There are days when I crave french fries, when all I want to do is stop by Yats, this yummy Cajun-Creole restaurant in town, and pick up some chili cheese etouffee. I have weeks where jet lag is clearly a real thing, but I refuse to admit it exists. I will not be weak. Winter starts to creep in, days get shorter, and by the time you get home, the sun has set, the dog still needs to be walked, and despite the fact that it’s only 6 p.m., it’s much too dark and late to make real dinner.
Do not give in to the urge to get french fries or your city’s equivalent of chili cheese etouffee from Yats. Instead make tomato soup. I bet you have all of the ingredients in your house. If not, this weekend stock up on canned tomatoes, buy a spice container of cloves and a jar of Better Than Bullion, and make a habit of always having an onion or two and some garlic in your house.
This tomato soup is special. Twice a year we would see my grandparents who lived in Holland. My grandmother, Oma, would make this soup with little mini meatballs floating in it. I remember her standing over the stove in her green kitchen making this soup. We would have it or her chicken noodle soup before every lunch in wide bowls with wide rims. My grandfather would pick up his bowl and always slurp out the last drops. I looked forward to Oma’s tomato soup every time they visited us in Indiana. She’d make a big pot first thing and we’d have it before dinner every night.
Even now that Oma is gone, Opa still eats soup every night. When he was here over the summer he gifted me Oma’s cookbook. It’s an old green, hardcover notebook with pages of handwritten recipes. Oma took a cooking class when she was young. Each night she would come home and tell Opa the recipes of the day. He then carefully wrote them down in the notebook.
This tomato soup is a cinch to make. It requires maybe 10 minutes of hands-on time and 40 minutes of simmering, flavor melding time. This tomato soup has been my go-to meal this fall on nights when I can’t muster up the energy to make a full-on dinner. Plus I happened to be given the glorious gift of a HUGE amount of tomatoes at the end of the summer, which I canned into 10 quarts of tomato awesomeness. Make a pot of this. Double the recipe. Triple it. Curl up with a bowl of it as the days grow shorter. For me, it tastes like childhood. I hope for you it tastes like an easy and healthy dinner on a night you just couldn’t squeeze out one more drop of energy.
Oma’s Tomato Soup
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 tablespoon dried basil
salt and pepper to taste
2 large tomatoes or a 28 ounce can diced or whole tomatoes
1 1/4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (or water + bullion)
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons rice or a good handful of thin spaghetti like vermicilli
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and spices, and saute until the onions are translucent and soft, about five minutes. Mix in the tomatoes and cook for a minute. Add the chicken or vegetable stock and bay leaf. Bring soup to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium low and simmer for 30 minutes.
Puree the soup either in batches in a blender or right in the pot with an immersion blender until you reach the smooth consistency you like. Put the soup back in the pot and on the stove if you’ve taken it off, and add the rice. Cook until the rice is done, about 10 minutes. Test the soup to see if it tastes good. You can add more spices if you’d like.