From Too Many Chefs -

October 4, 2005
Classic Cream of Tomato Soup

tomato froth.jpgLast 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
1 onion
10-12 cloves
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.

Posted by Meg in Sussex at October 4, 2005 1:46 PM | TrackBack

I was busy with baking soda myself last night trying to unclog a stopped up bathtub drain. Fizzy tomato soup. How wild. It might make it better by neutralizing some of the acid in the tomatoes.

I'll certainly have to try that.

Posted by barrett on October 4, 2005 at 4:27 PM

I am the same way, but with Chicken Noodle. If my wife or I get sick I turn into a Jewish Mother. I hit the grocery and purchase a chicken, get it in some water and start cooking. I'm a big believer in the restorative qualities of good soup.


Posted by Danno on October 4, 2005 at 4:47 PM

Danno, this is actually my secondary cure for the common cold. The first one is a chicken, lentil and dumpling stew, which is extremely filling and satisfying:

I made it last night and added a new ingredient: tender slices of fresh fennel. Yum!

Posted by Meg in Paris on October 5, 2005 at 2:28 AM

Oh Meg, I am so sorry you were sick AND you had your wallet stolen! Jeeez.
Nice post. Have I mentioned that I like your writing?!!!! Just had to get that in there!
I hope that you are feeling a bit better now.

There is a new blogger girl in town, and she was sick and made soup too!

Posted by Alisa on October 5, 2005 at 3:34 AM

Alisa, thanks for the link! (And the compliment, incidentally...I'm blushing!)

Coincidentally, she ALSO mentions eating Campbell's soup when she was sick as a girl. Okay, probably like a million other North American youngsters, but still it made me smile that we both had the same approach!

Posted by Meg in Paris on October 5, 2005 at 4:03 AM

hi Meg, great minds think alike! And Campbell's saves the day again. I will definitely have to give your recipe a try, the cloves have intrigued me. And the grilled cheese sounds pretty good too. I hope you are feeling better. I look forward to reading more of your posts!

Posted by Michele on October 5, 2005 at 6:47 AM

Michèle, not only am I feeling better but I'm extremely chuffed! I just found out that the thief left my wallet on the metro after extracting the money and some kind soul turned it in to the police. Everything - carte de séjour, social security cards, credit cards, fidelity cards - was still in it. In all I lost about four euros!

I take back all the nasty things I've said about Parisians. Well, most of them anyway...

Posted by Meg in Paris on October 5, 2005 at 8:12 AM

Adding baking soda to the tomatoes keeps the milk from curdling.

Posted by Rob on October 5, 2005 at 8:31 AM

Well Meg, I couldn't resist taking up more comment space just to say wow, very lucky indeed! I'm glad it worked out for you! At this point my mom would advise you to run out and buy yourself a lotto ticket while the luck is running high :)

Posted by michele on October 5, 2005 at 11:07 AM

Oops, too late for the lottery ticket. But I'm the kind of person who doesn't like to push her luck and I'm pretty blessed already!

Posted by Meg in Paris on October 5, 2005 at 2:42 PM

Holy Shit! That is amazing that you got all that stuff back.
As for oswegotea's post, I KNOW! The similarities were one of those things I love about the weirdness of life.

Posted by Alisa on October 5, 2005 at 3:01 PM

Please define "extremely chuffed." Is this positive or negative?

I'll call you tonight.

Posted by Meg's MOM on October 6, 2005 at 11:26 AM

Hi Mom! It means extremely pleased or delighted!

Posted by Meg in Paris on October 6, 2005 at 11:53 AM

The step where I add the tomatoes to the milk.. the milk split :( was there something I missed?

Posted by Raji on June 28, 2008 at 9:24 AM