19 August 2014

Jess Learns to Cook: #2 - Garden fresh, homemade tomato soup

With five tomato plants (2 Celebrity, 1 Heirloom, 1 Cherry, 1 Grape) in our garden we've run into a bit of a surplus. We should probably be learning to can them so we can be knee deep in jars of salsa and pasta sauce all winter, but we haven't gotten around to that yet. So with tomatoes piling up in the kitchen I decided to try my hand at tomato soup. When I sat down to write this post though I realized I didn't save the recipe I used. Oops :) Oh well, I didn't love it anyway. So here was my experience and the tips gained along the way.

Our tomato supply. Mostly Celebrity, lots of Cherry and Grape, a few Heirloom.

I first started searching for "homemade tomato soup", but almost all of them call for canned tomatoes, dried this, canned that, etc. I suppose I could've just eyeballed the equal amount of tomatoes from our garden and substituted our fresh ingredients, but oh well. After looking through a bunch of from-the-can soup recipes I searched for something along the lines of "no really, homemade, from my garden, I grew this stuff, coming straight out of our backyard, I want to make it, tomato soup...from the garden...for reals.......homemadetomatosoup". 

The problem with a lot of the "real" homemade tomato soups though is that they're a little ridiculous. By ridiculous I mean an unrealistic amount of time and using more advanced techniques to prepare each ingredient. Sure, if all I did all day was cook and I didn't have kids (or a house, or a life) then I would make the crap out of fancy tomato soup on the regular. Realistically though, those kind of recipes will only be cooked by me once or twice a month, let's be honest. That's even considering we cook dinner nearly every day, only going out to eat once or twice a month. 2+ hours of constant work is entirely too long to be preparing ONE meal for a family of 3. I do make an exception for first time recipes and recipes that'll result in lots and lots of leftovers.

Anyway, when I find a new recipe I search for what I want and read through several. That way I know which ingredients are almost always used, which ones might be a nice addition and the various ways of preparation. The end result is usually largely following one recipe with a few slight alterations. Somewhere in that process this time I got all twisted up, thought I was making a 30 minute recipe, but actually started a 90 minute recipe. Oops.

One of the first things it said to do was "core the tomatoes". I'm sorry, what? Core them? Like an apple? They don't...what? Why would I cut out the center of the tomatoes? Either my understanding of "coring" was off or they were asking me to do something unnecessary. The middle of a tomato is just fine, thank you. So I cut out just the top bit where the tomato connects to the vine.

The recipe called for a few garlic cloves but I didn't have any on hand so I just used the store-bought minced garlic. I use fresh garlic when I can but if it isn't a major part/taste of the dish and I don't have any cloves on hand then the pre-minced kind works just fine.

I put the tomato halves, onion slices and minced garlic on a baking sheet, drizzled (...bleh, I don't like that word) with olive oil, threw on a bit of salt and pepper and put it in the oven at 450*.

I've never used my non-stick baking sheets for anything but cookies and I'm still not entirely sure if this is alright. Oh well :) 

I had a lot of "oh well" moments with this recipe.

I know olive oil has a pretty low smoke point (temperature it'll start smoking), turns out its only 375*. I knew this would be a problem but it really wasn't as bad as I was expecting. While everything was baking the smoke alarm kept going off (obnoxious), but thankfully I have a tall husband who can reach the smoke alarm :) Other than the smoke the food and oven were fine. It smelled SO GOOD. SO good. Even with the smoke it...oh my goodness I could've eaten them straight out of the oven.

While those were baking I put the following into the stock pot and brought to a boil:
2T butter
1qt homemade chicken stock
2 bay leaves

The tomatoes, onions and garlic baked for 20-30 minutes then went into the stock pot too.


Then it was simmered for about 30 min. This was the point I realized I was using the long recipe :)

This is the part where it could've ended up so much worse. I used one of those strainer spoons and scooped everything out of the stock pot and into the blender. You know that hole in the top of blender lids? This is a time to open that. Yeah, I didn't know that. I blended everything up as quickly as I could, hoping my boiling hot soup bits wouldn't cause an issue for our blender. The reason you're supposed to open that hole in the top is so the steam doesn't build up inside and make your blender explode hot nonsense all over the place and you. I didn't have any trouble with that but next time I know to open the hole AND COVER WITH A DISH TOWEL!!! Don't go blend something with the whole WIDE open.

Anyway, then I added some chopped fresh basil from our garden. Doesn't that sound fancy? "Fresh basil from our garden" I feel almost pretentious just typing it. Ha! :) Then cooked it longer. 20 minutes I think? And viola! Tomato soup from our garden!

I should've made a smiley face of cherry tomatoes. What was I thinking?
Doesn't it look great? No? Yeah, not so great. The texture was thicker, but kind of a weird thicker, almost like a bisque.

I'm going to find and try a different recipe but for now, here are my issues with this one.

- It took forever. Granted, a lot of that was somewhat idle time, waiting for boiling, baking, etc., but still. I've spent lots of time growing, loving, weeding and harvesting my garden, I don't want to spend forever cooking from it too.

- More detail was put into things that could be simplified. Yes, those tomatoes and onions were *muah* delicious. But you know what else is delicious? Throwing all that nonsense together in the stock pot and spending time with my family while it does it's own thing.

- Texture. Texture is a big thing with Daniel. He dislikes fish not because it tastes like fish but because if feels like fish. Yeah. So the texture of the soup was a bit much for him.

Tips Learned:
- Open the "hole" in the top of the blender (and hold dish towel over it) when blending hot things.
- Double check a recipe before starting to cook

Overall this particular recipe wasn't worth the time and effort BUT for my first try at tomato soup it did turn out pretty tasty I think. I'll probably not make this one again (especially since I haven't recovered the recipe), but I do think it's a fantastic idea for people with tomatoes coming out their ears :)

***In the next few weeks I'll find and try out a more realistic recipe and I'll make sure to post it***

1 comment:

  1. Good job cooking! Your tomatoes are beautiful, ours are all snail ridden. :/ I think I have had that issue with tomato soup before, I wonder if straining it after blending would help? Or it might be too thick. Let me know if you find a great recipe with a good texture.