Last week when I was in California visiting Cathy and John Mihalik and family, Lily Mihalik made her simple and delicious tomato soup.
She was doing the cooking, and I was just watching…..
First, she put quite a lot of olive oil in the pot, and sauteed some onion and garlic. Then she added a big can of good quality tomatoes, and some salt and pepper and blended it up — it was a lovely coral color and tasted very fresh.
She sauteed some chard (kale would work well too) and put some in the center of each bowl.
Lily has the decorative touch, so she also made some parmesan chips, by grating parmesan rather coarsely, piling it up into little mounds on a cookie sheet and running it under the broiler (very briefly). You could skip this step and just grate some parmesan on your soup if you don’t want to be so fancy. Lily says to add some finely chopped fresh garlic at the end. Here’s her ingredient list and directions:
- good canned tomatoes (mom would say Italian)
- 1/3 red onion, the chop can be rough, but not too big.
- 2-4 garlic cloves minced. save one to add at the end.
- Enough olive oil so that that the onions are simmering (not so much swimming) in them. I’d guess 1/2 to 3/4 cup… (Toby’s note: I can’t imagine using that much olive oil! Personally, I’d start with 2 or 3 tablespoons, no more than 1/4 cup)
I think the trick it to cook the onions until they are see through, then add the garlic, then the tomatoes. Just cook until it’s hot, just boiling. Pull off the heat, blend, or if you have a wand, blend in the pot, then bring it back up to heat. start sauteing your kale/chard and cooking the parm chips, if you’re up for it, and then, EAT. I think the less real cooking time the better.
Fresh leeks are a glorious, yet humble, sign of spring — and when Cathy’s neighbor brought over a big bagful of freshly picked leeks, I set to work on some leek-potato soup.
Most of this work took place around the sink, as leeks like to hold on to dirt in their layers, so they demand a lot of cleaning. Basically, you cut off the dark green leaves and the root-y bottoms, then run the rest (the white and light green parts) under running water, making sure you clean between the layers. If the leeks are very fat, slice them vertically before cutting your horizontal slices.
I’ve never been quite happy with the texture of leeks in the soup I’ve made previously, so this time I consulted Cathy’s cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen, and these experts supplied the ultimate tip: sweat the leeks.
It’s not the most attractive term, but basically it means that you saute the slices of leeks in some oil or butter, and then put a lid on top for 15 minutes or so. The leeks continue to cook in their own moisture, and they will become meltingly soft and intense.
Now all you need to do is to add some vegetable or chicken broth, a bay leaf and perhaps some thyme, salt and pepper, and a few potatoes — red or white or Yukon gold — cleaned and cut into about 1/2-inch dice. You can leave the skins on if you like. Cook till the potatoes are soft, then smash some of them against the side of the pot to thicken the soup. It’s nice left chunky like this, with pieces of potato and leek in your soup bowl.
Do not confuse a leek with a leak. If in doubt, please contact me for proofreading advice.