Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Simple Southwestern Tomato Soup

Why would anyone want to have hot soup in July? Well, last week was cool and grey, which completely threw off my appetite. Plus, do you know that point in the middle of the summer when you're so close to swimming in produce, but you're not quite there? I would say that I'm at that point, and it's driving me slightly mad.  I want fresh salsa with tomatoes and peppers or even cold soup with cucumbers, but I must wait.

So, on one of the coolest of our string of sunless days, I was craving tomato soup. I decided to give myself a seasonal break and searched through my cabinet to found a big ol' can of tomatoes. When I feel aimless about my dinner plan and it's not sweltering outside, I feel like soup is always the best option. I can whip up a brothy soup in less than an hour, pair it with some bread, and enjoy a deeply satisfying meal. 

I use the "Southwestern" theme very loosely here.  I like having the hint of cumin, and the cilantro is a refreshing touch.  You could easily skip the cumin and cilantro, replacing them with thyme or rosemary and parsley for a more Italian approach.

The second time I made this soup, I actually tried making a fancy cilantro oil for drizzling. I found it to be a bit too rich for the soup, so my recipe calls for freshly chopped cilantro. However, if you have the desire for a heartier finish, definitely make the cilantro oil.

All I did was finely chopped a handful of cilantro, pound a garlic clove with a pinch of salt and mix it all with about 3 tablespoons of good olive oil. For a more smooth and even texture, puree it all in a blender or food processor.

Simple Southwestern Tomato Soup 
makes about 4 servings

I was able to use tomato broth that I saved from of pan of roasted tomatoes and had frozen from last season.  Any other broth will help boost the flavor in this soup, so definitely use some if you have it. 

3 Tbsp olive oil oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 - 3 cloves garlic, minced
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp ground cumin
1 28oz can whole peeled tomatoes
1 1/2 c vegetable broth (preferably tomato broth) or water
a cup or so of leftover grilled corn (optional)
a small handful of cilantro, chopped

In a large pot, heat oil on medium heat. Add onions, garlic, a healthy pinch of salt, pepper flakes and cumin.  Stir occasionally, until glossy and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and broth, casually breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Bring to a soft boil and simmer on medium-low for about 25 minutes.  The tomatoes should be broken down and the soup should be shiny with little surface bubbles of red oil.  Adjust seasonings. If it's too acidic, add a dab or butter.  If it's a little dull in flavor, add a dash or two of some white wine vinegar or sherry. 

If using some leftover corn, throw it into the soup and cook for another minute or two. Chop the cilantro. Stir it in and keep soup warm until ready to serve.  I like to serve mine with focaccia bread or mini quesadillas. 

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