Friday, August 31, 2007


A friend gave me a can of imported Italian tomatoes, so I made one of my favorite soup recipes, tomato basil bisque. I've been making this for years. It's pretty forgiving. You can put carrots and celery in or leave them out, you can put more onions in, or less. It'll still taste good. As long as you have good-quality tomatoes. You can make it with just cream cheese, or with cream cheese and cream or half-and-half.

Tomato Basil Bisque
1/2 -3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery (optional)
1 large garlic clove, crushed and chopped
1/2 cup chopped carrot (optional)
1/4 cup olive oil or Smart Balance buttery spread
1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes and juice
1 quart chicken broth
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
1-2 cups fresh good-quality tomatoes if you have them -- these are optional
1/2 tsp. sea salt (or more, if you prefer)
1/8 tsp. white pepper (or black if you prefer)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (or 1-1/4 Tbsp. dried)
1 Tbsp. fresh oregano (or 1 tsp. dried) (optional)
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme (or 1 tsp. dried) (optional)
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley (or 2 tsp. dried) (optional)
2 bay leaves
4 oz. Neufchatel cheese, softened, cut in cubes
12 oz. fat free half and half

Saute the chopped vegetables and garlic over medium heat in the oil till golden and transparent. Add the tomatoes, broth and tomato paste, chopping the tomatoes as they go in and stirring everything well to combine. Bring to a low boil, add the seasonings and herbs, stir again, cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 45 minutes - 1 hour, checking it now and then to be sure it isn't sticking on the bottom. Add the Neufchatel cheese, and stir till combined. Turn heat off, and be sure soup is not boiling when you add the half and half, or it couldl curdle, especially if it's not Land o' Lakes.

Garnish the soup as desired (chopped chives, sprigs of parsley or basil, croutons, or sour cream). I like mine plain. You can puree this in the blender or food processor if you like smooth soup. I leave it slightly chunky because I like that texture. This will give you about 2 to 2-1/2 quarts of soup and it freezes wonderfully! I usually freeze one quart and keep one quart in the fridge which we eat up within a few days. You can also serve it plain without the cream cheese and cream if you prefer. Use the very best tomatoes you can afford.

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