There is one childhood favorite that still comforts the author when he is sick or feeling blue, or even when it’s really cold and blustery outside. It’s something that, typically, also tastes better when someone else makes it, because it’s made with love, regardless of how simple it is. Tomato soup — that heavenly concoction of creamy, sweet and spicy heat, served with a grilled cheese sandwich, warming one’s soul all the way down to the tips of the toes, and soothing aching body parts just with its scent — has held a special place in the back of the author’s cupboard (usually behind the canned pineapple) for as long as he can remember.
Of course, when the author makes it, the can of soup is only a stepping stone to healing the soul, and if the can of soup isn’t there, combining a can each of tomato sauce and tomato paste is a satisfactory base. Adding fresh chopped veggies and a dash of spice helps boost the nutritional content, as well as broadening the flavor profile. A dollop of sour cream and a grating of Pedrozo Garlic and Herb Gouda over the top complete the composition.
The best way to begin is by planning ahead, and then throwing all the ingredients right in: for example, mix the spices together first, and you won’t be rummaging through the cupboard later looking for the ingredients you forgot. Since we start by removing the can of soup from the pantry anyway, it means we won’t have to come back later.
This time we are using a soup that is already prepared, so we don’t need to add much: Set aside a dash each of salt, pepper, paprika, and cayenne, and a tsp each of cumin, oregano and chili powder. Using an espresso plate to hold the spices works well.
Mince 1/4 each small red onion and green bell pepper, and 2 cloves garlic. Since there’s no fresh tomato handy, several sun-dried tomatoes from local tomato guru Bella Sun Luci were chopped up and added as well.
The liquids come next: save the can of milk for last, because the tomato base must come before. In a small measuring cup mix one ounce of orange juice with a tsp each of balsamic vinegar and Tapatio. Also reserve 1 tbsp each butter and olive oil; got that can of condensed soup? Now we are ready.
With a smaller saucepan over med-low heat, drizzle the olive oil and heat it until it loosens up enough to slide quickly across the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic, let it sweat briefly, then toss in the onions and bell pepper. This would be a good time to add bacon or mushrooms, if you like.
When the vegetables have carmelized, add the orange juice concotion, letting the heat recover before stirring in the butter and spices. The orange juice will give the soup a citrus twist without the kick lemon zest tends to offer, and the balsamic will add a rich depth that complements the cumin.
When the spices bloom and the juice has reduced, stir in the tomato base and milk. Turn heat down to low and allow to simmer, or remove the pan and put it in the preheated oven to finish while you make the grilled cheese sandwiches, or quesadillas if you are feeling adventurous.