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What to do with 25 lbs. of tomatoes

Saturday - 8/28/2010, 7:37am  ET

That'll make a lot of tomato soup. (Photo courtesy of Mary Beth Albright)
By Mary Beth Albright,

I wait all year for tomato season - and then I can't wait for it to go away.

Ignore what this says about my personality (to be generous: ambivalent; to be accurate: crazy) - but such brief, rich abundance overwhelms my tiny brain. And tomato recipes are everywhere, each one more delicious-sounding and complex than the last. From home cooks! From celebrity chefs! From actors who probably haven't eaten in three years!

Here's my proposition: make soup. Just soup. Need reasons?

  1. Soup gives high-quality fresh tomatoes a chance to shine.

  2. Buy as many tomatoes as you can carry and none will go to waste.

  3. Soup is summer simplicity at its best.

  4. It freezes, so you can drink in summer's freshness in winter's tundra.

  5. Prepared soup never tastes as good as fresh soup. Never.

  6. Dress it up (in espresso cups with a grilled cheese crouton for company soup) or drink it down (a quick, filling snack).

  7. Everything gets thrown in a blender so you don't have to dice tomatoes perfectly.

  8. It's vegan. Pretty much the only people who can't eat this soup are the raw-food people, and I don't have much to say to them anyway.

  9. 15 minutes of cooking time and you're done.

  10. You have two weeks of summer left. Spend it scouring tomato recipes only if you really really want to.

Sold? There are as many tomato soup recipes as there are cooks who swear theirs is the best. They are all wrong. Mine is the best.

Summer Fresh Tomato Soup

  • ½ cup olive oil

  • 1 large onion, chopped

  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped

  • Bay leaf

  • 6 lbs. fresh ripe tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped (seeds, skin, and everything)

  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar

  • ¼ baguette (stale or fresh), torn into pieces

  • Salt

In a large NONREACTIVE*** pot, heat olive oil over medium-low heat and add onion, garlic, and bay leaf. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly (don't let the garlic burn). Add tomatoes, sugar, and bread and cook for about 10-15 minutes, until the tomatoes release their juices and look melty. Discard bay leaf and puree everything in a blender until smooth (probably will need to do this step in three batches) and return to the pot.

Add salt until you can taste the soup all over your mouth - not enough salt, and you'll just taste the tang in the back of your tongue. Enough salt, and full tomato flavor will hit the font of your tongue, the sides, everywhere.

***My whole cooking life, I've been told to cook tomatoes in nonreactive pots. Tomatoes are very acidic and (to go back to Mr. Sutton's 7th grade science class) when they come in contact with aluminum, copper, or iron, the reaction creates a bitter taste. No problem; my copper pots are lined in stainless steel.

Fastforward to two days ago, when three friends and I spent the entire day cooking - cous cous from scratch (it's pasta, not a grain!), chicken tagine, granola bars, real baked beans, and tomato soup. Every pot in the house was full so I pulled out my lobster pot to make the tomato soup. The pot has "stainless steel" stamped on the side but the only ones who know for sure are the lobsters and they were, well, unavailable. Apparently the pot is aluminum, because the soup's intolerable bitterness tasted like a witch made it, or like in a novel where the cook's mood get infused into the food. (Not that I'm bitter…)

Tossed the entire batch out. Good thing I had 25 pounds of tomatoes left for another try. Make sure your pot is nonreactive. l I make mistakes so you don't have to.

P.S. Never refrigerate a tomato. Ever. I don't care what's happening in your life, just don't do it.

Get more recipes at Mary Beth's blog.

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