I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Tomato Soup Base

Fresh Tomatoes at Borough Market, London

I love tomato soup, love, love, love it.  All kinds, all flavors, hot or cold, even from a can.  But it’s so easy to make it yourself.  I love to whip up a big pot, and stash away servings in the freezer to have on hand whenever the mood strikes.  In the winter months, I make it with good canned Italian tomatoes, but in the summer when local tomatoes are in abundance I go fresh all the way. 

But I get stuck sometimes – one big pot of soup, lots of servings stashed in the freezer, what flavor?  I may have a taste for tomato and dill now, but in a month, after a long day, when all I want to do is heat up some soup, will I be craving a more Italian flair?  So this idea came to me one day.  Make the simplest base for soup with rich, roasted fresh tomatoes, and then I can flavor it up as I’d like each time I heat up a bowl.

This recipe makes about 6 cups, which works great for me.  I freeze some 2 cup bags and a couple of 1 cup bags.  One cup is a great lunch or on the side with a sandwich, 2 cups makes dinner.  Feel completely free to double the recipe, but you may need to put the tomatoes on two baking sheets and rotate them in the oven.

Tomato Soup Base

This is a very simple soup base to keep in the freezer, then add the flavors that take your fancy.

6 large ripe red tomatoes

1 large yellow onion

1 large shallot

3 cloves of garlic

32 ounces rich chicken stock

Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Halve the tomatoes and scoop out the seeds.  Place the halves cut size up on a baking sheet (lining it with non-stick foil makes the whole thing easier), then drizzle with a little olive oil.  Roast the tomatoes until they are wrinkled and beginning to collapse in on themselves, 40 – 50 minutes depending on the size of your tomatoes.  A little black char on the skin is okay, but don’t let the tomatoes burn.

Meanwhile, dice the onion, shallots and garlic cloves.  Pour 2 – 3 Tablespoons of olive oil into a 5 quart stockpot or Dutch oven.  Add the onions and shallots and sauté over medium heat until soft and translucent, but not browned.  Add the garlic and sauté a few minutes more.  Remove from the heat until the tomatoes are roasted.

Remove the tomatoes from the oven and add to the pot with the onion mixture.  Put the pot back on high heat and break up the tomatoes with the back of a spoon.  Pour in the chicken stock and continue to break up the tomatoes.  Bring the soup to a boil, boil for 4 -5 minutes, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for a least half an hour.  During this time, use a stick blender to puree the soup base.  You can also simmer the soup, leave it to cool a bit then carefully puree in a blender in batches.

Taste the soup and season lightly with salt and pepper.  The point of this base is that you can add flavors as you please, so don’t go overboard on seasoning now.

Cool the soup completely, ladle into ziptop freezer bags in the portions you prefer (I usually do some one-portion and two-portion bags).  Freeze.

Makes 6 cups

Variations:

There is no end to how you use this base to make your favorite flavored tomato soup.  How much of the added ingredients you use will depend on how large a serving of soup you are making.  These directions are for 2 cups of base.

Italian Tomato Soup

Place the thawed soup base in a saucepan with another clove of finely chopped garlic, a handful of chopped basil leaves and a few Tablespoons of chopped fresh oregano. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes.  Season to taste

Fennel and Tomato Soup

Finely dice some fennel bulb and a little of the feathery fronds.  Saute over medium heat until soft.  Add a splash of pernod or white vermouth, then the thawed tomato soup base.   Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer.

Tomato Dill Soup with Vodka

Place the thawed soup base in a saucepan, then stir in a nice handful of chopped fresh dill.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes or so.  Stir in a splash of vodka, then season to taste.

Tomato Curry Soup

Saute the finely chopped white of a green onion in a little oil.  Sprinkle over curry powder to taste and stir until fragrant.  Add the thawed tomato soup base, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and stir in 2 Tablespoons coconut milk.  Heat through, and serve topped with shredded coconut, chopped cashews, chopped cilantro and chopped green onion tops.

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