Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Heirloom Tomato Soup and Universal Kitchen Truths

It’s a universal truth known round my kitchen that if I pre-plan and shop for a specific dish, I will inevitably crave something else on the day of reckoning.

It’s also a universal truth known round my kitchen that if I am preparing two items at once – one complicated and one simple, the simpler item will be better than the more complicated one. But more on that later…

I full intended to prepare a vegetarian version of my grapefruit, avocado, Edamame quinoa salad last night, but around 3:00 pm yesterday afternoon things started to get a little dicey. My throat began doing that itchy thing it does when I’m getting sick, and all I could think about was how much I wanted a bowl of the heirloom tomato bisque that I enjoyed for lunch at the Gallery Cafe in Pebble Beach while I was working at the Concours D’Elegance car show. Of course, since said soup was all the way in NorCal and I was all the way in smoggy SoCal, I would have to settle for my own version. Waaah waaah.

After a brief consultation with Cathy, the Gastronomer, and my mom, who was fairly useless since she has never made tomato soup from scratch and didn’t know how many tomatoes I would need to prepare it (last night’s version required 2 ½), I made a quick stop at Whole Foods on my way home from work. I collected all my ingredients for the soup, plus some goat cheese and zucchini to make a quick roasted veggie and grilled cheese sandwich. And then I got to work.

I wasn’t really sure what I was doing, but I tackled the job with the ill-conceived confidence I use when I’m pretending that I belong at those trendy Hollywood bars I never go to. (I prefer lounges, wine bars and wearing clothes that cover all my bits.)

The procedure went something like this…

Throw a carrot in there?

Why not!

Keep the soup chunky rather than straining out the tomato skins?

Sure thing!

Add a little balsamic vinegar?

Plop! In she goes!

The end result certainly looked like tomato soup, but unfortunately it didn’t even come close to the Gallery’s version that I am guessing benefitted from some serious strainage and a more liberal use of cream (my paltry 2 tablespoons of half & half were probably not cutting it).

While my grilled sandwich was an unequivocal success (because, as I mentioned, it was super easy to make and went together in less than ten minutes), the soup was super sweet and lacked the velvety consistency my sore-ish throat was craving. I did notice that the creamy goat cheese in my sandwich helped balance out the sweet bite of the soup, so I decided to pull a Tim Gunn on my concoction and “make it work” with a little improvisation…

I returned to the kitchen, got my goat cheese out of the fridge and added a fatty dollop to my soup. It certainly helped matters, but this soup is a long way from being ready-to-wear.

I will get there some day (because I’m a neurotic perfectionist and won’t be able to rest until I do), but until that day comes, I’ll be eating a heck of a lot of grilled goat cheese sandwiches.

Sort-of Heirloom Tomato Soup
Serves 1

¾ lb heirloom tomatoes
1/3 carrot, chopped
1/3 cup onion, diced
1 clove garlic
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons half & half
Dollop of goat cheese
Splash of balsamic vinegar
Salt, pepper
Basil, for garnish

Sauté onions, carrots and garlic with olive oil, salt, pepper in a medium-sized pot. When onions are translucent, add chicken broth, reduce heat and simmer until veggies are tender.

Meanwhile, slice tomatoes, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast in the oven at 350 degrees until they’ve begun to break down. Add to the soup and simmer together approximately 10-15 minutes. Use an immersion blender or blender to puree soup to desired consistency.

Return to the heat and add balsamic vinegar, half & half and goat cheese. Reheat to desired warmth and then serve. Top with optional basil.

Roasted Veggie Grilled Goat Cheese Sandwich

2 slices whole wheat bread
1 shallot, sliced
1 zucchini, sliced
¼ red pepper, sliced
Goat cheese
Balsamic vinegar
Salt, pepper

Roast shallots, zucchini and red pepper in oven at 375 until tender. May need to start shallots and red pepper first and then add the zucchini as it takes less time.

Top one slice of bread with veggies, and then dot the top with goat cheese. Cover with the other slice of bread and return to the oven. Bake until bread is toasty and cheese is gooey. Slice in half and eat with soup.


Elra said...

Diana, I hope you are not mad at me after my comment about the season eating. Anyway, this soup way better using heirloom tomato. I am sure of that!

Diana said...

Elra - Of course I'm not mad at you! I thought the comment was hilarious! :) I've been fully taking advantage of the summer season by eating lots and lots this past week. :)

yutjangsah said...

I love Tim Gunn. And I suspect if he ever met me, it would be mutual bc he's a love bug. As for tomato soup, Tender Greens makes a nice version. I'm sure you'll make a nice version too.

Melissa Good Taste said...

I love tomato soup - nothing is more comforting to me!

Gastronomer said...

You are a brave woman in the kitchen. I like it! Sounds like you need to invest in a chinois:

The Duo Dishes said...

Give it another go while you can. There's no reason why the next round can't be a success!

Jenn said...

You'll get there. From the pic, it looks mighty good right about now. Not bad for you first endeavor into making tomato soup. I usually use the canned tomatoes. I think I should try some fresh ones next time.

Reeni♥ said...

I have no doubt that you'll get the soup to where you want it to be. A grilled goat cheese sandwich sounds so appealing right now!

Diana said...

Sook - I'll have to try Tender Green's! So far my favorite in LA is from Joan's on Third. Like liquid tomato crack.

Melissa - It really is the perfect form of comfort food! Warms ya heart & soul! ;)

Cathy - Don't tempt me. You know how slutty Debbie Debit Card can be...

Chrystal & Amir - I shall pick myself up and try try again!

Jenn - Hah, maybe I should try canned tomaters next time! I looked up your recipe -- looks yummy!

Reeni - I am addicted to goat cheese. :)

Esi said...

Haha, you'll get it right. I definitely think it can be harder to recreate soups, especially since they have so many layers of flavor.

The Blonde Duck said...

I've become obsessed with red peppers lately. Don't know why.