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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Creamy Tomato Bisque

I woke up this morning with a chill on my cheeks. My toes went cold the instant they left the snuggly haven of my ridiculously luxurious king-sized down comforter (a birthday present from my lovely brother, Chad). The sky was a pale grayish white and the house was quiet and still in the early morning. I went to turn on the heater, grabbed a cookbook from the shelf, wrapped myself in a robe and climbed back in bed to read a little...

I had just gotten a big bag of eleven or twelve ripe, juicy tomatoes from my local neighborhood produce store for the unbelievably low price of 75 cents (yes, total!) and wanted to make something special to warm up the house. I decided on a creamy tomato bisque, which is essentially a thick, rich soup that pureed, delicately seasoned with cream added just when you were starting to think the soup couldn't get any better...The secret weapon is steeping a beautiful little herb bundle with parsley, basil and thyme right into the soup before you blend it so the liquid is infused with all of the delicate flavors from the herbs.

Warning: It can take a bit of time to make, but you will be able to taste the TLC in the soup! Also, don't be frightened by the orange color--fresh tomatoes, when cooked down with carrot and onion--don't generally have the deep rich red color you typically think of when you see tomato sauce or tomato paste because those products frequently contain artificial color. This soup will taste like fresh tomatoes straight from the garden...


* 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
* 2 Tbsp. olive oil
* 1 large yellow onion, chopped
* 1 small carrot, diced fine
* 9 or 10 ripe tomatoes, peeled and deseeded
* 3 cups stock (chicken or vegetable)
* 1 bay leaf
* little bundle of fresh herbs (parsley, basil, thyme)
* 1 cup of bread cubes (I used the fluffy middle from a sourdough breadbowl)
* 3/4 cup heavy cream
* 1/2 tsp. salt (or to taste)
* some parmesan and extra thyme or basil sprigs for garnish (optional)


* To peel and deseed the tomatoes, drop them whole into a big pot of boiling water for 30 to 40 seconds and then put them in a colander, run them under cool water and then peel off the skins. Then quarter the tomatoes and use your fingers to push out the seeds over a strainer so you save all the juices and collect the tomato fleshy parts. Set aside.
* Heat olive oil and butter in a big pot on medium high heat.
* Add the onion and carrot and cook until tender.
* Add the tomato pieces and juices you saved and stir.
* Add in the stock, bay leaf and herb bundle and bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes.
* Remove the bay leaf and herb bundle and turn off the stove heat.
* Add in the bread cubes and let it soak up some of the liquid.
* Puree the mixture in small batches using a food processor or blender (or stick blender if you have one!)
* Return the pureed soup to a simmer and stir in the cream and salt.
* Garnish if you want...

Comfort. in a bowl. for cold days.

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