Why It Works
- This recipe uses pantry staples like canned tomatoes, which are reliably fresh year-round.
- Blending bread and olive oil together gives the soup a creamy texture without any dairy.
Most of us have some sort of nostalgic idea of eating sweet, creamy, canned tomato soup with a side of grilled cheese sandwich, right? I mean, I never ate tomato soup as a kid, but even I have nostalgia for the stuff. It's something that's just ingrained in the collective conscious as an essential part of childhood, and a flavor combination that as adults we take joy in turning back to.
Well, the canned stuff is all fine and good in my mind, but when I actually taste it these days, the nostalgia disappears in a puff of high fructose corn syrup-scented smoke. Cloyingly sweet and one-dimensional, it's a tough dish to swallow.
The good news: Making excellent tomato soup from scratch at home is almost as easy as simply opening a can, and the return on your minor time investment is significant.
This variation of a tomato soup recipe I first wrote down for Cook's Illustrated a few years ago starts with a sauté of onions, garlic, dried oregano (which, in applications like this, is just as good as fresh), and crushed red pepper in really good olive oil. I use canned tomatoes because we're cooking them anyway, and canned tomatoes are more reliably fresh year-round than actual fresh tomatoes are. Plus, the fact that they're cooked already means that you have little more do to than bring them to a boil before puréeing in a blender.
But where does the creaminess come in?
When push comes to shove, I suppose that this recipe should more aptly be entitled "hot gazpacho" rather than "dairy-free creamy tomato soup," because a hot gazpacho is exactly what it is. If you read my piece on gazpacho, you'd know that at its heart, gazpacho is really a soup of bread and olive oil, and that's exactly what I use to make this vegan version of creamy tomato soup, well, creamy.
See, when olive oil and a water-based soup come together, they don't exactly like to mix. Oil and water and all that. If you can somehow manage to force the two to come together harmoniously, what you end up with is a creamy, rich liquid that is thicker and richer than either the soup or the olive oil on their own, much in the same way that mayonnaise is thicker than the eggs or oil that comprise it.
The key to getting the olive oil and liquid to emulsify? Sliced bread and a blender. A blender on its own will break down large oil droplets into microscopic ones that get dispersed evenly throughout the soup. But this on its own is not enough; Eventually those microscopic droplets come together and coalesce into visible droplets that turn the soup greasy. Enter bread. Sliced sandwich bread adds plenty of starch and wheat proteins to the soup. Both of these act as physical emulsifiers, both thickening the liquid, and preventing dispersed oil droplets from coalescing and separating from the mix.
A quick whizz in the blender, and you've got a soup that you could swear has some dairy richness to it, but with a far more intense, bright flavor than an actual cream soup.
A drizzle of olive oil, a few grinds of black pepper, a sprinkling of fresh herbs, and lunch is served.
February 10, 2012
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane grater
1 small onion, finely sliced (about 1 cup)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 slices white bread, crusts removed, torn into rough 1/2-inch pieces
2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes packed in juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Minced chives, basil, or parsley as garnish
Toasted bread or grilled cheese for serving
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add garlic, onions, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring frequently until onions are softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add bread and tomatoes. Roughly mash tomatoes with a whisk or a potato masher. Add 2 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes.
Transfer half of the soup to the jar of a blender. Blend soup, starting at low speed and gradually increasing to high. With blender running on high, gradually trickle in half of remaining olive oil. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a large bowl and repeat with remaining half of soup and olive oil. Ladle into individual serving bowls, top with minced herbs, drizzle with more olive oil, and serve with toast or grilled cheese.
Be careful starting up the blender, the soup can shoot out the top. Open the vent and hold a kitchen towel over the lid to prevent blowout.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 4 to 6|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 23g||30%|
|Saturated Fat 5g||25%|
|Total Carbohydrate 26g||9%|
|Dietary Fiber 4g||16%|
|Total Sugars 10g|
|Vitamin C 66mg||330%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|