I’m in the process of pre-spring cleaning my pantry so I’m cooking only with items I already have on hand. That worked out perfectly when I had to make the last minute chocolate treat for Valentines Day and everything I needed for the recipe was already in the house. During the colder months I shop by stocking up on as much as my cabinets and refrigerator will hold without it all going bad before I’ve had the chance to use it. I’ve usually got tons of canned goods and beans and pasta on hand to not have to wonder what’s for dinner? As we get closer to spring and the return of a larger selection of fresh vegetables and fruits, I don’t stock up as much and I try to use up all that’s in my cabinets as I look forward to cooking with fresh ingredients.
This winter I found myself with more canned tomatoes than planned. Crushed, whole-peeled plum and diced-you name it every variety of canned tomato is taking up space in my cabinets. A few weeks ago while grocery shopping, even though I knew I already had enough to sustain us through winter, I couldn’t resist a phenomenal sale and ended up buying a dozen more cans. The reward for my impulse buy was when I got home I found there was barely room for twelve more 28 ounce cans of tomatoes and I had to remove everything from the cabinets and rearrange in order to fit them in.
Lucky for me, I know of plenty of ways to use up an ample supply of canned tomatoes. Crushed tomatoes went into the chili made for Super Bowl Sunday, plus pasta sauces for lasagna, spaghetti Bolognese, and ziti. Diced tomatoes added zing to bean soups and the whole plum tomatoes got roasted for creamy tomato soup.
I can never get enough of eating soup and you can expect to see more and watch as they morph from soups eaten on cold winter days into soups more appropriate to spring and warmer weather. What I like about this tomato soup, and you will too, is that although it’s called creamy-there is not a drop of cream added. Yet it is as rich and creamy as any cream-based soup. When making tomato soup the last thing I want is for it to taste like tomato sauce that you eat with a spoon, so I stay away from anything traditionally found in tomato sauce like garlic or oregano. I like to compliment the canned tomatoes by adding fresh in season ingredients. Leeks add a mild onion flavor to this tomato soup. Sautéed until tender and melting they help make the soup silky and smooth.
The simple ingredients keep this soup bright and fresh tasting. I served this soup last year for a Mothers Day Brunch I hosted and it was the star of the show. Served in little shot glasses along with tiny grilled cheese sandwiches, it was hard for anyone to just have one. A creamy tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches? It doesn’t get any better than that.
recipe: creamy tomato soup, thank you Jack Bishop
NOTE: thankfully leeks can be found in every grocery store, clean them well as instructed.
2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes
1 tablespoon light, or dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium leeks, white and light green parts, halved lengthwise, washed, and sliced crosswise into thin strips
1 tablespoon double-strength tomato paste (the kind in a tube)
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups good vegetable broth
Move an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 475 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil.
Drain the tomatoes in a strainer set in a bowl to collect the juices. With your fingers, carefully open the tomatoes, one at a time, letting the juices and seeds drop into the strainer. Place the seeded tomatoes on the foil-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with the brown sugar and roast until the liquid has evaporated and the tomatoes are just beginning to color, about 20 minutes. Discard the seeds in the strainer and reserve the juice in the bowl. You should have about 2 1/2 cups strained tomato juice.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. When the foaming subsides, add the leeks and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring often, until the leeks have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and nutmeg and cook, stirring often, for 1 minute. Add the flour and cook ,stirring often, for 1 minute. Whisking constantly, add the vegetable broth until the mixture is smooth(without lumps of flour). Add the reserved tomato juice and roasted tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer to blend the flavors, about 10 minutes.
Puree the soup in batches in a blender until perfectly smooth. Return the soup to a clean saucepan and adjust the seasonings, adding salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Warm and serve, or refrigerate in an airtight container for several days and then warm over low heat before serving.