Cream of Fresh & Sun-Dried Tomato Soup

Homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese is a new thing for me – in particular, the homemade part. I’ve typically been an open a can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup, add milk, and heat it up on the stove kind of person. But this homemade version is one million light years ahead of the canned stuff.

I can’t get enough of cheese crisps. In Caesar salads. Or as a snack. I have Ina Garten to thank for this cheese discovery.

She’ll serve parm reg cheese crisps as hors d’oeurves with drinks. I can’t think of anything more perfect. She’ll take shards of parm reg, too, and serve those on their own with sea-salted Marcona almonds, citrus-marinated olives, or other ridiculously tasty snackables.

Make them tonight with that hunk you have in your fridge right now. You can find the recipe here.

Some of my other favorites of hers – Soppressata and Cheese in Puff Pastry, Blini with Smoked Salmon and Herbed Ricotta Bruschettas.

Cheddar cheese, like parm reg, is perfect for crisp-izing. Take a tablespoon or so of the shredded cheese, throw spoonfuls on parchment paper in a hot oven, and you have cheddar cheesy chips to snack on.

This recipe was inspired by Ina Garten’s Easy Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons.

Here, I wanted to find a way to incorporate sun-dried tomatoes. I could eat one after another, especially the tomatoes marinated in oil and herbs. This soup, with the sun-dried tomato flavor, is a welcome tomato punch to the mouth.

Cream-of soups are so versatile. You’re taking an ingredient you love – and really, it could be anything – and enveloping it in heavy cream, butter, and giving the flavors time to deepen on the stove top. Hankerings has posted a few of its favorite cream-of soups, including Cream of Chicken Soup with Crispy Chicken Skin and Mushroom Forager’s Soup.

Next cream-of soup on deck? A cream of bell pepper soup, which I have very high expectations for. Check back soon!

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 1 28 oz. can San Marzano tomatoes
  • 8 sun-dried tomatoes in oil and herbs, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 / 2 white onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons sherry
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 / 4 cup basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • Olive oil, as needed
  • 1 / 2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 350*.
  2. Add the butter and olive oil to a medium-sized saucepan. Heat until the butter is melted, and add the onion. Saute for 3 to 4 minutes until the onion becomes translucent. Add the garlic, and saute for an additional 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Open the can of tomatoes, and crush each tomato with your hand into the onion & garlic mixture. Be mindful of the tomato juices – they are likely to spray as you crush them. Add the remaining tomato sauce from the can into the pan as well.
  4. Add the chopped sun-dried tomatoes, heavy cream, salt, pepper, basil, sherry, red wine vinegar and sugar. Heat until just-simmering, then turn off the heat.
  5. In a food processor, pour the soup until just below the liquid line. Pulse until nearly smooth. Puree the soup in batches, adding the soup back into the pot as you go along.
  6. Once the whole batch has been pureed, bring the soup to a near-boil, and simmer for 15 minutes or so, until the soup is reduced slightly.
  7. To make the cheese crisps, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place tablespoon-sized piles of the cheddar cheese 2 inches apart. Bake for 8 minutes or so, until the crisps have seized and are slightly browned. Remove the crisps from the oven an allow to cool.
  8. Plate the soup, topping each bowl with 2 of the cheddar cheese crisps. Enjoy hot.

Truffled Shepherd’s Pies

Shepherd’s pie – another one of those quintessential comfort food dishes.

Comfort food is an overused term in the food world. But you won’t hear me complaining. Comfort food has always been around. It’s just that we have a nice little click bait-friendly term for it nowadays. It’s all-encompassing – but I usually see two common threads: comfort food is hot, and it’s carb-packed.

What is the definition of comfort food anyway?

It’s defined as, “food that provides consolation or a feeling of well-being, typically any with a high sugar or other carbohydrate content and associated with childhood or home cooking.”

Point being – it’s about memories, and less so about the food itself.

I’ve only had Shepherd’s Pie one other time in my life. But the specifics are hazy.

It was somewhere in New York, at one of those British pubs. Probably on a side street off of 5th Avenue. And I probably ordered a Guinness with it – those were my Guinness days. It’s a major food gap in my cooking repertoire at home, so this dish was a long time coming.

Pie

My other major food gap? Duck leg confit. Wow, was I missing out.

D’Artagnan produces package-sealed duck confit that you can pull out of the freezer and put straight under a broiler. I bought them on a whim. And I almost cried while eating it – I’m not being hyperbolic, I was so elated by the revelation of duck fat that I almost cried. It was perfect. Duck fat is like chicken fat, but gamier. I didn’t know duck, stewed in duck fat, could taste so good.

This shepherd’s pie, while not as much a revelation as duck confit, is still that blow-your-mind level comfort food. No fond childhood memories required – it’s just plain good.

Making some of these foods at home, at the right place and time, are reminiscent of childhood home cooking. Browning the ground beef, the smell of boiled potatoes, and sauteeing mirepoix all brought back smells, tastes and sights that trigger those fuzzy memories.

But, we need to make room for the new comfort foods in our lives. For me that’s absolutely and unequivocally, duck confit. Even if it’s package sealed sometimes.

Happy comfort food cooking! 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Makes 4 small casseroles.

  • 2 lbs. red bliss potatoes, cut into large cubes
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 / 3 stick butter, salted or unsalted
  • 3 tablespoons black truffle butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 lb. ground beef (20% fat)
  • 2 carrots, small diced
  • 2 celery stalks, small diced
  • 1 large white onion, small diced
  • 1 / 2 lb. mushrooms, small diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons thyme, minced
  • 1 splash red wine vinegar
  • 1 beef bouillon cube
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt, plus 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 350*.
  2. In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, sautéing for 3 to 4 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic, and sauté for an additional 2 minutes or so. Add the ground beef and brown the meat. Once the meat is browned and broken up, add the carrots, celery, mushrooms, 2 teaspoons of salt and pepper. Sautee for 10 minutes or so, until all the vegetables are tender.
  3. In the meantime, heat a large pot of boiling, salted water. Add the potatoes and boil for 20 minutes or so, until the potatoes are fork tender. Strain. Add the potatoes back to the pot, adding the butter, truffle butter, heavy cream and 1 tablespoon of salt. Beat with a hand mixture until the potato mixture is thickened. Allow the potatoes to cool for 10 minutes. Then crack the egg into the potato mixture, stirring until incorporated. Put the potato mixture in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  4. To the meat mixture, add the water, bouillon cube, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, red wine vinegar, bay leaf and thyme. Sprinkle the flour over the top of the mixture. Allow the mixture to simmer for 10 minutes or so, until the gravy is thickened. Remove from the heat, allow to cool at room temperature for 10 minutes, and put the mixture in the fridge to cool for 30 minutes.
  5. In 4 6 by 4 inch casserole dishes, or gratin dishes, layer the meat mixture, then the potato mixture. With a fork, create small peaks with the potato mixture. This will help parts of the pie brown in the oven. Place the pies on a sheet pan in the oven, and bake for 20 minutes or so, until the peaks on the potato have browned.
  6. Serve hot.