Sunday night the lady and I were supposed to try out a new-to-us Vietnamese joint in Dutchtown, but then this whole winter thing happened. Here is what I’ve found when I ask people around here the question “Is this weather typical?” Or, “Is it always this hot/humid/wet/cold/frigid?” No matter which variation of this question I ask people from around here invariably say this: “It is never like this. This year is an anomaly.”
By this I have to assume that either my first year in Missouri is filled with catastrophic weather conditions that have never happened before or else St. Louisans tell the truth about the weather about as often as they come to a complete stop at a stop sign. Case in point, Sunday night. Despite the fact that it “never really” snows around here we got several inches that blew all over the place in a blizzard-like 50 mile an hour windstorm. And the temperature dropped into the teens, with the wind-chill factor below zero. Which also never happens in St. Louis apparently.
Suffice it to say that with all the bad weather [we weren't having] we postponed our banh mi dinner plans for another weekend and I whipped up some cold weather comfort food. To whit: No Cream Creamy Tomato Bread Soup. It doesn’t get any better than this when the wind is [not] blowing and it’s [not] snowing. I’d been thinking about doing a grilled cheese sandwich to go along with the soup, but then figured it was good enough as is. Another option I tried the next day was to have some popcorn with it. Delicious. The great thing about this recipe is that it doesn’t have all the extra fat from cream and doesn’t have all of the salt and preservatives as the canned stuff. The creamy texture comes from the sandwich bread that you add instead.
To be honest, this isn’t exactly like a bowl of Campbells. The texture, while smooth is thicker and more tomato-like than the canned stuff, and slightly more acidic. This is actually an ongoing issue with my relationship with tomatoes in soups and sauces: how to balance the acidity without it getting too sweet. This soup errs on the side of acidic. Perhaps a touch more salt would even that out a bit more. In any case it was warm and very fulfilling on a cold night.
The No Cream Creamy Tomato Bread Soup
Adapted from a recipe found at Cooks Illustrated, (subscription req’d)
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch of red pepper (optional or to taste)
1 bay leaf
2 28oz cans of diced tomatoes in juice
1 Tbs brown sugar
3 thick slices of sandwich bread cubed
2 cups chicken stock
fresh chives, chopped to garnish
Put a large pot or dutch oven on the burner over medium high heat. Once the pot is heated, add the olive oil. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the onion, garlic, red pepper and bay leaf. The smell at this point will be amazing. Cook, stirring frequently until the onion is translucent, then add in the tomatoes and their juice. Add in the bread and the sugar and bring the mixture to a boil (shouldn’t take more than a few minutes). Remove the bay leaf, then blend the soup with a stick blender until it has a smooth texture. This can also be done in the blender. Bring the soup back to a boil, season with salt and pepper. Serve with chopped chives as a garnish. This dish is great paired with grilled cheese sandwiches or fresh-popped popcorn.
After Action Report
This soup was a bit acidic, but overall had a very nice flavor. Perfect on a cold evening watching Sunday Night Football with a glass of wine. I could have added a little more salt though but other than that it was an easy dish that worked well. It was good reheated the next day and maintained it’s color and sharp flavor as well. It also tastes great cold, so it could be a nice summer dish too. I’m thinking perhaps a combination with a brightly colored pea soup would be interesting too, perhaps layered in a shot glass? Maybe for holiday entertaining?