We have entered Seattle’s “rainy season,” a time when the mornings and evenings look the same pitch black, the chill in the air makes you reach for your hat and gloves, and the last of the beautiful, brittle Fall foliage gets wind swept to the ground and clogs drains when the sky starts dripping. If you’re an introvert like me, it’s the quintessential time to cozy up indoors, and get to all those projects and activities you couldn’t convince yourself to do over summer. I have never lived in a place at once so hated and revered for its moodiness this time of year. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
While it’s rare to get a booming, crackling thunderstorm here in Seattle, I welcome the quiet of rain showers. Local citizens repeatedly forget how to drive in it, but I know when we’re in the warmth of our homes, snuggled in our pjs, reading that good book before bed, we appreciate the stillness it can afford.
I felt it was time to bring out one of my favorite soup recipes in light of our growing darker days. Sure I could have just opened up a can of Campbell’s, but where’s the fun in that? I recently shared with someone that I love cooking recipes that remind me of childhood. This tomato-basil soup does just that. When the dampness of a Saturday Seattle afternoon shrouds the city, there is nothing better than a steamy bowl of this. I’ve added a few interesting ingredients like fennel and red chili flakes to give the soup some kick, and I can say The Vegetarian easily consumed about three bowls before it even had a chance to cool. Sometimes the only feedback I need is the tomato-stained smile of a loved one. Share this with someone you enjoy cozying up with and don’t forget to throw in a few greasy grilled cheese sandwiches for dunking. I guarantee you’ll wish you had more rainy days like these.
Spicy Tomato Basil Soup
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped (roughly 2 3/4 cups)
1 large bulb of fennel, stalks and core removed, chopped (roughly 2 cups)
3 large cloves or 2 Tablespoons of garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons flour
4 cups vegetable stock
2- 28 oz cans of crushed and peeled tomatoes in puree
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 pack (.66 oz) fresh basil, stems removed
Makes 11.5 cups
In a large stock pot, over medium heat, warm olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter. Add in onions and fennel and cook for about 10 minutes or until soft and slightly golden. Stir frequently to prevent from sticking. Turn to low and add minced garlic. Saute for 1 minute. Remove from heat and transfer to a plate.
Rinse out stockpot and place back on the burner over medium heat. Add remaining 3 tablespoons of butter and let it slowly melt. When it has completely melted, sprinkle in the flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Stir constantly until flour dissolves, turns slightly golden and no longer smells of flour, about 2-3 minutes. Roux will foam slightly but just be sure to keep it from burning. If you sense your heat is too high, turn it down. Make sure you have your stock ready and then slowly whisk in vegetable stock, one cup at a time until all the roux has dissolved.
Add in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, fennel and garlic. Lastly, add in red pepper flakes and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat for about 15 minutes, then turn off heat. At this point, you can either use a blender or food processor to puree the soup and add in the fresh basil as you blend the entire batch. This soup is made for chunky bread grilled cheese sandwiches.
What to do with the rest of that can of tomato paste? Why not freeze it? I used a tablespoon measurement and filled an ice cube tray with it. When frozen, just run the bottom of the tray under warm water to release the cubes. This way you can just use what you need and not risk having leftovers go bad in the back of your refrigerator.