This recipe for tomato soup stabilized some time ago, after a long evolution from a Tomato Bisque that appears in Pierre Franey's Low-Calorie Gourmet (Times Books, 1984). Over time, I dropped the dill and diced tomato garnish, then the garlic, and, finally, the quarter-cup of rice that thickened the soup. I replaced the chicken broth with bouillon, and added Granny Smith apples, with a splash of Calvados. The tension between the bouillon and the apples makes for a flavor that is both bright and deep.
Cooking the soup is the easy part. Chop two large sweet onions, and in a large, flameproof casserole or stock pot. soften them in butter. Then add about thirty quartered plum tomatoes, three quartered Granny Smith apples, four cans of bouillon, a bay leaf or two, a sprinkling of dried thyme, and a few tablespoons of Calvados. Bring to the boil and simmer for several hours, or until the apple skins float free. The result will look something like this:
When the soup is cooked, remove the bay leaf. Don't worry about little labels on the apples, though.
Now the work begins. Here is the equipment required:
Reading from front to back: a large pot (the bottom of a pasta pentola, in fact), a chinois, or ultra-fine sieve, and a large and powerful food processor. Purée the soup in batches. I find that four minutes per batch does the job. Pour each batch into the chinois get to work with the mighty pestle.
While one batch whirs in the processor, the preceding one strains through the chinois. Of course, it needs a bit of a push. I was gratified to discover, fairly recently, that the hotter the soup is, the easier it is to strain.
This is where the peels, seeds, and labels are trapped. Eventually, the pot will fill up with beautiful soup, and the contents of the strainer will reduce to a dry and somewhat unattractive lump.
It's up to you how much you want to extract from this mass; I stop straining in when there's about a cup of stuff in the strainer.
This dish is characteristic of my cuisine in that it calls for inexpensive ingredients, a fair amount of body English, and pricey implements. Chinois sieves - so called because they were once thought to resemble coolie hats - run between $75 and $100. They last forever, though, and there's no substitute when it comes to producing a silken soup without a particle of peel.
Over time, the soup will become richer and darker. Freeze as much of it as you can store, and refrigerate the rest. Except for during the warmest weather, this soup is a classic beginning for any almost any dinner, and a great accompaniment to a luncheon salad, sandwich, or quiche. (April 2007)
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