Do you need a new idea for all those gorgeous tomatoes that are still so abundant in gardens and farmers’ markets? Here’s a great soup that highlights the classic pairing of tomatoes and basil, enhanced by onion, garlic, and summer squash. The addition of half and half and herbed goat cheese turns it into a heavenly, creamy bisque. Throw together a tossed salad and grab a loaf of crusty bread, and you have a perfect early fall meal.
Here’s a video of John showing me how to prepare this bisque. John uses tomato juice he canned earlier in the season, or perhaps last summer, but you can also make this using freshly juiced tomatoes or even whole, pureed fruit (seeded and peeled). Be sure to check out the other cooking videos on the MO Deep Roots YouTube channel while you’re there!
Here’s the recipe:
- Small onion, thinly sliced
- Small summer squash, thinly sliced (John prefers yellow crookneck squash, but any thin-skinned summer squash or zucchini will do)
- 2 to 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 to 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 to 4 pints tomato juice, preferably made from fresh tomatoes* or home-canned (though store-bought juice will do in a pinch)
- 1 pint of vegetable stock can be substituted for 1 pint of the tomato juice (optional)
- 1 cup of half and half (in the video John uses 1/2 pint of half and half and 1 cup of 2% milk, and he says evaporated milk could be substituted; just use what you have)
- Half of a 5 oz. tub of soft herbed goat cheese (John gets his from Goatsbeard Farm)
- 1 quart fresh basil, washed (this will end up making about a cup and a half of finely chopped basil)
- Thinly slice the onion and summer squash and crush the garlic. Sauté the veggies in 1 to 2 tablespoons of butter, along with the crushed garlic, in a large sauce pan or stock pot. When the veggies are a bit browned, add the tomato juice and a pint of vegetable stock, if you're using that. (Using strictly tomato juice is fine too). Heat everything up to a boil.
- Remove from heat and add the half tub of goat cheese, stirring to blend in well while the soup is piping hot. Add the half and half and the milk, if you're using that, stirring. Return the pan to the stove and bring it back to a simmer, just enough to get it thoroughly heated through again. (Note: When I've made this recipe I've allowed the soup to simmer for 10 minutes or so to thicken slightly, and that works well too.)
- While the soup is heating remove the leaves from the basil and mince as finely as possible. Add the basil to the soup just before serving. (Note: Though John prefers the basil to be stirred in only after the soup is removed from the heat, to keep it as fresh and flavorful as possible, I prefer to let it cook in for a few minutes to soften the leaves a bit and meld the flavors.)
- Salt and pepper are added to taste, plus a little celery salt (optional). Serves 3 to 4. Start to finish is 20 minutes or less.
- *So how do you turn those fresh tomatoes into tomato juice? It's easier than you might think. John uses tomato juice he canned earlier, straining the tomatoes through an old-fashioned sieve and pestle, though you could use a more modern strainer or juicer. After seeing John use his mother's old juicing sieve and pestle, I became fascinated by it, and now I'm using my own grandmother's juicing sieve and finding it simple and quick. Just quarter the tomatoes, cook them down for 10 or 15 minutes, then press them through the sieve or strainer for ultra-fresh, super-tasty juice.
- But since I didn't have a juicer when I first tried this recipe, I simply peeled the tomatoes after blanching them in boiling water, then quartered and seeded them before pureeing them in a food processor. The resulting bisque will have a thicker texture than John's bisque made with strained juice, but it still tastes great.
- John's estimated 20-minute prep time assumes that you're using a jar of pre-canned tomato juice.
- This is a great way to use up end-of-the-season tomatoes.