Thursday, November 21, 2013

Homemade Cream of Tomato Soup...Mmmmmmm Good

When I was a child and for most of my life until I travelled to Guatamala before my senior year at college I would only eat one kind of soup Campbells cream of tomato! I suppose it was a kids thing like not liking the texture of noodles or rice. We really didn't eat that many soups in my household.

So in later years my diet expanded considerably eating many varieties of soups in Bolivia and El Salvador. Yet I still come back time and time again to cream of tomato soup. I suppose it has such strong connections to my childhood it is one of my true comfort foods.

In Bolivia and El Salvador I couldn't buy the canned soup so I would use tomato paste and milk adding a few herbs and lots of onions to spice it up a bit. There and at home growing up I often fixed popcorn to add to the soup instead of crackers. Try it, it is quite good! Supposedly President John F. Kennedy had it for one of his inaugural meals.

For some reason in recent years I did not look up a recipe for the homemade version so I would continue to use canned soup. I would eat the tomato/basil soup at Stomping Grounds and thought, "Gosh I wish I could make soup this good."

So when the Oct. issue of Saveur magazine arrived and had a recipe for Cream of Tomato soup I tried it and I was hooked. Fortunately there were still some tomatoes to can so I went to it to have an ample supply to make home made tomato soup any time I craved it, which is often!

4 lices thick-cut bacon, finely chopped
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
4  cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
3 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tbsp. flour
4 cups chicken stock
1 tsp tyme or basil
1 bay leaf
1 15-oz.can whole, peeled tomatoes in juice, crushed by hand
1/4 cup heavy cream

Heat bacon in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat, and cook until it's fat renders and bacon is crisp, about 15 minutes. Add butter, and increase temperature to medium-high; add garlic, onion, and carrot, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add tomato paste, and cook, stirring, until lightly caramelized, about 3 minutes. Add flour, and cook, stirring until smooth, about 2 minutes more. Add stock, thyme, bay leaf, and tomatoes, and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat, and purée; return to saucepan, and stir in cream. Season with salt and pepper. Divide among bowls and dollop with sour cream and croutons as desired. Serves 4-6

Monday, November 11, 2013

Well Grounded

Well Grounded: a Carrot Reflection

Well Grounded: Deeply rooted to thrive during dry times

The upcoming theme for the PFI winter conference is Well Grounded. Here is a short reflection from this past growing season that connects with the theme.

When the growing season started this spring, I wondered if I would harvest any crops with the amount of rain I was receiving this year. But one hopes and continues to plant though it is tempting to give into despair.

I lost virtually all of my garlic crop to yellow asters disease. My potatoes were planted in a slightly low lying area so I thought I would lose them all and nearly did. Sweet potatoes too were planted in muck and that pretty much described the harvest: mucky, yucky the worst ever for me. I kept planting my carrots though and decided after two years of disaster of poor germination due to heat in July I planted my fall Bolero carrots early in late June and beginning of July. Sure enough I had good stands.

Who would have thought that someone would be turning off the faucet? From mid-June to mid-August. not a drop of water fell on my parcel of land here in Central Iowa? Yet the carrot tap roots kept going down and down for that moisture in our beautiful 4-5 feet of top soil. I have pulled out tap roots in the past that were 5-6 feet long! My organic soils have 6-8% organic matter and certainly that makes a difference for the top foot of soil. With one inch of rain in August and another inch the second week of September, then a few more small rains at the beginning of October my carrot crop not only survived, but thrived. I had one of the best carrot crops in my limited history here both in abundance and quality.

While on some level I consider it a miracle I do know that years of improving the soil makes a significant difference. It also proves that when one is well grounded/deeply rooted in place it is easier to survive the dry times in one’s life.