Last week I suddenly realized I was ill. I woke one morning feeling not too great and got on the metro. Two stops past the station where I usually get off to go to work, I came to my senses, sighed, got back on the metro going in the opposite direction. Arriving at the office, I met the office manager going out for a pastry and explained and apologized. Needless to say, I did not last the day. Around two, I headed home. As a measure of how out of it I was for the next three days, let me say that on Wednesday I went home sick and it wasn't until Friday evening that I discovered I'd had my wallet stolen on the way home Wednesday. I was out of it.
And what do you when you are sick? Soup, soup, soup. Something hot and full of vitamins. Salty, flavorful. When I was a child it was nearly always the same: Campbell's cream of Tomato Soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. Now that I'm older and no longer live in the Land Of Easily Purchased Campbell's Soup, I have discovered a perfect (and healthier, incidentally) substitute: the Fannie Farmer Cookbook recipe for cream of tomato soup. The fresh tomatoes are just barely still in season and are full of juice and vitamins. The milk is comforting and indulgent. It's a simple recipe and absolutely perfect for comforting you when all you want to do is crawl into bed. And, incidentally, it's quick and easy to make, important when you are already sick.
Classic Cream of Tomato Soup
Although this recipe is nominally a cream soup, in fact you'll notice there is no cream in the ingredients, just milk. It tastes wonderfully rich nevertheless. The basic recipe is Fannie Farmer's but I've tweaked it here and there to make it my own. The cloves are all hers, though, a stroke of genius. They compliment the tomatoes and the soup perfectly, a slightly exotic and earthy note.
8-10 small ripe tomatoes
1 1/2 cups semi-skimmed milk
freshly ground pepper
1/2 Tbs baking soda
Pour boiling water (to cover) over the tomates and let them sit in the water for a few minutes. In the meantime, begin heating the milk to scalding point. Peel the onion and cut it in half. Poke the cloves into onion halves and put them in the milk. Simmer the onion halves and cloves in the milk for 15 minutes. While the milk is simmering, drain the tomatoes and slip the skins off them. Roughly chop them, and, if you are so inclined, seed them. I don't bother, but it's true the seeds can mar a perfectly smooth soup.
Fish the onion halves out of the milk. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for another 10-15 minutes. When they are tender, remove from the heat and using a stick blender or food processor process the soup until it's smooth and creamy. Add the baking soda and watch, amazed, as it froths up and threatens to overflow the pot. (That's the photo at the start of the post, incidentally.) Fannie Farmer admits that she doesn't know why the baking soda makes the soup taste better. I don't know if it does: I just like the frothing. Fun. Salt and pepper generously to taste and serve with cheese and crackers. Nice sharp cheddar cheese, if you can get it.
It might not cure your cold, but it will take you on a nostalgia trip and make you feel better at heart. And the steam and vitamins can't hurt.