Tomato-Leek Soup with Crispy Leek Garnish
March 20, 2008
There are times when I look forward to having dinner guests because it’s an excuse to craft intricate menus and take on wow-factor recipes. But there are also times when I feel lucky to have the kind of friends coming for dinner who won’t mind when you announce that you’re making tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Not only that, but they assure you they have been craving just that very menu. Even if they’re lying, these are my kind of dinner guests.
Of course, I wasn’t planning to pop open a can of Campbell’s or unsheath a stack of Kraft singles for the occasion. In fact, I’ve been on the prowl for a new tomato soup recipe because, while the one I’ve been relying on for a few winters now is quite lovely, eating it always feels a little bit like slurping down a bowl of marinara. Um, yeah, time for a new recipe.
(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)
I searched high and low and in the end selected a recipe that highlighted the simple ingredients (tomatoes, sauteed onions and, oh, the cream) of this classic soup and their flavors (bright and impossibly comforting), while adding a dash of this (celery seed) and a pinch of that (red pepper flakes). I took the liberty of substituting leeks for the onions the recipe originally called for, because I had a hunch that their mellow flavor would meld well with the tomatoes. That, and I mostly just wanted to make a mess of crispy, caramelized leeks to hover on top of the lush soup.
This recipe also departs from my previous go-to in that it’s meant to be pureed into velvety-ness. Ina’s recipe, by contrast, calls for pureeing (actually, knowing her episodes a leetle too well, she probably calls for a food mill, a contraption I don’t own) only part of the soup. While a semi-chunky soup has it’s allure, when you’re going for comfort and dunkability (see the grilled cheese mention, above) a silkier texture is best, I think. Plus, I got to use my immersion blender, which is kind of my version of playing in the sandbox. What with it’s ability to burst open the swollen tomatoes, rendering a once blush pink soup into a brilliant red, leaving only a trail of creamy texture in its wake.
Once the leeks were sauteed, the tomatoes simmered, the cream (mmmmm) streamed in, the immersion blender whirred, the bowls ladled, and the crispy leeks hovered, I concluded that this is my new favorite tomato soup recipe. Don’t tell Ina.
Creamy Tomato-Leek Soup
Adapted from Food & Wine
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon, plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil (divided)
3 leeks, divided (2 thinly sliced in half moons and 1 thinly sliced lengthwise)
3 garlic cloves, smashed
3 14-ounce cans whole tomatoes
1 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
salt & pepper, to taste
In a large saucepan, melt the butter in the olive oil. Add the sliced half moons of leeks and smashed garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juice, the water, heavy cream, sugar, crushed red pepper, celery seed and oregano and season with salt and pepper. Bring the soup to a boil over high heat, breaking up the tomatoes with the back of a spoon. Reduce the heat to moderate and simmer for 10 minutes.
Working in batches, transfer the tomato soup to a blender and puree until smooth.* Return the soup to a clean pot and rewarm the soup if necessary. Season the soup with salt and pepper.
In a small saucepan, heat the remaining two teaspoons of oil over moderate heat. Add the remaining sliced the leeks (the lengthwise ones) and cook, stirring every so often, until browned and crispy.
Divide the soup among six bowls and garnish with the crispy leeks.
Yield: 6 bowls
* As I said in the post, I used an immersion blender here. I think a food processor would work well too.