Emergency Go-Soup: Cream of Tomato

amore tomato paste cream of tomato soup

Creamy and Delicious

My friends who live in LA sleep at night with an Earthquake Go-Bag under their beds. This includes heavy bottomed shoes (I think because LA gals sleep in stilettos), water, cash, canned food, flashlight etc. Everything they might need to evacuate quickly and survive for a few days following a devastating quake.

henri bendel emergency kit

Henri Bendel-Prepared for the NYC Emergency

Over the holidays at Henri Bendel they were selling NYC emergency kits. Similar to the California quake kit…only very different. Instead of canned beans and a flashlight, it includes a metro card, hair bands, breath freshener, bandages, deodorant towelettes, pain relievers and some other girl stuff…

I’m not really sure what our emergency kit vs the CA one says. Maybe in New York waking up smelly, gently wounded and needing to take the subway constitutes an ’emergency’. It might. It’s no earthquake, but it is an emergency and Henri Bendel has the solution.

For people who cook, that go-bag or emergency kit translates to a go-meal; one that is ready to serve with very little notice…

At about 6pm on New Year’s Eve after a champagne boozy lunch, my friends decided that they would come over to my apartment for dinner. OK. I had :65 minutes to prepare for the arrival of hungry guests.

dinner party main course chicken

Chicken Milanese

I went to my go-to’s and quickly shopped for what I would need to prepare Chicken Milanese, salad, garlic bread, pasta…

And, luckily, I had a go-soup in my fridge. The day before I tweaked an Ina Garten recipe and made…

Cream of Tomato Soup (serves 6-7)

Ingredients

  • whole foods vegetables

    Chopped Veggie Mise En Place

    3 TBSP olive oil

  • 1 Red Onion Diced
  • 2 large Carrots Peeled and Diced
  • 1 Sweet Potato – peeled, diced and roasted
  • 2 Cloves Garlic Minced
  • 6-7 Medium vine-ripened tomatoes Chopped
  • 1 TSP Sugar
  • 1/2 TBSP Amore Tomato Paste
  • Ina garten tomato soup

    365 Brand Chicken Stock

    1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Basil Leaves

  • 3 Cups Chicken Stock – I used Whole Foods 365 Brand – I know I know, I should make my own…but didn’t
  • 1/2 TBSP Kosher Salt
  • 1 TSP Freshly Ground Pepper
  • 3/4 Cup Heavy Cream at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium/low heat. I used my Le Creuset 6 qt one – it’s just so pretty and so easy to clean!

2. Add the onions and carrots and saute until very tender – be patient, this takes a while – :15-:17 mins.

– In hindsight, I would have chopped the carrots smaller so that they might soften more quickly.

whole foods vegetables

Patiently Sauteing

3. While that’s happening…Place the diced sweet potatoes on a sheet pan lined with Reynold’s Wrap Pan Lining Paper in one layer and sprinkle with olive oil. DO NOT SALT.

sweet potatoes super food

Super Sweet Potatoes

4. Put in the oven and roast for :10mins – Toss and then roast an additional :05-:07 mins until tender. Remove from the oven and set aside.

whole foods sweet potatoes

Roasted – but not browned

5. Into the Le Creuset – Add the minced garlic to the softened onion and carrots and saute until fragrant – about 1 minute

6. Add the tomatoes, roasted sweet potatoes, sugar, tomato paste, basil, chicken stock, salt and pepper and stir well.

whole foods vegetarian

And the soup becomes soupy

7. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered for :40mins – until the tomatoes are very tender

cream of tomato soup

Simmering Simmering Simmering

8. Add the cream to the soup and stir

9. If you have an immersion blender…great…But since I don’t – I set up a blending station by the stove on my counter

NOTE: Ina used her food mill…but, seriously, in my apt – no room for a food mill.

cream of tomato ina garten

Soup Blending Station

10. Most importantly…LET THE SOUP COOL before blending. Cuz like if you put hot soup in a blender and turn it on, it will blow the top off and there will be quasi blended hot soup everywhere…

11. In stages, ladle some of the soup into the blender and puree until smooth.

kitchenAid blender

Pre-Puree

12. Transfer the pureed soup into a second soup pot and keep warm

cream of tomato soup ina garten

A few ladles at a time

13. Repeat until all of the soup is smooth and creamy

cream of tomato soup

Kick it up a bit…

NOTE: If you like it spicy….Add a dash or two of Gindo’s Spice of Life Fresh and Spicy Pepper Sauce.

The soup was a great intro to the Chicken Milanese. And, with my ‘stick your head out the window-view’ of the Central Park fireworks and the impromptu late night dance party…The last-minute dinner party was a success.

I don’t have much of a need for the Henri Bendel NYC Emergency Kit because – and I’m not judging – I don’t tend to wake up slightly wounded, smelly and not at home…but a good batch of emergency go-soup in the fridge does come in handy.

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The Other Kind of Spicy: Spicy French Onion Soup

Gindo's Hot Pepper Sauce French Onion Soup Melissa D'Arabian recipe dinner appetizer

A Twist of Spice: Spicy French Onion Soup

The other day I read an article or – ok, let’s be honest – saw something on TV – about how quickly the spice can fade out of a relationship. One very important authority – ok, it was Dr. Oz (but if it’s good enough for Oprah, it’s good enough for me) estimated that the spice is gone within three years. He went on to say that the only way to stay in a relationship is to continue to spice things up.

Dr Oz

Dr. Oz Knows Stuff

Something to think about. But, since this isn’t ‘that kind’ of blog – we’ll leave that type of spicing up and talk about the benefits of eating spices instead.

And, luckily, Dr. Oz talks food spices and herbs as well. Cayenne pepper, for example, can boost your metabolism and help you lose weight more quickly. Ginger and mustard have a similar effect.

french onion soup with thyme

Thyme

There are also herbs and spices that as per the good Doc, can help you combat aging and fight against disease and make you smarter.

One of my favorite and not too crazy of herbs, Thyme, can help you fend off MRSA and is used in mouthwash to help treat throat inflammations and in cough drops to fend off throat infections.

I’m not a huge fan of the super spicy – again, we’re talking edible spices, this is a food/food stories blog after all. I mean, I have been accused of being sassy and maybe even a little bit saucy…but no one has every called my cooking too spicy. I try to include spices and flavors that will please all my reader(s). Like, even though I don’t love garlic (and neither does Ina, btw), I will include almost the entire directed amount prescribed by a given recipe…Ok, to be honest, I usually sub out 1/2 the garlic and replace it with a sweet shallot. I’m trying.

But, it’s time…and I’ve decided to step out of my comfort zone and try to spice things up a bit.

And, as per Dr. Oz, I may be getting thinner AND healthier at the same time!

Spicy French Onion Soup (serves 2-4)

  • Gindo's Spice of Life pepper sauce

    Metabolism Speeders

    1 TBSP Butter

  • 2 Medium Sweet Onions sliced thin with the grain – so you have onion strips. I had to stare at the onion for like a long time to figure this out…
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 TSP Flour
  • 1/3 C of Red Wine
  • 1 TSP Fresh Thyme
  • 1 TBSP fresh Lemon Juice – really good add by Melissa D’Arabian who recommended just a teaspoon. So good an idea that I added more!
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1/2 TSP Gindo’s Red Pepper Sauce
  • 1 1/4 C Beef Stock – I use Kitchen Basics because it comes in the smaller sizes and I didn’t need a 33oz box
  • 1 1/2 C Chicken Stock
  • 1/2 C Grated Swiss Cheese – if you’re feeling fancy, get gruyere…but it’s pricey and the Kraft shredded swiss is also good
  • 1 – 2 TBSP Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 Baguette Slice for each bowl of soup. Sliced about 1/2 inch thick and lightly toasted. I buy the petite baguettes at Food Emporium…But, really, you could just toast up any hearty bread you might have on hand…

1. In a large saucepan – I used my 4qt All-Clad soup pot with the copper core – because I love it – melt the butter over med/low heat

2. Stir in the onions, add salt and pepper and cover

Onions in butter!

Onions in butter!

3. WAIT – like forever – though get in there and stir them around every :15 mins or so

4. After about :90 mins, the onions should be a lovely brown and caramelized. If they’re not…send a tweet to Melissa D’Arabian and ask her for tips to speeding the process. She will tweet you back ‘Time :-)’. So, I gave it more time.

twitter melissa d'arabian

Thanks, Melissa D’Arabian!

5. Once the onions are caramelized, turn up the heat to medium and stir in the flour….cook for about a minute or so.

melissa d'arabian spicy french onion soup

Caramelized and Floured

6. Add in the wine to deglaze the pan. Use a wooden spoon to scrape all of the oniony-goodness from the bottom of the pan

7. Add in the thyme, lemon, a bay leaf….And, this is where I got all spicy…the Gindo’s Fresh and Spicy Pepper Sauce – I used the red one, but either the green or red will do here.

8. Add both the beef stock AND the chicken stock, stir and bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer (BTB/RTS)

spicy french onion soup

BTB/RTS

9. Simmer for :10 mins

10. Ladle the soup into 2 – 4 sassy french onion soup bowls….Or, in my case, an oversized ramekin. (note, if you are thinking of Christmas gifts for me and want to try this soup..well, you know)

11. Top the soup with a single slice of the toasted baguette

12. Top each baguette with a heap of the swiss cheese and a sprinkle of the parmesan cheese

spicy french onion soup

I like cheese…

13. Put the soup bowls on a rimmed baking sheet and into the oven on Full BROIL

14. Broil just until the cheese is cheesy – bubbly and beginning to brown

Serve while piping hot…and spicy!

I’m not a big fan of the spicy foods. And, people who douse their meals in hot sauce have always baffled me…I mean, how can they really taste what’s going on when it’s overpowered by hotness?

But, it’s good to step out of your comfort zone once and maybe more than once in a while and spice things up a bit. And, listen, if it’s making me thinner AND fighting off a sore throat…I’m like totally in and willing to give the other type of spice a try.

Souper Season: Vegan Butternut & Avocado Squash Soup

Butternut Squash Soup. Bowl by DG designs

At 10:48am this past Saturday, it began. Fall is officially upon us. Try as you may, you can’t stop the seasons from changing. All you can do is hope against a repeat of 2011’s Snow-Tober and embrace the cooler, darker mornings, the earlier sunsets, the changing leaves and all that comes with fall.

A few positives about the onset of autumn – The return of boots – wrestle them out of their summer hiding places – backs and tops of closets and wear them proudly! Sweaters, fashion tights, football, the NYC Marathon, season premieres of your favorite shows. Oh yes! Fall is filled with wonderful things.

The chill in the air also ignites a desire for sipping, savory soups.

Let me just be honest: a bowl of soup does not a meal make. Those girls in their Manolos and Pashminas who would smile as they popped a head into my office at lunchtime and say: ‘Hey, I’m going to get some soup, wanna come?’ drove me insane. Hot soup is a starter. Cold soup is a pallet cleanser. Neither is a meal.

I don’t care if it’s loaded with rice or pasta or jam packed with vegetables and infused with cream. Soup isn’t a meal. OK, yes when the proportion of protein – beef, chicken or turkey NOT tofu or egg – far outweighs the amount of liquid, it can be a meal. But that’s a stew or a chili – not a soup.

So, to celebrate the season of soup and kick off #SquashWeek….A Souper Starter:

Vegan Butternut & Avocado Squash Soup (serves 4-6)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

1. Cut a 3lb Butternut Squash in half and remove the seeds….The 3lbs is a guideline and unless you have a food scale, you may never know how heavy your squash is as under 5lbs generally won’t register on a regular scale. Because I was curious, I stood on my bathroom scale and weighed myself and then weighed myself with the squash – exactly 3lbs. Just lucked out on this.

OK, splitting the squash is the hardest part and requires patience, strength, courage and the right tools….sharp knife and knife resistant glove. These tools do look like murder weapons, but the only thing murdered was the squash I assure you….

Squash Splitting Tools. Not murder weapons…

Butternut Squash hacked in two and de-seeded

2. Drizzle the cut side of the Butternut squash with Olive Oil and a little salt and place cut side down on a rimmed baking dish lined with tin foil

3. Cut an Avocado Squash in half, drizzle the cut side with Olive Oil and salt and put cut side down on the baking dish with the butternut squash

Avocado Squash: purchased at local farmer’s market

NOTE: The avocado squash added another layer of flavor. It’s sweeter and a bit more delicate. The seeds are small, and since I was going to puree the soup, I left them in…

Butternut and Avocado Squash ready for the oven

4. After 30 – 35 minutes, remove the Avocado Squash from the oven and allow to cool.

Avocado Squash Roasted and Ready for Scooping

5. Once cooled scoop out the flesh from the squash and set aside

6. The Butternut squash will take longer to soften – closer to :60 minutes. You will know it’s done when you can easily pierce it with a fork. Remove from oven, allow to cool and then scoop out the flesh and set aside

Butternut Squash, roasted, softened and ready for scoopin

7. In a large saucepan, heat 2 tbsp of Olive Oil and then add in two diced shallots and saute until fragrant and softened – about :06 mins

Shallots Sauteing and Softening

8. Add the squash flesh, 1 qt of Vegetable Stock and 1 1/5 tsp of Curry Powder and bring to a boil – I used mild, but you can go as spicy as you like

Bringing the mixture to a boil

9. Reduce to a simmer and cover for :10mins until the squash flesh is broken down

10. Remove from heat and allow to cool for :05 – :10 minutes

11. Working in batches, transfer some of the mixture to a blender and puree. If you like a little chunk in your soup….just chop, don’t puree. Transfer post-blended soup to a new saucepan on the stove and keep over low heat. Repeat until all of the mixture is blended and soup-ified

BE CAREFUL! If the soup is too hot…it will blow the top off of the blender – seriously, let it cool!

Butternut and Avocado Squash Mix in Blender

Butternut and Avocado Mixture to Soup Staging Area

12. Once heated through, garnish with parsley and a drizzle of Olive Oil and serve hot.

NOTE: If you are not Vegan, you can add a dollop of Sour Cream

Fall is here. Celebrate it! And with the dawning of fall, Squashweek has officially begun. So, get some colorful squash from your farmer’s market, grab a sweater, put on those boots, tune in to football or the newest episodes of your favorite TV shows and start any fall meal with this Souper Squash Soup.