Tomato Soup

P. Michael Henderson
May 3, 2011

I love good tomato soup but it's very hard to find GOOD tomato soup.  This recipe is a modification of one given to me by Chef Tony Corke of Chaparosa Grill in Tustin, who, incidentally, serves an excellent tomato Florentine soup on occasion at the restaurant.  Call ahead to see if it's available.

The ingredients are as follows:

One medium sized onion, chopped.  I didn't use all of the onion in the picture, maybe about 3/4 of it.
One celery stalk, chopped.  Celery can be stringy but I like the taste it adds.
Two cloves of garlic, chopped fine
Four 14 oz cans of tomatoes
One small can of tomato paste
One large can of tomato juice.  I use the one that's 1 quart, 14 oz.
Brown sugar (not shown in the picture)
Raw spinach, if you want to make Tomato Florentine, or fresh basil if you want to make tomato basil.  Or, you can just make it plain tomato soup.
Heavy whipping cream

A Dutch oven type cast iron pot works well for this soup.

Sauté the onions, celery and garlic in olive oil until the onions are translucent. 

Add the four cans of tomatoes and the can of tomato paste.  Bring to a simmer.  Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Add the can of tomato juice and bring again to a simmer. 

Add the spinach or basil to taste.  Don't use too much basil or it'll overwhelm the flavor of the soup.  Spinach is not as strong so you can use a bit more.  But if you use too much spinach, the soup will be colored somewhat green by the spinach and you'll lose the delightful color of tomato soup.  Go for less the first time rather than too much.   In these pictures, I'm making tomato Florentine.  I added a few more spinach leaves after I took this picture.

If you want the spinach leaves to be "whole" in the final dish, wait until after you blend the soup to add the spinach.  I like it that way, with the leaves showing in the final dish.

Cook on low for 30 to 45 minutes.  This is what it'll look like after cooking for about 45 minutes.

Take out another pot or bowl about the same size as your Dutch oven.  You'll use this to hold the soup after you've put it through the blender.  If you have an immersion blender, you won't need the "holding pot".

Now, transfer some of the soup to your blender, filling your blender about half full. 

Use the LOWEST speed in your blender (too high a speed and the soup will push the top off the blender and make a mess - don't ask how I know this) and pulse the blender to break up the ingredients into small pieces.  Don't over blend.  Just pulse a few times - if there's small chunks in the soup it'll improve the texture.  Here, I'm using the low range and the "grate" speed.

Dump the blended soup into the holding bowl or pot and put the rest of the soup through the blender.  You'll notice that the soup is an orange color, rather than the bright red it was prior to putting it through the blender.

When finished, return the blended soup to the Dutch oven pot and bring to a simmer.  Taste the soup.  You may find it has somewhat of an acid taste from all the tomatoes.  Add brown sugar to compensate for the acid.  You'll probably have to add a fair amount of brown sugar so don't be afraid to put several tablespoons in the first time, then taste again.  Keep adding brown sugar until you're satisfied with the taste.

[Added note:  My friend, Carolyn T., has suggested that including a carrot will cut the acid taste and you won't need the sugar.  I haven't tried it yet but will post here once I do.]

If you waited to add the spinach or basil, do it now.

Finally, stir in the heavy cream.  You don't have to use all that much, maybe a cup, but I never measure.  I just add the cream until I like the color of the soup.  The soup will be an orange color, not the bright red of fresh tomatoes.

If you want to reduce the calories, you can leave the cream out.  The soup will still be delicious.

Serve to your guest with some hot French bread and listen to them rave about the soup.  Don't be surprised if they mop out the bowl with the bread!

The soup is also very good leftover, cold or hot.  I very much like it cold.

You can return to my woodwork here.