September 25, 2015

Fall classics

It's started. That thing. That bulking up thing. Where I need more of everything - cake, candy, chips, chocolate. Well the chocolate was that really, really good stuff with caramel and sea salt - so, you understand.

Obviously we have entered, the appropriately named, fall. And preparing the waistline for winter. No judgement.

One of my graces has a 93-year-old mother who lives across the pond. She's so alive and sprightly and an inspiration in so many ways (last year she and her daughter went on a hiking trip through the national parks in the US southwest and she didn't want anyone on the tour to know how old she was because they'd make a fuss). She had been visiting for the past month, and on her last night here we finally gathered to share a meal with her.

It was the first day of fall. It did not feel like the first day of fall but I planned a fall meal - roast ham (yez, the bourbon ham from a recent post), leeks with a béchamel sauce, mashed butternut squash and carrots (which was lacking fresh ginger since we both thought we had some, and nope), roasted potatoes, and of course the sprouts from Brussels. It was 450° in the kitchen/dining room. Still we sweated our way through it all.

It all started with soup. Tomato soup. And I have to share that with you now.

I wanted to use a jar of the tomatoes I had canned a few weeks ago. And found the perfect, simple recipe for them on Chowhound. They call it Classic Tomato Soup. In fact, the recipe demands that they be San Marzanos. Their wish, my command. Bring on the immersion blender.

Classic Tomato Soup

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 medium onion, diced
kosher salt (I didn't use salt as there was salt in my jarred tomatoes already)
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
pinch of red pepper flakes, optional
1 28oz can San Marzano tomatoes, I used 1 litre because that's what I had. I wanted to scale up a bit
1-1/2 cups chicken stock (or you can use water)
1/3 cup heavy cream
freshly ground black pepper

Put a medium-sized pot on medium to low heat and add the oil and butter. Once melted, add the onions. Let them cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, and taking care not to brown them. Turn the heat down if necessary. (If you have to leave the stove, make sure you put the lid on the pot, it helps prevent browning.) Then add the garlic and pepper flakes and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Increase the heat and add the tomatoes and their juice. Break down the tomatoes with the back of your spoon and cook for 10 minutes or so, until they're hot and starting to soften. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Let it cook at a medium simmer for about 15 minutes.

Purée the soup with an immersion blender (one of my favourite kitchen tools ever). You can do it in a blender, but let the soup cool for 10 minutes and then carefully, carefully blend in batches. Put the soup back on the heat to warm up over low heat. Add the cream. Add the black pepper.

Now taste for seasoning - I'm glad I did, because there was salt enough from the tomatoes.

Portion the soup into bowls. You can then drizzle with olive oil and place a nice bunch of julienned fresh basil on top. And then finish with a little more black pepper. You can also shave some parmesan on top if you like.

It was a lovely meal I have to say. There was something in all of it that I'd made, the soup, the béchamel, the glaze for the ham - we even had our canned peaches with pound cake and cream for dessert.

And now that tomato soup is going into the repertoire. Because it is, as Chowhound promised, a classic.

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