay leaf. Bring the mixture to boil, then turn the heat down to medium-low. Place a lid over the pan and simmer about 15 minutes.
Remove from heat, remove the bay leaf, and puree the tomato mixture with a hand-held immersion blender (or in a blender) until smooth. Whisk in heavy cream. Serve with thick pieces of good, lightly toasted rustic bread.
Note: I recently enjoyed the “Organic White Cheddar Cheese & Roasted Garlic Filone” from Trader Joe’s, and “Onion & Asiago Rustic Bread” from Whole Foods Market. These are very good choices to go with soup. I slice up the unused bread (1 inch thick), wrapped with baking/parchment paper then in a plastic bag, and store it in the refrigerator for the next few days or freeze it for "emergency bread."