Are you ready for another entry in my “Essential Recipes” series? This one is one of my favorite meals, hands-down, with the added benefit of being quick and easy (and vegetarian!).
You can certainly just pop a can of Campbell’s in the microwave and call it a day, but let’s aim a little higher. You can make Homemade Tomato Soup with things that you probably already have in your pantry and/or fridge.
Here’s what you need for the soup:
- Tomatoes, either a can of diced and two cans of sauce OR approximately 3 palm-sized tomatoes (I pictured both above)
- Tomato paste, 1/2 a can
- Broth. I used chicken here, but you can use veggie broth or water if you’re looking for vegetarian or just don’t have it
- A bit of oil
- One onion
- Two ribs of celery (more or less)
- Sugar (just a few pinches)
- Herbs as desired
- Garnishes – I like Ritz crackers and some cheese
First, dice your onion and celery (and tomatoes if you’re using them- make sure to retain the juice that escapes onto the cutting board). Put a dab of oil in a 2-quart saucepan and let it get shimmery before you toss in the onion and celery (also known as “aromatics”).
When the aromatics have gotten soft and are beginning to get a nice brown color, turn down the heat and pour in a cup of broth (or water). Let that simmer a bit, letting the liquid absorb some of the flavors. Then add your tomato products, diced, paste, sauce – all of it.
Did you notice that I called for half a can of tomato paste? Don’t let the other half go to waste. Use your can opener to cut off both ends of the can. Push half of the paste out, push-pop-style. Cut it off and into your soup. Wrap the other half and freeze it. Remove it from the can, re-wrap, and keep in the freezer for the next soup!
I always add a few pinches of sugar to the soup. It cuts the acidity of the tomatoes. You can cut it out if you wish. Just let your soup simmer for a while. The tomatoes need to soften and all the flavors need to meld. While it’s simmering, get out your blender. If you’ve got a fancy immersion blender, this is the time. Otherwise, you’ll need your regular blender (and unless it’s gigantic, a bowl for holding the soup since you’ll need to work in batches.)
Blend, blend, blend. Get it as smooth or as chunky if you like. You could skip the blending altogether if you really like chunks of tomato and celery. Add it all back to the pot over the lowest flame just to keep it warm. Add more broth to thin it – I usually add about another 2/3 cup. Taste it and adjust however you like. I like to put in Herbes de Provence instead of an Italian blend so that it doesn’t taste like spaghetti sauce. I never need to add salt – the celery takes care of that while adding vegetable nutrients as well.
While that’s keeping warm on that side of the stove, step over to the other side and get some grilled cheese going. I really refuse to believe that there are people who don’t know how to make this. Just in case, here’s what you need:
- Bread of choice (softer breads work better)
- Butter or margarine (oil might also work but I’ve never tried)
- Sliced cheese, whichever kind you want.
Get out your nonstick skillet and butter your bread. Two pieces for each sandwich you plan to make. You may also want to open the cheese envelopes if you have them, for faster assembly.
Warm the pan on a medium flame. When it’s warm, toss a slice of bread on, butter-side down. While it sizzles, put on a slice of cheese, and then another bread (butter-side up).
Knowing when to flip is a skill you’ll have to learn. Keep your eye on the cheese – when it starts to melt is a good indication. Use your senses. You can always lift it up and check a couple times if you need to. When it’s ready, flip it carefully and let the other side toast. When it’s done, simply slide it out and make another. That’s all there is to grilled cheese!
Stack your sandwiches (I like them cut into triangles for easy dipping). Ladle yourself a big bowl of soup and garnish it -it goes really well with Ritz and cheese (hey I never said it was a low-fat meal). Mmmm, heavenly. In fact, I want some more now. This soup could serve probably 4, maybe even 6 if it’s part of a larger meal. However, if you really love tomato soup, you’ll probably have very little left after 2 people are full.
Is making soup easier or harder than you thought? Do you have a different process for making grilled cheese? Is there anything better than hot soup and hot sandwiches on a dreary winter day?