Sunday, September 11, 2011

Creamy, Dreamy, Steamy (and Even Healthy!) Tomato Basil Bisque

I first published this recipe on Blogcritics as Creamy, Dreamy...and Even Healthy Tomato Basil Soup .

Is there any food more comforting on a rainy day than creamy, rich, bright tomato soup?  Oh wait, there is!  It’s creamy, rich, bright tomato soup….with a grilled cheese sandwich!  Unfortunately, many of the steaming bowls of yumminess that I crave have loads of cream, butter and, often, lots of bread in them for thickening.  While I love those decadent versions of this soup you often get at restaurants, I wanted to use some of my luscious farmer’s market tomatoes to make a healthier version at home, but with all the thick and satisfying goodness of those restaurant concoctions.   Here’s how I made it; to rave reviews from my family, I might add!  There are still some heavier ingredients in there, but in much lower quantities than you’d expect and they really do lend great flavor to the soup, so they’re worth the splurge!  I used a mix of canned and fresh tomatoes, because I only had so many from the market and fresh ones can be pricey.  Also, the canned tomatoes are very high in lycopene, an anticarcinogen.  If you make this in winter and good market tomatoes are not available, you’d be best served using nearly all high quality canned tomatoes and maybe a few deep red romas too.  Mushy, pale, flavorless tomatoes will not make this soup do its best work.  We paired this an ooey gooey grilled Fontina Panini – divine!

1 sweet onion, chopped
1 carrot chopped
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes
4 lbs. market tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 cup of chopped basil, divided in half
1 ½ Tbsp sugar
2 cups low salt chicken broth (or vegetable broth or tomato juice)
¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup heavy cream
½ cup fat free half and half
Salt & Pepper to taste
Zest of one lemon

First, remove the skins from the tomatoes.  This is much easier than it sounds!  Just use your knife to cut an “X” in the bottom of each tomato and then submerge them in boiling water for 15-20 seconds.  Remove with tongs or a slotted spoon and you’ll see that the peels slide right off.  Done!  Now remove the tops of the tomatoes and rough chop the rest, setting aside in a bowl.  Heat the oil and butter together in a large heavy stockpot and add the chopped carrots and onions.  Saute over medium high heat until tender, about 8 minutes.  Season with a bit of salt and pepper and add in the fresh chopped tomatoes and ½ cup of the basil.  Continue to simmer stirring occasionally for another 10 minutes.  Now add the canned tomatoes, bread crumbs, sugar, and broth or juice, reduce heat to medium low and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, allowing the soup to reduce slightly.  At this point, you want to puree the soup, using an immersion/stick blender, or by processing it in batches in a standing blender.    Then, stir in the lemon zest, remaining half cup of chopped basil, cream and half and half and season to taste with more salt and pepper. Garnish the soup with some small whole basil leaves and croutons if desired.  Serve immediately, and by all means, enjoy it with your favorite grilled cheese sandwich!

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