Heirloom Tomato Soup: Cheap and Guiltless

Heirloom Tomato Soup

As the weather gets cooler I find myself craving warm comfort. I’ve said it before and ill say it again, soup is the starving artist’s secret weapon: low cost, high yield, mega satisfying. Lately I’ve been eating my stress, which is never good. This weekend I decided I needed to make something warm, satisfying, and completely guilt free. I had grilled cheese on the brain (more on this in another post) and so I naturally thought of tomato soup. I tell you I was tempted to buy a box of Trader Joe’s tomato soup. Like, whatever, I just want soup, I don’t care. And then I came to my senses and realized that for a few more dollars I could make a big pot of my own soup that would knock the pants off of TJ.

So here is what I purchased:

  • 1 package of TJ mini heirloom tomatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 24 oz cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1 box vegetable stock or broth
  • 1 cup of chopped fresh basil

And here’s what I used from my own pantry:

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Kosher salt, crushed red pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Sugar
  • Tomato paste (in a tube in my fridge)
  • 2 tsp dried basil
Heirloom Tomato Soup
Heirloom Tomato Soup

All I did was get my big enamel soup pot over medium high heat with just enough olive oil to cover the bottom. Toss in the heirloom tomatoes and let them heat up while you dice half the red onion (be sure to stir them around occasionally). Once the tomatoes have been heated for 8-10 minutes, add the onion with a good pinch of kosher salt, a few pinches of crushed red pepper, and the dried basil. Once the onions soften, use a garlic press to press in two cloves of fresh garlic right into the pot. Then add a good squeeze (about two tbsp) of tomato paste. Stir and cook for one minute then add the two cans of tomatoes, about 2 cups of the vegetable broth, bay leaves, and about two teaspoons of sugar. Bring to a boil, then cover and let simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove the bay leaves, add the fresh basil, and use a stick blender to puree to desired consistency. Feeds 4-6 people easily. Delicious, healthy, and totally homemade.

Serving suggestions/variations:

  • Adding a can of fire roasted tomatoes will add a new dimension of flavor to your soup
  • Using diced carrots along with the onions will contribute to sweetness and add more flavor
  • Try topping your bowl with some sliced avocado. Or, if you’re feeling indulgent, some grated gruyere cheese. Mmmmmm.

Pecan Pesto

I love pesto. But never from a store bought container – no no. Pesto is way too easy and way too fresh to shell out for some chemical-filled processed crap you find in the grocery store. But I’ve noticed that everyone seems to be obsessed with putting roasted pine nuts in their pesto… pine nuts… I’m sorry, pine nuts are really expensive. And I would have no use for them other than pesto, so why would I want to invest in such an item? Most of the time when I make pesto I don’t use any nuts. For me, all I need is basil, garlic, salt, pepper, and cheese. Tastes good to me!

But while I may never be a purveyor of pine nuts, I nearly always have pecans in my cabinet (my absolute favorite nut). So as I was making this batch of pesto, I thought what the hell, let’s toast some pecans and throw them in here. And you know what? It was friggin delicious.

Now I have to tell you, I never measure anything. But here is the approximate recipe:

  • 2 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1 large container fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans
  • 1/2 cup fresh parmesan or romano cheese
  • big pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper
  • olive oil

All I do is throw the garlic into the food processor and get it chopped up really good. Then I cram everything else into food processor (except the olive oil), turn it on, get it good and ground up, then I stream in olive oil until it reaches the smooth consistency you desire. I like mine a little on the thick side, as you can see.

If you’re not going to use this right away, be sure you store it in the fridge in a container with plastic wrap pressed against the top to help prevent browning. Air = browning.

Stay tuned for a PHENOMENAL recipe to use this with.

Monday Lunch

Mondays are my favorite day to have lunch. Why? Because Monday is the day after I visit the farmers’ market, which means I have a plethora of fresh produce to choose from. More often than not, my Monday lunch consists of slices tomatoes with kosher salt and (if I have it) some ribbons of fresh basil. I do this partially because tomatoes bought from vendors like this have a very short shelf life. And partially because I just friggin love fresh tomatoes. Sure, there’s lots to be done with them, from panzonella to tomato sauce… but I don’t know, when they’re this good and this fresh, I find it so satisfying just to eat them as they are. No cooking, no fuss, just pure natural goodness. I think next week I will devise something creative to do with them…. a pie, perhaps… but for now, simplicity wins.

Speaking of the farmers’ market, I came home with quite a bounty yesterday. What’s my item of the week? Fava beans. Mmm. Two-pound bag of dried favas for $6. More posts on this in the coming days. Hope everyone is enjoying fall so far!

Farmers’ Market Bounty