celebrating with soup

Holiday parties to house warming celebrations, crafting menus and cooking for a large crowd can be a challenge. I find starting a meal with soup to be a great solution for feeding a group. But of course I happen to love soup, year-round. It’s a forgiving dish to make, flavors can be adjusted, add more liquid and seasoning and the quantity stretches. And if it can be puréed, it’s suddenly something creamy and elegant to enjoy. I often enjoy a large bowl of hot steamy soup, but bowls are obviously not ideal for a cocktail party for example where guest are standing and mingling. Hence the idea of soup shooters, or in this case stackable small hearty glasses, small enough to fit in one hand and enjoy a bite. I found the glasses pictured here at Cost Plus World Market and like that they are both stackable for easy storage, and easy to clean. Shot glasses are also an option and a smaller portion ideal if you want to serve soup but have a large meal ahead such as on Thanksgiving. Check out OMG Yummy’s Squash Soup Shooters as an example.

There are hundreds (if not more) tomato soup recipes. And for season-centric cooks, tomato soup in winter may not be top choice. But if you’re able to source good quality tomatoes or can find a can or jar of chopped tomatoes that you like, then you’re in business. I kept this recipe simple, the exact quantites were a bit ad hoc as I was cooking but the ingredients and rough quantities below will get you started and produce a very tasty bite. I garnished the soup with crème fraîche and chopped chives for a little holiday flair. It does look a bit like Christmas in a glass?

Tomato Thyme Soup

- extra virgin olive oil, about 3-4 table spoons
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 – 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 – 3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme (remove leaves from sprigs and chop before adding to the pot)
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 16 or so medium tomatoes on the vine, Roma is also an option (about 2- 2 1/2 pounds worth)
- 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced or crushed tomatoes
- kosher salt
- fresh ground pepper

One option is to roast the tomatoes before adding to the soup. Cut lengthwise, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and put in a hot 400 degree oven roughly 30-40 minutes. This does add extra flavor but you can also achieve a delicious soup by simply cooking the tomatoes on the stove. The latter saves a bit of time.

In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat, add the chopped onion until transparent then add the crushed or minced garlic along with a sprinkle of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Toss in the chopped thyme and cook for 2-3 minutes to bring out the flavor in the seasoning. Chilly flakes are an option to add to the soup and can be thrown into the pot at this stage as well. You can also substitute thyme with basil or even try both. From here add the tomatoes and broth and cook for about 30 minutes over medium-low heat. If you didn’t pre-roast the tomatoes, cook the soup an additional 10-15 minutes.

Once all the ingredients have come together, use an immersion blender to puree the soup in the stockpot, or carefully transfer the soup to a blender to blend. If the tomato skins are apparent, use a strainer or sieve to remove both the seeds and skins for extra smoothness. Season with additional kosher or sea salt and fresh ground pepper before serving. Top with a dollop of cream if desired.

Easy to prepare, elegant to serve, so grab a glass and enjoy something warm with your guests.

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