Monday, October 18, 2010

Clear tomato soup

Abundance is a big, ripe, round word, almost onomatopoeic in its application to the mounds of more -than-ready-to-eat tomatoes tumbling into the market stalls as spring heats up.*

There is nothing I do not adore about the smell of tomatoes. Sugar and acid and that strange spicy scent of the stems and leaves.

There is a stall at the market which categorises tomatoes according to a range of juxtaposed and seemingly arbitrary taxomonies. Place of origin (Murray Bridge, Bacchus Marsh), variety (Aledaide*, roma, cherry, ‘field’), method of cultivation (field, trussed, hydroponic, magic), and ripeness (ready to eat, green).
And purpose: cooking. That is, soft, falling apart, two-days-past ripe, almost mushy with splitting skins. And at $2.50 per kilo, irresistible for someone whose winter stocks of passata and chutney and tomato sauce and paste are exhausted.

Tomatoes are sexy. Ther’s no denying the call to summer present in their lush, lush redness, like pouting lips, ready for the the hottest, wettest, tomatoiest kisses. Tomatoes are ‘come hither’. They’re anybody’s, everybody’s. They’re easy.

So in an effort to pour ice onto that tomato induced libido, chill. To make summer’s good-time gal an ice-queen, she has to strip. And strip she did*.

Blended, strained, frozen until the first ice crystles start to form, this blush-tinged tomato soup is a tomato flavoured slap in the face.

Still easy though ...

* Don’t be deceived. It snowed last Saturday. It snowed. It never snows but it snowed.

** which I thought was part of the ‘place of origin’ schema, but it turns out it is a variety of tomato – more pinkish than reddish, and very flavoursome, firm fleshed.

*** Note: the tomato, not me.

Clear tomato soup

Serves 4 as a light starter, or 2 for a meal with salad and bread.

1 kilo ripe, ripe, ripe tomatoes
1 cup fresh basil leaves
2 cloved garlic, peeled
2 ripe but firm tomatoes, de-seeded and peeled, cut into small diamonds
2 tbsp small basil leaves, to serve
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the tomatoes, basil and garlic in a blender and blend until smooth. Place a muslin lined strainer over a large bowl and pour in tomato pulp.

Place in the fridge to strain over night (at least eight hours). Do not press the mixture (this can make it cloudy).

The next day, taste the tomato ‘water’. Season with salt and pepper. (note – I reserve the left over pulp and add it to passata or baked beans or casserole – nothing goes to waste!)

Place in the freezer until ice crystals start to form at the edges. (you can also serve this hot – just heat until warmed through – wait until soup is hot to season it, as hot food generally needs less seasoning than chilled food).

Spoon into bowls or glasses, top with reserved tomato diamonds and basil leaves.

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