Saturday, January 19, 2013

Cilantro-Flecked Heirloom Tomato Soup

Certain soups are just as well considered a salad in liquid form... I will forever think of vegetable soups, gazpacho or pureed soups made from peas, squash or, in this case, heirloom tomatoes as salad. I made this soup for a small group of friends, along with Chicken Salad with Green Beans and Lemon Yogurt dressing sandwiches- another wonderful recipe from the Salad as a Meal cookbook.

In the summer months, I keep a batch of this soup on hand in the refrigerator, and I often sip a glassful for breakfast. Light, refreshing, and full of flavor, it hits the spot any time of the day. It matches beautifully with a salad as a meal made up of nothing but chunks of fresh garden tomatoes drizzled with a touch of Basil-Lemon Dressing (page 319). Yes, tomato soup with tomato salad. When they are ripe and ready, never too many tomatoes in my book!

1 1/2 pounds ripe heirloom tomatoes, cored and quartered (do not peel)
1/2 cup imported Italian tomato paste
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 teaspoon ground piment d’Espelette or other ground mild chile pepper
2 tablespoons best-quality sherry-wine vinegar
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, plus extra for garnish (I use a variety of cilantro called Delfino)

Combine all the ingredients, except the extra cilantro leaves, in a a blender or a food processor. Add 1 2/3 cups water and puree to a smooth liquid. Taste for seasoning. The soup can be served immediately, but the flavors benefit from ripening for at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours, refrigerated. Serve in soup bowls, garnished with cilantro leaves. (Store without the garnish in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Reblend at serving time.)

Food processor or blender? In most cases, the food processor and blender can be used interchangeably. But for many soups—especially those that are made in quantity, such as this tomato soup—I find the blender is more accommodating. Even large food processors tend to overflow with a larger volume of liquid. And while the food processor purees, the blender can turn soups into a thicker, emulsified liquid.

Selecting the best tomato paste: Be sure to read the ingredients label when purchasing tomato paste. Many domestic brands contain sugar and other sweeteners. Brands from Italy generally contain nothing but tomatoes and salt. In this recipe in particular, where a quantity of tomato paste is used, the pure version is a must.

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