US Catholic Faith in Real Life

This week's Lent soup: Tomato Soup

By Meghan Murphy-Gill | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

A few years ago, I discovered at my neighborhood farmers market 20-pound boxes of tomatoes selling for a mere $12. It was late September and this particular farm had quite the bumper crop. I came back with my car and bought a box.

My friend Steve was visiting that same week. Having learned to can the previous year, he took a look at my box of tomatoes and asked if that's what I was planning to do. I stared at him blankly.

My mother didn't sew, bake, craft, quilt, or any of these more "old-timey" traditions my generation has reclaimed--and she certainly didn't can. I wasn't even sure what that meant, much less how one would go about it.

The following evening, Steve, my husband, and I made light work of those 20 pounds as we filled the glistening Ball jars we'd picked up at the hardware store (along with a waterbath canner, per Steve's suggestion). The end result: several quarts of brilliant red, farm fresh tomatoes shining like jewels in the jars (not "cans," which I'd found confusing initially), most of which ended up in one of my favorite foods, tomato soup, which is this week’s Lenten soup recipe.

The original recipe calls for fresh tomatoes, but I made a vow some years ago to not buy out-of-season tomatoes. Trying to eat only local and seasonal produce is an enormous challenge for a Chicagoan, so I remain at the very least committed to only buying fresh tomatoes when I can find them at a farmers market or farm stand. And this recipe is the perfect place to showcase them.

Tomato Soup
Adapted from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters
Makes approximately 4 servings or 1 ½ quarts

2 Tbsp oil
2 Tbsp butter
1 medium onion, sliced
1 small leek, white and light green parts only, sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 large can (28-oz) whole peeled tomatoes, with sauce
1 scant Tbsp white rice
1 small sprig of thyme

Heat the oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the onions, leek, and a large pinch of salt. Cover and cook until soft, but be careful to keep from browning (turning down the heat or adding water if necessary).

Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes. Then add the tomatoes, rice, thyme, and another pinch of salt. Stir and cook over medium heat for about 4-5 minutes. Then add the water and another tablespoon of butter. Continue to cook this for about 10 more minutes. When the rice is tender, remove the thyme and blend, either with a hand mixer (preferable) or in a blender (but only fill it 1/3 full, and process it in batches).

Here’s the step that is a little extra work, but is worth it for the texture and flavor: Pass the soup through a medium-mesh strainer to remove the seeds (which, if left in the soup, impart a bitter flavor). It will take some time and you may have to coax it through with a spoon or a ladle.

Taste for salt and add more water if the soup is too thick.

I like to serve a classic tomato soup with such clean and simple flavors with sourdough, which I make no-knead style.

Reflection: Christ as the "first tomato"