Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Zuppa di Pomodoro e Zucchine

Tomato and Zucchini Soup. I just wanted to make it sound authentic!

Tomato soup is one of the best things in the world, especially when you need something to cheer you up. I love tomatoes and I am quite surprised that I never ventured into the tomato soup department any sooner.

The variations are endless. Fresh tomatoes, canned, crushed, diced and whole. You can go pure tomato or tomato and something else. You can roast them first, you can have a chunky soup or a smooth one. I'm thinking that some corn will go well with this dish, or maybe some chickpeas. Of course you can use a seemingly endless variety of beans. You can add diced carrots, celery and macaroni and you have a minestrone. I added zucchini because recently, Allan the Picky Eater realized that this vegetable doesn't taste so bad after all. I'm trying to incorporate any of the vegetables he eats into our food...maybe next time I'll do a zucchini and escarole soup and we'll see how that pans out. Maybe even ratatouille!

Anyhoo, the key really in a good tomato soup is the base. Once you get that right, everything should follow smoothly. It's not difficult and takes only around 20 minutes to make. I'm sure it's also cheaper than the ones you can get a restaurants.

For two hearty servings, you'll need:

1 can tomatoes Php55

-I used Hunts again, whole tomatoes. I diced them to make sure the soup is chunky. But you can go for tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes if you want it smoother.

1 stick margarine Php12
-You can use olive oil, but we had a two-week old stick of Buttercup in the fridge that we haven't even unwrapped yet, so I used that. It actually tastes the same if not better. But that's me.

1 large white/yellow onion, chopped Php8
-We like the taste of slow cooked onions so we used a large one. You don't really taste the onion in this dish even if it seems to be a lot. The cooking sweetens it and makes the dish taste well rounded. Feel free to use less. Make sure you mince the onions well so it won't look awkward later on.

Garlic, minced Php5
-I don't remember how much we used. I think it was about 2 tablespoons? Use the amount of garlic you're comfortable with.

Zucchini, diced Php20

-Cut the vegetable lengthwise and take out the center. It's not as easy as, say, ampalaya, because it's hard to distinguish the seedy pulp and the flesh, but just wing it.

Cheese, grated Php15

-I used Eden, because we had half a block drying out in the fridge. I also used some parmesan. I think this will be ok even with just the Eden, say, one baon pack.

-I used oregano, basil and Italian seasoning. I also used freshly cracked pepper and chili flakes.

First, melt the margarine on low-medium heat. It should not quickly disintegrate in the heat, rather it should melt slowly. That's the heat you want. Add the garlic while you still have around half the margarine to melt to start infusing it. Do not allow the garlic to saute. I prefer if it boils/braises in the butter because it softens the garlic taste. Sauteing can sometimes intensify the garlic and the soup'll taste like garlic, not tomatoes.

Next, add the onions and let that braise, too. Let it stay there until the onions turn translucent...around 5 minutes or so. After that, add the zucchini. Let the vegetable soften, around 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. After that, add the tomatoes, and allow everything to marry. You can turn the heat up the notch, but it should not go above medium. Boil once and simmer, stirring occasionally.

You may want to add some water to make it look like soup? I did...around 3/4 cup. Season with your spices. I'm kinda liberal with the basil and Italian seasoning and a bit conservative on the pepper and chili flakes. Add cheese. Salt to taste. Start with a small amount of salt since the cheese is already salty. You may wanna add some sugar, but we like it this way. For some reason, this soup will thicken even without flour or cornstarch, so when you've reached the consistency you like, you take turn off the fire.

You can top this with sour cream or yogurt, but since there's cheese in it already, we didn't bother.

So, I was thinking, we're having soup, so we need some bread, right? I like slightly stale bread for this one, I don't know why. I bought this baguette for like Php35 (two feet long) during the closing time sale of French Baker (50% off?). That night we ate half of it and I had to lock the other half in my underwear cabinet to keep it from Allan the Notorious Bread Midnight Snacker. I'm kidding. :D I purposely kept half of it so we can eat it for dinner the next day with the soup.

Okay, Allan asked me why not cube the bread and put it in the soup while it cooks. Actually, I think the original recipe calls for that. But I don't like it. The bread becomes too soggy and the soup ends up tasting like, well, soggy stale bread. So I cut the baguette up and served it on the side. We're compulsive sawsawan-ers, so we like dunking the bread into the soup.

There's the little dunk.

And the Big Boy Dunk. Yeah!

If you noticed, we shared the big bowl. Yeah, we're disgusting that way. I mean, we'll probably eat from the pot itself if our decency will allow that. But we aim for lesser dishes to wash, so we share.

This soup is pretty close to the one we loved at Napoli, but this recipe yielded twice as much as the one we had there. If you counted how much the total cost was, it was only Php115 without the bread. Even cheaper than Napoli's plus it had zucchini!

We're gonna make soup more often. We're trying to cut out heavy dinners, so having soup seems like a nice idea. We felt that it was filling and satisfying. And it didn't take so much time to make.


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