Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Like Deconstructed Pizza

Grilled cheese and tomato soup, that is. I just described it as "deconstructed pizza" to get The Boyfriend interested in it. And that's what I made for dinner tonight.

Of course, no meal preparation in this dormitory would be complete without a fire alarm interruption, of which there were 2--one just as I was about to get started, and one just as I was almost finished with the soup.

Fire Alarm Count: 17.
No, I didn't add wrong. There was also one at noon today when Mi, E and I returned for a short reprieve from our classes.

WAIT--Make that 18. It just went off as I am writing this, at 8:59. Yup. And we didn't get back in until 9:30, because some people who decided to stay in the building looked out the window and an RA saw them. The building advisors wound up making us stand outside while they checked every room in the building. Do the math--12 floors, 12 suites per floor, 2 rooms per suite. That's 288 rooms to inspect. Clearly, the ones who alerted the RA in the first place were dumbasses. If you're going to break the rules, at least do it inconspicuously and without inconveniencing everyone else.

Now let's get back to the food...

I have never made tomato soup from scratch before (read: I've only ever made it out of a can). But I love tomato soup. I love tomatoes, for that matter, but tomato soup is special. I prefer mine thick and sweet and acidic and basil-y, and for me it's what chicken noodle soup is to others. Better yet, since it's completely vegan, Mi, who is pescetarian, can eat it too. So today, I looked at those four beautiful vine-ripened tomatoes in the fridge and decided it was time to use them. And what would I make to accompany my lovely fresh tomato soup? Grilled cheese. I believe I've mentioned before that I love my grilled cheese. I could probably live happily on it for the rest of my life. And grilled cheese dipped in tomato soup is my idea of heaven. I'm such a food geek, I know.

But anyway, my first time making real tomato soup, I decided to wing it. And it came out exactly the way I'd hoped.

Tomato Soup Not From a Can

4 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, cubed
2 large tomatoes, cubed
Don't get your tomatoes from a supermarket. I bought mine off one of the many street carts selling vegetables and fruits in NYC, and the produce there is much better, not to mention cheaper.
2 sprigs of fresh basil
1 tbsp salt, plus more to taste
2 tbsp sugar
3 tblsp olive or vegetable oil
Olive oil is preferable, but I have yet to find a market where they sell it for less than $8 a bottle.
1 tbsp garlic powder

No water. No water is needed for this recipe. This is for thick, delicious tomato soup with nothing to dilute the flavor. If you want watery tomato mush, go elsewhere where they tell you to use water.

~mix the oil, salt, and 1 tbsp of sugar together in a large mixing bowl. Add the basil leaves and crush them slightly (I did my crushing with a whisk) to release the flavor.
~Pour in the cubed tomatoes, and toss it all together so that it's nicely coated. Let it sit in the fridge for 10-15 minutes. This is my "treatment" for tomatoes that are not home grown, which in my opinion, will never be as good as a tomato you grew yourself. If you're lucky enough to live near a farmer's market, try there. Either way, I prefer to soak my tomatoes in this solution a bit before cooking.
~After 10-15 minutes (or if you just decided to skip this step), heat up a bit of oil in a pot and put in the garlic powder. Fish out the basil leaves and put those in the pot too.
~Then pour the entire contents of the bowl into the pot...and stir. Add the second tbsp of sugar. Taste the soup before adding salt as needed. Put the fire on medium heat, and stir some more. Keep stirring until the tomatoes have cooked down into soupy mush.

Yields: Enough for about 3 bowlfuls, depending on the size of your bowls. Enjoy with freshly fried grilled cheese, like we did, or with crispy garlic bread.