Quick & Easy Tomato Soup

For many of us, nothing says homey comfort on a snowy winter day quite like a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup.  I grew up on tomato soup that was made from the condensed stuff out of a can, like many of us did.  Here is something almost as quick and almost as easy as that condensed soup, but with a lot more flavor.  It calls for tomatoes that were canned in the summer, and homemade stock, but you can substitute.  Just be sure to read the labels and choose carefully!

Tomato Soup

  • 1 quart of homemade stock (Bone broth works really well)
  • 1 quart of tomato puree
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1 rib celery, diced
  • 1/2 green pepper, diced
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 T sugar
  • 2 t salt
  • 1 T arrowroot powder***, dissolved in 2 T water
  1. Melt the butter in a large pot.  Add the onions, celery, green pepper, and salt.**  Saute until it is soft, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes, stock, and sugar and simmer for another ten minutes.  If you want that smooth consistency of the canned condensed soup, you can run an immersion (stick) blender through the soup.
  3. Bring the soup up to a boil and add the arrowroot, stirring constantly.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste

This is also wonderful with some homemade pesto mixed in, or adding Taco Seasoning or Aged Inlet Seasoning

 

**Adding salt at the start of the saute helps to draw the moisture out of the vegetables and keeps the soup from getting too watery.

***If you do not have arrowroot, you can use corn starch or potato starch.

Probiotic Salsa

I have already posted my recipe for canned salsa, but I have two others, both using that age-old preservation process I call Probiotic Preservation.  To learn more about it, see my earlier blog post.

The first is a tomato recipe that tastes much like the salsa in the canned recipe.

  • 5-6 medium tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 sweet pepper, small dice
  • 1 jalepeno pepper, sliced (seeds or no seeds – hotness is up to you!)
  • 1 poblano pepper, sliced (see above)
  • 1 stalk celery, small dice
  • 1 T honey or REAL maple syrup
  • 1/3 C sea salt
  • ¼ C whey

Scald and peel the tomatoes.  Cut into bite size pieces and put in a bowl.  Put the onion in a sieve and run under hot water for about a minute.  Add to the bowl.  Sprinkle with the salt and mix and let stand for about three hours.  Drain.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.  Pack into jars and close lids.  Leave in a warm place for 2-3 days.  Transfer to cold storage.

Note:  If you do not have whey available, add 1T of salt  when you add the remaining ingredients.

Green Salsa

  • 1 quart tomatillos, husked and washed and chopped
  • 1 medium onion, rough chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, fine chopped
  • 1 large bunch cilantro, fine chopped, stems included
  • 1 sweet pepper, small dice
  • hot peppers to taste
  • 1/3 C sea salt
  • 1/4 C whey
  1. Combine the tomatillos and onions in a non-reactive bowl and sprinkle with the salt.  Let stand about 20 minutes and then drain.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients.
  3. Pack into jars and close lids.  Leave in a warm place for 2-3 days.  Transfer to cold storage.
  4. When you are ready to eat the salsa, you can serve it as is, or mix it with some fresh chopped red tomatoes, and/or chopped mangos.
    Note:  If you do not have whey available, add 1T of salt  when you add the remaining ingredients.

Another note:  If you put too many hot peppers in the salsa, adding a fruit like mango or apple right before you serve it can cut down the heat with the sweet.

DO NOT ADD THE FRUIT BEFORE YOU FERMENT THIS!  Yes, I tried that once.  The salsa molded halfway down the jar in about two weeks.

I can’t tell you how long these will hold up in cold storage because they doesn’t stick around in our house more than a month or two.  Figure it this way — the tomatoes come in just as football season is starting.

Still more tomatoes coming??

DSC_0115            Sometimes I forget what a pantry staple salsa has become.  Whether it is a lunch fix (Nacho Sandwiches) or a fast dinner (“Spanish” Rice), we use salsa as more than something to scoop up with chips.  Although we like that, as well.

            I have issues with salsa.  Most homemade salsa that I have had is too runny and/or too watery.  Salsa from the store has that plastic taste (I’m not sure how else to describe it: that non-descript, doesn’t really taste like anything flavor, probably manufactured in North Jersey), but usually has a nice thick consistency.

            So here is your middle ground:  The best salsa ever, inspired by my mother-in-law’s recipe:

Rosemary’s Salsa

  • 10 quarts of tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  •   ½ C salt

Mix these together in a colander, and let drain for 3 hours.  Transfer to a non-reactive pot. Then add:

  •  1-2 stalks celery, sliced
  •  2 green onions, chopped
  • 2 jalepenos, sliced (de-seed for less heat)
  • 2 green chilies (de-seed for less heat)
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 C vinegar
  • 12 oz. tomato paste

Simmer for 20 minutes.  Pack in hot pint jars and process 20 minutes.

Nacho Sandwiches

  • 2 tortillas
  • ½ C salsa
  • ½ C grated cheese

Place one tortilla on an oven-proof dish, sprinkle with ½ the cheese.  Top with the salsa and then the rest of the cheese.  Put under the broiler for 1-2 minutes.  Top with the other tortilla.  When we don’t have tortillas, we use toast.  The toast gets soggy, but it still tastes good!

“Spanish” Rice (I’m not sure if that is somehow un PC…)

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 4 C cooked rice
  • 1 pt. jar salsa

1.     In a large skillet, brown the ground beef, and strain off about half of the fat.

2.     Add the rice and stir until coated.

3.     Add the salsa and stir until everything is heated through.  Sometimes we top this with grated cheese, sour cream and/or guacamole.

Sweet Victory

A few years ago, my friend Andrea (from milk escapades a few entries ago) encouraged me to enter my pickles in our local county fair.  A couple of weeks later, she encouraged me to enter more pickles to another fair.  Along with the pickles, my husband told me to enter a jar of Sweet Tomato Jam, a recipe I was loath to make let alone enter in a fair competition.  The only reason I made it was because we had about 10 cherry tomato plants, that were very prolific, and I had to do something with those tomatoes!  Well, that sweet Tomato Jam was a Best in Show that year.  So when the tomato staples are covered, and the tomatoes are still coming in, I make a few batches of this:

 Sweet Tomato Jam

·      4-5 lbs tomatoes, peeled

·      4-6 chili peppers, deseeded and sliced thin (amount depends upon how hot you want to make this)

·      1 ½ “ piece of ginger root, grated

·      1 medium head of garlic, peeled and chopped

·      3 lemons, zested and juiced

·      1 small shallot, minced

·      4 C sugar

 

1.     Chop the tomatoes and transfer juice and all into a large non-reactive pot.

2.     Add the remaining ingredients, and stir until the sugar has dissolved.

3.     When it starts to simmer, turn the heat up to boil off the excess water.  Continue cooking until the mixture turns translucent (this could take up to 3 hours).  The jam tends to stick, so stirring regularly is necessary and constant stirring is required at the end of the cooking process.

4.     Ladle hot jam into hot jars and process.

5.     Leave jam to rest for at least 1 month before eating.  This pairs very nicely with goat cheese, and makes a wonderful glaze for pork or chicken.

 

The Tomatoes are Coming! The Tomatoes are Coming!

            Yes, I have a lot of them, too, and there are only going to be more.  The tomatoes are coming in about as fast as I can process them.  After making peeled whole tomatoes and crushed tomatoes, the next phase is making “Blank Sauce.”  I call it that because it does not have any herbs that might give it a hint of ethnic flavor.  We can use the blank sauce to create all kinds of tomato sauce very quickly.

            One piece of equipment that I strongly recommend is a food mill.  I frequently see them in thrift stores, which for me is a sad affirmation that people are moving further and further away from home processing.  Most food mills look like a pot with holes in the bottom, and a handle with a metal plate.  You can probably pick one up new for about $20- $25.  Some of them come with interchangeable plates, so you can puree the food to different consistencies.

          The drawback to the food mill is the small capacity.  When I am making a large batch of tomato anything, or berry, or apple, I use a Squeezo strainer, that I picked up at a thrift store for $5.  It was one of the best $5 I ever spent there.  New, they run about $100-$150, depending on the brand and the accessories.  My Squeezo has interchangeable cones that run from a berry mesh (fine enough to strain out berry seeds) to a squash mesh that makes perfect crushed tomatoes!

           One benefit of using a food mill, or tomato strainer, is that I get to skip the time consuming step of peeling the tomatoes.  Just don’t make the mistake I made a few years ago and dump the seeds in your compost.  I’ll make excuses for myself that it was hot and I was tired, and just didn’t think when I dumped all of those tomato seeds in the compost bin… but the aftermath, volunteer tomato plants everywhere, was an issue.  Actually it still is an issue.  I had tomatoes coming up in my cold frame this past spring.

 

 

Blank Sauce

 

·      2 T olive oil

·      1 large onion, cut in chunks

·      3 cloves garlic cut in half

·      10 quarts of tomatoes, cut in half or quarters and cored

·      ¼ C salt

·      1 T lemon juice

 

1.     Heat olive oil in the bottom of a large pot.

2.     Add onions and garlic and cook until they begin to turn translucent.

3.     Add tomatoes, salt and lemon juice, and cook down for about 20 – 30 minutes, depending on the water content of the tomatoes.

4.     Turn off the heat and let cool for about 15 minutes.

5.     Run the contents of the pot through the food mill or strainer, using the medium plate. 

6.     Return to the pot and cook down to the desired consistency.

I jar this in quarts and pints. 

 

 In November, when we are in the mood for spaghetti and meatballs, we can whip up some sauce in no time:

 

 Spaghetti Sauce

 

·      1 quart Blank sauce

·      2 T olive oil

·      1 medium onion, finely chopped

·      1 clove garlic, finely chopped

·      2 T dried basil, crushed

·      2 T dried oregano, crushed

·      1 C red wine

·      salt and pepper to taste

1.     In a large pot, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil until the onion starts to turn clear (about 5 minutes).

2.     Add the dried herbs and stir until everything is shiny.

3.     Add the red wine and reduce by half.

4.     Add the Blank sauce.  Simmer for  20-30 minutes.

5.     Salt and pepper to taste.

You can add crushed red pepper flakes to this to zip it up.

 

 If we want a Greek style tomato sauce, it’s even easier:

·      1 quart Blank Sauce

·      1 T flat leaf parsley, chopped

·      1 t dried oregano, crushed

·      ½ C red wine

·      ¼ t cinnamon

·      1/8 t ground allspice

·      Salt to taste

 

1.     Combine all of the ingredients in a pot and stir.  Simmer about 25 minutes. 

This sauce is great over fish in addition to Greek style meatballs.

 

 How about clams or mussels marinara?

·      1 quart Blank Sauce

·      4 anchovy fillets

·      clams and mussels, scrubbed and sanded (put the shellfish in a tub of water with a lot of ground black pepper)

salt and pepper to taste

 

Pour the sauce into a large pot. Heat and stir in the anchovies.  Lower the heat.  Add the shellfish and cover.  Cook until all of the shells have opened.  If any shells do not open, discard that clam or mussel.

 

 My last quick use for Blank Sauce is pot roast:

·      One chuck roast, frozen

·      1 quart Blank Sauce

·      2 C red wine

·      ¼ C soy sauce

·      1 large onion, sliced

1.     Place onion slices in the bottom of a crock pot.

2.     Put frozen roast on top of the onions.

3.     Pour the remaining ingredients on top.

4.     Cover and cook on low for 10 hours.

5.     After 10 hours, remove the meat.  Poke around to see if there are any bones in the pot.  If there are remove them!  Using a wand (immersion) blender, puree the contents of the crock pot to make gravy.  Slice the meat and serve.