Monday, October 21, 2013

Tomato Cucumber Soup

The cold weather has rolled in to stay for the season and with that brings the excitement of my kitchen back to life. Since I live in a tiny, airconditionless apartment the summer is not prime cooking time for me. My most recent in depth home cooked meal was none other than my favorite soup: Tomato Cucumber. Its full of veggies, spices, and love :) I used to call it "Hot, wannabe gazpacho" because of the types of veggies used, namely the cucumber flavor that comes through, but over time it has evolved and therefore the name needed to evolve as well.

P.S. I used to make this recipe by pre-chopping all the veggies in a food processor, but I recently obtained an immersion blender which significantly lessens the work and improves the texture of the soup - if you don't have one of these and you like to make soup, please please please consider buying one. It is my new favorite kitchen toy and I'm constantly looking for excuses to use it!

Tomato Cucumber Soup
Ingredients (makes 4-6+ servings):
1.5 tbls Butter
1/2 medium sized Yellow Onion
3 cloves of Garlic
1/2 tsp of Thyme
3 tbls Flour
~3 cups Chicken Stock (can substitute with 3 cups water + 3 bullion cubes)
3 stalks of Celery
16 oz can Diced Tomatoes in Sauce
8 oz can Tomato Sauce
1 medium-large Cucumber
1/2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
Pinch or two of Sugar
2 tbls Parsley
2 heavy handed tbls Basil
Salt and Pepper
~1/4 cup Heavy Cream

*Note: for easier prep, pre-chop all veggies. They only need to be roughly chopped if you have an immersion blender or plan to blend the soup at the end. Otherwise, finely chop in a food processor and reduce cooking time in steps 3 on by approximately half.

1. In a medium pot on medium heat, drizzle a bit of oil (approx 2 tbls) and add 1 tbls butter. Once butter is mostly melted add roughly chopped onion and sprinkle a little bit of salt and pepper over the onion to add flavor and draw out the juices. Cook until onion softens and starts to become translucent.

2. Add garlic (roughly chopped) and thyme and allow to cook for approximately 3-5 minutes. Your pot should become fragrant. Add flour to form a roux by constantly mixing flour into the oil &butter so that it is absorbed. Once roux begins to turn a light golden color, add chicken stock slowly while stirring or whisking continuously. If you do not stir continuously and pour in stock slowly you will get a lumpy texture - do not cheat here!

3. Add red pepper flakes, and roughly chopped celery. Increase heat slightly to allow to come to a simmer and then lower. You will want the soup to continue simmering for the rest of the cooking process. Allow celery to simmer in soup for approximately 8-10 minutes on medium-low heat.

4. Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and chopped cucumber. Allow to simmer for an additional 5-8 minutes.

5. (My favorite part) Get out your immersion blender and blend veggies (I use lowest setting... my immersion blender is powerful). If you don't have one, you can also transfer the soup in batches into a food processor or blender and then return it to the pot for the final cooking/addition of spices.

6. Add pinch of sugar, parsley and basil. Feel free to add a little more basil - this is a flavor that should be prominent at the end. Taste test for salt and pepper and add more if desired. (The saltiness of your rough product will depend on what type of broth/bullion cubes you use and how much you pre-salt your onions at the beginning). Allow to simmer an additional 5-10 minutes so the flavors can marry a bit more. Add the heavy cream - I say approximately 1/4 cup but I just drizzle in a bit to very slightly lighten the color and thicken the soup. You can even omit the cream all together. This is art not science, you can simmer or continue to cook on low heat for longer if you wish - it may even make the flavor profile richer... I just tend to be impatient at this point.

7. Serve with garnishing of your desire, I like to add some shredded cheddar. If you are not a soup-is-an-entree person, this goes very nicely with grilled cheese or, my personal choice, BLTs.

*Recipe disclaimer: I don't measure my spices at home! These are estimates to guide you based on quantity approximation. Always taste your food as you go and remember you can always add a spice but once its in you can't take it out.

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