Fall is here and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. I am at my country hide-away, looking out the window at the remaining orange colored leaves on our trees. Like a streak of lightening, my mind transports back in time to thirty years ago when we opened Sarabeth's Kitchen to make my family's secret recipe–the Orange-Apricot Marmalade. It was around the time of our first Thanksgiving at the bakery on Amsterdam Avenue in 1981. We had recently opened the bakery and people in the neighborhood were excited about our shop. Bill (Mr. Sarabeth, as he calls himself) would arrive every evening at the same time to remind me that it was time to come home. Often we would dash around the corner to Zabar's to pick up a delicious dinner, which was carefully packed in a sturdy white bag with its bold, bright orange graphics printed on each side. On one of those evenings, walking home on our usual route past the shop, we stopped for a last minute peek. There were two people looking in the window at the large display of orange-apricot-marmalade. We moved closer to eavesdrop on their conversation and this is what we heard. The woman said to her friend, "A jam store in Manhattan?" She harrumphed, "She'll never make it!" Bill and I looked at each other in surprise, shrugged our shoulders and went home to eat our dinner. Blink–its thirty years later and we proved her to be wrong.
I really had no intention of telling this story today. Those magnificent colored leaves just whisked me away. In my previous post I promised to share the recipe for the Velvety Cream of Tomato Soup when I returned from my West Coast book tour. We have been serving this wonderful soup since we first opened that little shop on Amsterdam Avenue— thirty years ago. I am home and here it is. In fact, with the chill in the air, I think I shall make some tonight.
VELVETY CREAM OF TOMATO SOUP
Makes 10-12 servings servings
I like soup to be hearty and thick, so you can't see through it to the bottom of the bowl. In the photo you will see the Buttermilk Biscuits that accompany the soup at our restaurants. They can be found in my new book, Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours. Everyone has grown to love this soup and I constantly receive requests for the recipe. So in the spirit of sharing, here is my favorite savory recipe.
COOKS NOTE: The canned tomatoes must be packed in puree, not juice. Also, if you can find diced or crushed tomatoes in puree, that would be great. You will need about 2 (28- ounce cans). Otherwise, use whole tomatoes in puree and crush them as directed in the recipe. • To give the soup more texture and dill flavor, I prefer to tear, and not chop the dill. • Never add the salt while the soup is cooking, as it will cause it to curdle. If this should happen, combine 1/2-cup milk and 1/2-cup cream, and slowly add to the soup while whisking vigorously.
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 small Vidalia onion, chopped
2 medium shallots, chopped
4 scallions, top green parts only, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
Approximately, 3 pounds canned tomatoes,
in tomato puree (See Cooks Note)
4 cups milk
4 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
About 1/3 cup dill fronds, torn into tiny sprigs (see Cooks Note)
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded white Cheddar cheese, for serving
1. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a skillet over medium low heat. Add the onion, shallots, scallion tops, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened and translucent, about 4 minutes. Transfer the mixture into the top of a double boiler and place over the bottom pot of boiling water.
2. Using a wooden spoon, crush the tomatoes into small pieces. Add the crushed tomatoes with the puree, milk, and cream and bring to a simmer, stirring often.
3. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter over low heat. Gradually whisk in the flour to make a roux. Cook, whisking almost constantly, for about 3 minutes, being sure the roux doesn’t brown. Whisk about 1 1/2 cups of the hot tomato mixture into the roux, then pour the roux mixture into the pot of soup and stir until blended..
4. Reduce the heat to low and simmer about 35 minutes to blend the flavors and thicken. Turn off the heat from the double boiler and add the dill, salt and pepper.
5. Serve hot, topping each serving with about 2 tablespoons of grated cheese. (The soup can be prepared up to 2 days ahead, cooled completely, covered, and refrigerated. The soup will thicken when chilled; while reheating, thin the heated soup with milk to the desired thickness. Do not freeze the soup.)
Photo by Ellen Silverman