You say Tomato

This is the first year in several years that we’re actually having a decent tomato harvest. The past two years were dreadfully disappointing. We couldn’t even find healthy plants at the beginning of last growing season. The plants are the local nursery all had some sort of blight. We bought some anyway but only ended up with a very few tomatoes for our troubles.

I am a crap gardener. But my husband is a very good gardener. I am used to bushels full of tomatoes. We cook them down and make pasta sauces, salsas, and tomato bisque and usually have a freezer full of loveliness until about December.

This year still isn’t as good as some previous years, but we’ve had enough tomatoes that I’ve made a few batches of tomato bisque. It is a favorite of my picky middle child. The soup is labor intensive but the flavor makes up for it.

I don’t use any particular variety of tomato. We don’t grow heirlooms. We have had a hard enough time with the big commercial varieties lately, I’m afraid to see what would happen with heirlooms. Anyway, I just throw in any old ripe tomato we have. We tend to grow at least Celebrities and San Marzanos. San Marzano tomatoes are my favorite. The first batch of bisque I made had a good amount of grape tomatoes that were given to us by a friend.

1Some of the tomatoes taking a soak

Ingredients:

  • Tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Fresh basil
  • Half and half or heavy cream (optional)
  • Cheese – aged cheddar is nice (optional

Prep:

  1. Wash the tomatoes and remove the stem. For particularly large tomatoes, like beefsteaks, I cut them into smaller pieces.
  2. Steam the tomatoes until they are nice and tender.
  3. Remove the tomatoes from the steamer and allow them to cool.
  4. Once cool, remove the peels and put the tomatoes in the blender.
  5. Pour the tomatoes through a small metal strainer to remove the seeds. This is time consuming and annoying but necessary. You have to help the tomato through the strainer by running a spoon over the inside when it gets clogged. I suppose I could let it sit overnight or something, but I always start cooking my bisque a few hours before it will be eaten
  6. After getting as much of the liquid as possible, transfer it to a soup pot containing 2 T of warm olive oil
  7. Cook down until volume is reduced by 1/3
  8. Add sugar. The amount will depend on how much liquid is present. I just kind of know how much to add by sight. If you aren’t sure, start with a teaspoon for each quart of liquid you have. You can always add more if the soup is bitter.
  9. Add fresh basil to taste.
  10. Salt is also important. Add 1 teaspoon at a time until satisfied with the flavor. Wait a bit between additions to allow the flavor to balance out. As with the sugar, you can always go back and add more. This is a soup that requires patience.
  11. Remove from heat
  12. If you’re using cream, whisk in now
  13. Spoon into bowls
  14. Grate cheese onto top of soup
  15. Serve

My husband likes adding a few drops of hot sauce.

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