Friday, February 09, 2007

Get-well-quickly tomato soup

I left work early the other day, which is something I never do. But after several colleagues came up to me and said, “Why are you so flushed?” and then, a few minutes later, “Why are you so pale?” I realized something wasn’t right. Not to mention, I was wearing my wooly hat with earflaps in the office. My boss said, “Why are you wearing your hat?” I didn’t have a good answer—it just felt cozy on my cold head. So I decided that the magazine could live without me (a tough and rare choice for me to make).

On the way home, I stopped into Whole Foods to pick up some soup. Growing up, my two favorite “I don’t feel well” soups were the canned variety: Campbell’s Chicken Noodle and Campbell’s Tomato, both best served with so many saltines crunched in the bowl that it turned into a sort of cracker-and-soup paste. Whole Foods doesn’t sell Campbell’s, and I don’t know if I’d eat the stuff anyway—too much MSG and other weird ingredients. So while perusing the soups, I realized that I craved a creamy, tomato bisque, loaded with garlic. This was not on offer, so I decided I’d have to make it myself.

Now you may be saying, “She’s sick, why would she make herself soup?” And to this I reply, because when I have an idea in my head of what I want, I know that nothing will stop me from getting it, not even a burgeoning illness. I remembered I already had all the ingredients for the soup I imagined, so I grabbed a loaf of sourdough bread and walked the short block home.

I’ve only had the flu twice in my life, both times were years I didn’t get a flu shot. My first instance was two days before Thanksgiving, 1994. I lived in Austin, and I could barely move I ached so badly. But I had to be relatively mobile because liquids were moving fast and furiously throughout my body. A friend offered to drive me back to Houston so I could spend Thanksgiving at home. I was reluctant—it was a three-hour drive and I didn’t think I’d make it. But something told me I needed to go, and so after stopping in every small town between Austin and Houston to appease my bodily demons, I made the trip.

I’m glad I went to Houston. It turned out to be the last Thanksgiving I’d have with my immediate family in my childhood home. I left Texas for New York in the following months, and my parents divorced shortly thereafter, with my dad moving to Oregon and my mom moving across town. I felt like death warmed over, but I’m glad I have a memory of that final Thanksgiving—I wouldn’t have missed it for the world (though most of it was spent in bed reading Lorrie Moore’s Who Will Run the Frog Hospital, a get-well-soon gift from my dad).

A couple of years ago, I again had a nasty bout of the flu. Looking back, I know now it was the beginning of the end of my own long-term relationship. The break-up with my boyfriend didn’t happen for another year, but while I was sick in bed, I had a lot of time to think. And through the haze I had moments of clarity that revealed our relationship was not meant to be.

For me, these two instances of illness have occurred at times of transition and change. And I don’t know if it’s my body reacting to the unhappiness swirling around me or if I’ve just caught a nasty old bug. But I find it poignant that I was so severly sick at these pivotal moments in my life.

In any case, I don’t have the flu. I feel much, much better (otherwise, would I be writing this many words?), and I chalk most of that to this garlic-heavy and vitamin C-rich soup I concocted. And while I didn’t get a flu shot this year (I opted to go to Italy when my company was providing the service), I don’t foretell any upsets on the horizon—my life is good. So this soup may not be Campbell’s, but it cured what ailed me and that suits me just fine.

Get-well-quickly tomato soup
Ingredients:
1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes (I used San Marzano)
1 head of garlic, roasted
2 tablespoons of fresh basil
A quarter of an onion diced
One celery rib, diced
One carrot, diced
2 pieces of cooked bacon (optional)
1 tablespoon of butter
1 teaspoon of sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups of cream or half-and-half
3 tablespoons of hard cheese such as Parmigiana, Romano or Asiago

Method:
Separate head of garlic into separate cloves, don’t peel but rub off papery bits. Place cloves on piece of foil, drizzle olive oil over them, wrap and place in oven at 250 degrees for one hour.
Sweat onions, celery, carrot and one piece of bacon in butter for 15 minutes.
Add tomatoes, sugar and basil and other piece of bacon to pot.
Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered, for half an hour.
Take roasted garlic out of oven, and add to tomato mixture as many cloves as you like. (I used 10, but I not only love garlic but wanted its healing power to make me feel better.)
Stir in cheese.
Simmer, covered for another half hour.
Turn off heat and let cool for 15 minutes.
Puree tomato mixture until smooth.
Stir in cream. (Can use more than two cups for a thinner soup.)
Serve with crusty bread (and if you don’t feel well, you can spread more roasted garlic on the bread).

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47 comments:

Lydia said...

I know what you mean about wanting something specific when you're sick, and nothing else will do. (I used to do the same thing with Campbell's soup and crackers!) Love this recipe. I'm going to try it this weekend -- and I don't even have a cold!

wheresmymind said...

Maybe you should ditch work more often? Always makes me feel good!! lol

Homesick Texan said...

Lydia--Thanks! Go easy on the garlic, it's powerful stuff!

Wheresmymind--You're right, I should take more "me" days more often!

Rachel said...

Yum. I love homemade tomato soup.

Shawnda said...

Oh, how I wished I had a grilled cheese sandwich right now. It would go perfectly with that soup.

Homesick Texan said...

Rachel--It is yummy!

Shawnda--Oh, yes! That's my favorite thing to go with tomato soup, too!

gilly said...

This soup sounds lovely - I like the idea of the garlic in it! I hope you are feeling better soon.

Anna said...

I just can't get enough of your photographs. They are gorgeous! Glad you are feeling better. Garlic is a miracle :)

Linda said...

beautiful soup - perfect orange. hope you are feeling better!

like anna - i too can't get enough of your photography. i've simply run out of complements and really just sigh wishing I had your talent every time I see them. you are sooooo skilled, really. I always enjoy them. thanks for posting this :)

Yvo said...

mmmm, wonderful stories (so glad you don't have the flu) and great pictures. it makes me almost ready to toss aside the dislike of tomato soup :)

Cilantro said...

Yum, looks delectable. For a great flavor variation--leave out the garlic to make it more delicate, and put a dollop of cognac or brandy in it! Good for what ails you...and you'd be amazed at how well the brandy and the tomatoes and cream meld together into deliciousness.

Catharine said...

This I've got to make! I grew up in Houston, and when I was sick, my mother used to make a tomato soup she dubbed "Pink Soup for Pale People" that involved heating up canned tomatoes and seasonings in one pot and milk/cream and butter in another. Once the contents of both saucepans were very hot, Mother would add a largish pinch of baking soda to the tomato pot. The pot's contents immediately would bubble and roil and amaze me as I watched, convinced my mother was a wizard (I had not yet read Macbeth or stumbled into "Mother Issues"). Once the chemistry had simmered down, Mother would pour the cream/butter mixture into the tomatoes, stir everything together for a few moments, and check the seasoning. When she was satisfied that all was as it should be, she'd ladle me out a big bowl. That "Pink Soup for Pale People" never failed to work it's magic, and as a child I thought it the height of culinary achievement. It's not -- it's really pretty dreadful soup. But I've never told my mother (who is now in her late-80s). In fact, I made her some when she was laid low with the flu last winter. The next time either of us is sick, I'm going to try your recipe; I think we'll both get well quickly. Thank you for a lovely bit of writing, a delicious recipe, and a lovely memory to recall.

Homesick Texan said...

Gilly--I already am feeling better, thanks!

Anna--Garlic is indeed a miracle cure. And thank you!

Linda--I'm glad you enjoy the photos--I certainly enjoy taking them! Many thanks for the very kind words! (Though I was surprised when the soup turned out so orange, I though it would be more red.)

Yvo--You should try tomato soup, it's excellent on a cold day (even though tomatoes are a summer fruit). Goes wonderfully with grilled cheese sandwiches!

Cilantro--Excellent idea! I don't usually have cognac or brandy on hand, but that sounds delicious--I'll have to try it that way.

Homesick Texan said...

Catherine--What a lovely memory! Thanks for sharing! Did she add the baking soda for flavor or for showmanship? I just might have to try that!

Catharine said...

Showmanship, of course! But based in good chemistry: when used in moderation, baking soda both elimates some of the acidity of the tomatoes and eliminates the chance the milk/cream will curdle.

I very much enjoy your blog and after having been away from Texas for 20-plus years, I understand being homesick!

Empty said...

Garlic and tomato soup.
I just recently discovered this blog and I'm already in love.

neha said...

The best tomato soup that I remember from Texas is the tomatoe bisque at La Madeleine. Unfortunately, its loaded with calories, but I only have it once a year when I go home to visit.

Draconian Clown said...

La Mads ... Yum! I had forgotten the Tomato Bisque with fresh bread and French Roast. That place smelled so good.

Alison said...

My go to when sick soup is creamy butternut squash, but your tomato sounds wonderful. I've never enjoyed canned tomato soup, it is never thick enough to feel substantial.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing quite like homemade tomato soup, it is out of this world compared to that canned stuff. Glad you're feeling better! :)


Ari (Baking and Books)

christine (my plate or yours) said...

Campbell's huh? It was Lipton chicken noodle for me. I am afraid of what's in it, but it's still the only thing that will do when I'm sick.

Glad you are feeling better!

rob said...

Hey, homesick (or just, sick, maybe?), your soup looks great. It's been bloody cold here in Toronto for the past month, and we've been slurping mugs of hot soup quite often for the past month. Tomato soup is one of favourites. I love the addition of bacon (which makes any soup taste better). Our favourite soup trick is to toss in a leftover parmesan rind during cooking. It adds an extra dimension of flavour, and it makes me feel like I'm being tremendously thrifty.

Susan said...

Great soup! I love San Marzano tomatoes; they are so flavorful.

scribbit said...

This reminds me of my favorite soup in the whole world that they serve at my favorite restaurant here: cream of sundried tomato. It's the stuff I dream about. With a side order of chevre salad it's a perfect meal.

Homesick Texan said...

Catharine--Thanks! And I never knew that about baking soda.

Empty--Thanks!

Neha--Oooooh! I love La Madeleine! Such great soups and breads.

Draconian Clown--Yes, it smells divine!

Alison--I like canned tomato soup probably less for the taste and more for the memories, but this soup is really nothing like the canned stuff.

Ari--Thanks! And yes, nothing compares to homemade.

Christine--Thanks! We weren't a Liptons family, but I'm sure it's just as tasty (and bad for you!)

Rob--That's brilliant! I'll have to try throwing in the parmesan rind next time.

Susan--They're my favorite, too. Whole Foods had a special on them recently so I stocked up.

Scribbit--I love the flavor combination of sundried tomatoes with chevre--that sounds like a perfect meal indeed!

Julie said...

When I got to the part where you were wearing your hat in the office I was thinking flu, really really bad flu. I'm glad I was wrong and it was something more garden variety.

The roasted garlic cloves in this soup sound wonderful. Just the sort of thing to ward off future colds and flu.

Freya said...

Yum, garlic and tomato, good for the blood and good for the soul!

kathleen said...

Just read yr blog for the first time really enjoyed it. I presently live outside of San Antonio we are dining out at Mi Tierra on Sat night, my husbands boss and his wife are coming down from NY for the weekend! Can't wait!

Yvo said...

Lisa, I think I will, though I generally prefer hearty slices of tomato in my grilled cheese sandwiches :) I'm about to embark on a soup kick- apparently we're about to get loads of snow, so the next few days, soup it shall be.

Homesick Texan said...

Julie--Yeah, my boss took my hat wearing as a pretty bad sign as well! And yes, garlic is the miracle cure!

Freya--Indeed! I love garlic!

Kathleen--Thank you! You'll have a fine time at Mi Tierra. Enjoy!

Yvo--Soup is a perfect dish when there's loads of snow, isn't it? And it's about time. It's February and we haven't had one decent snowstorm this year.

Melting Wok said...

Hope you're well & comforted, you should, got that wonderful tomato bisque-soupy going :)) Cheers :) I usually go for congee, duck eggs *yes* haha, & fermented beancurd *chinese yogurty cheese* :)

Tommy said...

Howdy ,

Your recipe could quite easily be adjusted to make an awesome sauce for just about any pasta.

I'm thinking a baked pasta dish. Rotelle ? Bowtie ? Hmmmm....


Throwing in a cheese rind is an old trick the Italians used when doing minestrone. Adds flavour, and will disintegrate with continued simmering.Not advised for a soup like you are doing though.

Fermented beancurd = smelly sweatsocks.Definitely an acquired taste and smell.

Get Well Soon

ann said...

I'm here to drop some science on the secret to perfect tomato bisque... it's baking soda!
I discovered this in an old Shaker cookbook, and the recipe makes the BEST tomato bisque ever.

The soda reacting to the acid environment causes some foaming that makes the soup so wickedly light on the tongue, it's really startling!

btw, I'm glad you're feeling better!

Kit said...

Thank you for this awesome recipe -- I have a very bad hand with soups, and my husband usually groans when I tell him that I have made another one. But last night I when made this one, he looked up at me from his bowl with surprise and said "this is really good!" And now I get to eat more of it for lunch today ...

Homesick Texan said...

Melting Wok--I've never had fermented bean curd, but it sounds like those active cultures would be very effective in attacking whatever ails you.

Tommy--Thanks! Yes, the soup was so thick it would go great with pasta.

Ann--You're the second person to recommend baking soda which I'll definitely include next time I make a pot. Cool tip!

Kit--Hurrah! You just put a big ol' smile on my face! Thank you! I'm glad the recipe worked for y'all.

Ethan said...

I am SO making that soup. Thanks for sharing!

Pallas said...

Looks like a great soup. I am going to try making it using some of the numerous tomatoes that are filling the garden.

Anonymous said...

Great soups recipes! Thank you!

rv said...

Hi! first time on your blog, and I loved the soup and the feelings associated with it:) Thanks for the recipe:)

Anonymous said...

This soup is excellent...I have made tomato soup before but never tomato soup that tastes like this recipe. I cook at night and eat the meal the next day. I can't to eat tomorrow!!

Cate said...

I love tomato soup and I loved the Lorrie Moore book you mentioned. All of her books are good. I make a good tomato soup with the addition of sherry at the end.

masdevallia said...

I just made this last night. It was INCREDIBLE. Definitely a keeper in my recipe cue.

masdevallia said...

P.S. I did serve it with grilled cheese. I was reminded when I read through the comments above.

georgiadog said...

Like you, tomato soup has always been one of my favorite go-to soups when sick. And I've been looking for a good home-made version since I just haven't found a commercially prepared one that I like. I can't wait to try yours!!

Colleen said...

Hey!
As the way it usually happens, I read the recipe that I get emailed to me (potato soup from "my good cook", then went to your tomato soup recipe. When we got sick, we also got one of the Campbell's soups, but we only got 2 crackers/bowl and the tomato soup was always mixed with water. I am almost 60 and we still tease my younger sister because one of her first phrases was "chicky noody poop".
Got your cookbook for Christmas! Love it: the recipes, the photos, the stories of a shared culture. I live in La Porte, southeast of Houston. I'm heading to Austin to see my daughter next week, taking your cookbook with me. I take Hwy 290 (prettier drive). Need anything?

Marcia said...

Like you, I tend to get hit with some nasty bug or another when life gets gnarly. Walking pneumonia after my father's death, a 3-month case of laryngitis while I was in my doctoral program... (although I don't think any of my family and friends minded that one). At any rate, a good soup is most definitely a huge help at such times and this looks fabulous. I'm definitely going to give it a try. Thanks!

What A Dish! said...

Just made this tonight and I loved it! I used the whole head of garlic and it tasted great. I doubled the tomatoes so it would make a little more. It was still really thick and good.

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