Saturday, October 8, 2011

Recipe: Home-Grown Tomato Soup (and Winter Garden Prep)

Okay, I totally *don't* want to talk about the Bathroom Renovation Project (now heading into it's FOURTH WEEK - ARRRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!).

So let's talk about Tomatoes instead, shall we?

More specifically, the last of the tomato harvest which was threatening to go all mushy on my counter top.

I've actually fallen back into "Nesting Mode" - ever since we had our first notable rain, last week (Waaaahhhh!!!). In fact, I stumbled onto a couple of interesting-sounding recipes in October's Sunset Magazine (Wow - A *current* magazine in the doctor's office???). One is a pumpkin soup with mint-pumpkin-seed pesto that sounds positively fascinating. The other is some sort of Cranberry/Squash/Short-Ribs Stew. I hope to try those in the coming weeks.

In fact, I had intended to make the pumpkin soup this weekend - bought a couple of pie-pumpkins and everything - but then I encountered the tomatoes, looking all forlorn in their bucket on the counter. And - unfortunately - I actually had to compost the previous batch o' maters (they got Super-Grody-lookin' - Oooops!). That was downright criminal!

I lacked the incentive and/or ingredients to make Finny's (Actually FarmGirl's) Tomato Sausage Pie. So I decided to make tomato soup instead.

What follows is kinda/sorta what I did (with approximate measurements 'cuz I didn't keep super-close track of what I was doing!).

QT's Fresh Home-Grown Tomato Soup
  • 4 cups chopped fresh tomatoes (skins, seeds and all!)
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped (I used 1/2 red and 1/2 yellow because that's what I had on-hand)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (fresh, Duhhh! Don't even think about using garlic powder - eww!)
  • Appx 1 cup chopped celery (I think I used 3-4 stalks)
  • Appx 1 cup chopped carrots (I used about 2 handfuls of pre-washed baby carrots)
  • 3 TBS butter
  • 2 TBS flour
  • 1 "regular-sized" can of Chicken or Vegetable Broth (I think it was appx 14 oz.)
  • Small handful of fresh basil
  • Small handful of fresh chives
  • Couple-three sprigs of fresh thyme
  • (Or you could just go with dried, jarred stuff - Cheater!)
  • 1 TBS Splenda (or Sugar - whatever), to taste
  • Sea Salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
First, chop up your tomatoes and set 'em to the side:

It's a mixed-up-mess of maters!
Some are slightly underripe and others are threatening to become compost!

Next, Chop up your onions, mince your garlic, and chop your carrots and celery. Try to keep your carrots and celery the same size so they'll all cook evenly.

I started by sauteeing the onions and garlic, in appx 1TBS of butter, first. Once they were limp and translucent, I added the celery and carrots.

Cooked everything on Medium-to-Low heat in a medium saucepan...

Til everything was limp and squishy - but not brown

Then I added the chopped-up 'maters:

And add a can of Vegetable (or Chicken) Broth...

Brought it to a low, rolling boil...

And added my fresh basil, chives and thyme.

Lowered the heat and let it simmer for appx 20-30 minutes 'til everything was pretty mushy-gushy...

Then I hit it with an immersion blender...

I'm really lousy at judging the size of pot I'm gonna need!
It was All Good 'til I plopped the hand-blender in.
Then I found that soup was schlorping out all over the cooktop (Oooops!)

Next comes the Grody-Ody part! Find a separate container that's about the same size as your soup pot. Then grab a wire-mesh sieve. Pour, then smush the soup thru the sieve:


You do want to force some of the thicker-bits through, but you want to keep the "significant" bits (seeds, tomato-skins, recognizable celery-chunks, etc.) on the inside-the-sieve-side.

I didn't snap a pic, but there was a bunch of thicker-soupy-stuff on the underside of the sieve, and I did scrape that into the soup... The stuff that was too thick to fit thru the mesh became compost.

And Voila!
Fresh, Home-Grown Tomato Soup!

It was rather runny, so I ended up making a roux by mixing 2 TBS butter with 2 TBS flour in a small frying pan. Once it was well-blended, I dumped the roux into the soup pot and cooked it on medium heat a little longer. Gave it a taste... Added a TBS of Splenda and a few shakes of Sea Salt and Pepper (to taste)

This soup was absolutely delicious! We had it for dinner, along with smoked pork-chops with Sweet Corn-Apple Relish, and a side of Garlic Mashed Potatoes.

Definitely yummy!

Final Days of the Summer Garden:

This summer's garden was nothing short of AWESOME! I did harvest a handful of cukes; several ginormous zucchinis (that somehow eluded me while they were still small and tender!); Bushels upon bushels of peaches and plums (and apples - I keep forgetting about my apple tree hidden behind the greenhouse); And it was definitely a Record Year for tomatoes (Yayyyy!!!).

Things I didn't have success with: Watermelons. I did plant a watermelon vine - but I kinda didn't take into consideration the amount of shade that the maters were gonna cast over the melon vine (:::sigh:::). Pumpkins: I oughtta just give up on pumpkins altogether! Actually, I had planted one over by the far back fence (and put a small dog-deterrent fence around it), but *something* (I'm guessing NOT a canine) chomped clean-through the vine - just as the blossoms were starting to "set." Corn: That's another plant I've given up on! Much easier to just run down to the Farm-Stand down the street (for the sweetest corn in the valley!).

And, of course, the Straw-Bale Bed Experiment was a Big Fat Fail. It just didn't hold enough water with our blazing-hot summer-heat (and lack of rainfall - which is just fine with me, thankyouverymuch!!!). I am reviving The Experiment - added a fresh layer of compost on the top and re-checked the drip line - for my Cool-Season Kohl Crops and see how that goes (since we do tend to have wet winters). If it fails again, well, I'll just mulch and/or compost with it...

Ahhh... But I will forever remember this summer's tomatoes with great fondness! And I am especially happy that I managed to retain some Frozen Squozen 'Maters so we can enjoy them well into winter!

Maters are nearing the end, unfortunately. I keep wandering out to the garden in the afternoon to see what's going on. There are still some green babies, lingering on the vines. There was actually one big Mama-Jama 'Mater that was approaching ripeness, but *something* got to it before I could (Grrrr!!!). I've been giving the mater plants haircuts - every time I wander back there (cutting back any new blossoms which don't stand a chance in hell of every coming to fruition! And hacking back vines that have nothing on them).

I don't have the heart to rip 'em out completely because we are still having some warm afternoons and the 'maters *might* ripen on the vine (if the critters don't get to 'em first!). Once it starts to get *really* chilly, I will rip the last of the vines out (and maybe attempt to salvage one of the Stupice vines for greenhouse-growing). For now, I am content to leave 'em alone...

I actually have cleared about 1/3 of one of the raised beds, and did some direct-seeding of some cool season veggies: Beets, Carrots, Peas, and Turnips. Naturally (ONCE AGAIN!!!), I neglected to make note of what-got-sowed-where!!!

I've also planted leaf crops like lettuces, mesclun mix and spinach in the upside-down planters outside the back-door, and I've started some kohl crop seeds (cabbages, cauliflower and broccoli) in the house. Hope to get those moved out to the garden in the weeks to come.

Winter-Garden will be a bit of a Crap-Shoot, I'm afraid. It would be cool to have year-round veggies - but I've never had much success with cool-season crops in years past, so my sense of Optimism is over-shadowed with a hearty dose of Realism!

We shall see....

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