The Costco cookbook section strikes again! When I was there a few weeks ago, I made the mistake of browsing through a couple of cookbooks, one from America’s Test Kitchen and one from Cook’s Illustrated. I tried to talk myself into getting only one, but there were recipes I really, really wanted to try in both. In my defense, it’s not like recipes from America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Illustrated are as easy to get online as many others; they want you to start a subscription (temporarily free, of course!) to even see what they have to offer. Needless to say, both books ended up in my basket. To make it worth it, I decided to start digging for recipes right away.
The first recipe I chose (from More Best Recipes, the Cook’s Illustrated book) was for a skillet strata. I think my brains were scrambled from pre-Christmas craziness and I managed to completely leave out the salt in the dish. Not good. I missed the flavor dearly and it’s never the same when you sprinkle salt on after cooking; I’ll remake and post that one sometime in the next month or two.
The second recipe I chose was for Creamless Creamy Tomato Soup. My intention was to make this in the week or two before Christmas, but cooking fell below shopping, baking, and traveling on the priority list. Thankfully, many of the ingredients are shelf-stable or things I typically keep around the house; I finally got around to making the soup last night and only needed a fresh bunch of scallions to complete the ingredient list.
I’ve provided the recipe as written below. Here are my deviations and special notes:
- I used the pinch of red pepper flakes.
- I did not use the 2 tablespoons of brandy. (I didn’t have any.)
- I imagine the flavor of this soup depends largely on the quality of canned tomatoes you use. I used Cento Italian tomatoes and I thought the result was delicious. There was a bit of basil canned in with the tomatoes, so admittedly, mine might have been more of a tomato-basil soup.
- When I went to get chicken broth from the pantry, I discovered that I didn’t have any. (I always have chicken broth!) I used vegetable broth instead since that’s what I had.
- I used an immersion blender to puree the soup directly in the Dutch oven instead of transferring it to a blender. Since I didn’t have to puree in batches, I added the 2 tablespoons of olive oil all at once. I turned the stove heat off while I pureed.
- I used scallions to garnish the soup instead of chives.
This soup was incredibly delicious and super easy, perfect comfort food for the chilly nights we’ve been experiencing in the Denver area lately. It really did have smooth, creamy texture (this is directly connected to how thoroughly you puree it, of course) and bright flavor. The “season with salt and pepper to taste” step near the end of the recipe is not to be ignored, though; I went three rounds with coarse salt and ground pepper until I got the flavor I wanted. It was worth the effort. I gave Dr. O a grilled cheese “lesson” while I finished the soup, and we ended up with a terrific meal. I would definitely make this soup again.
Creamless Creamy Tomato Soup
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
1 medium onion, chopped medium (about 1 cup)
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
1 bay leaf
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 large slices high-quality white sandwich bread, crusts removed, torn into 1-inch pieces
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons brandy (optional)
Salt and ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion, garlic, red pepper flakes (if using), and bay leaf. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes with their juice. Using a potato masher, mash until pieces no bigger than 2 inches remain. Stir in the sugar and the bread; bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the bread is completely saturated and starts to break down, about 5 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf.
Transfer half of the soup to a blender. Add 1 tablespoon more oil and process until the soup is smooth and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and repeat with the remaining soup and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Rinse out the Dutch oven and return the soup to the pot. Stir in the chicken broth and brandy (if using). Return the soup to a boil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle the soup into individual bowls. Sprinkle each portion with pepper, the chopped chives, and drizzle with olive oil.
Source: More Best Recipes (Cook’s Illustrated)