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FAMILY RECIPES VOL. 1: tomato basil soup

También en español. 

I don’t get a chance to visit home very often, so when I do I go back to California for about 6 weeks and do a cross state road trip to visit different friends and families. This year was the first time seeing my grandmother in her new home, a ranch house in a big green valley outside of San Luis Obispo. It was strange seeing her there, no matter how much I liked the house. For my entire life she had lived with my grandfather in the home that they built together. It was just a five minute drive from my house and it wasn’t uncommon for my three sisters and I to spend our entire weekends out there.

My fondest memories of that house are related to food. My grandfather making rice waffles on Saturday mornings, my cousin and I turning the sun room into a drive-thru diner (my grandfather would order his food at the window, go inside and cook it and bring it back out to us for us to serve him), or the summer I moved in with them after college to work a few odd jobs and save up some money to move down to Argentina.

For anyone that’s read other posts on this blog, I’ve explained how that summer was a formative time for me in terms of my appreciation for cooking for others and sharing a meal amongst friends and loved ones. My Poppa Chuck would decide what he wanted for dinner, write out a list and leave out some money and it was my job to replicate it just so. I usually snuck in a few other ingredients while he wasn’t paying attention AND HE ALWAYS NOTICED. By the time he did I had already finished my Rob Roy and didn’t care.

When I visited my grandmother she apologized for not having gotten me a Christmas gift but told me she had something she could make for me. A CD version of nearly 200 of my grandfather’s recipes. Gift accepted, and easily the best one I’ve received in years.

This morning I woke up to the sound of rain with a sigh of relief that it’s finally that time of the year where I don’t have to feel guilty about prioritizing my day around soup and generally acting like a sloth. So I browsed through the cookbook and decided on this tomato basil soup.

To make this soup, you’ll need the following:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 1/2 cups of onion, minced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds or 700 grams of canned peeled tomatoes and puree (you can also use crushed tomatoes and puree)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, minced
  • 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • 2 fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise
  • Yogurt to top

In a large pot heat up olive oil and butter. Add onion, garlic and basil, salt and pepper, mix well and saute for 8 minutes. In Argentina, I haven’t found crushed tomatoes so I grabbed some peeled whole tomatoes that I crush with my hands. Throw in your crushed tomatoes and water and simmer for 30 minutes. Add diced tomato and mayonnaise, stir and continue to simmer for 5 minutes. Serve with a nice dollop of natural or greek yogurt and a warm french baguette.

I appreciated this soup mostly for it’s simplicity. The flavors are subtle and light, with the basil adding a slight complexity. I considered making some chicken stock to throw in in place of the water. Every other time I have made tomato soup the recipes call for stock, and I thought omitting it might make the soup too tomatoey. I’m glad that I withheld because the soup tasted wonderfully fresh. The chunkiness was spectacular too, especially for dipping some warm baguettes. Perfect for making a giant batch and eating for lunch, snack and dinner on a rainy day.

What’s your favorite rainy day meal? 

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