A Taste—Both Exotic and Familiar—in the Same Spoonful.
As a child growing up in the 50’s, a bowl of cream of tomato soup along with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich was a standard and my favorite lunch; especially when dunking a corner of the PB&J into the soup.
A great memory flashback for me is making a snow fort and sitting inside with my brother. Then—as if by magic—the queen of the snow fort appeared and handed us our favorite lunch. In the quietude within the whiteness or our fort, dunking and slurping our favorite lunch to this day is a sublime memory.
Many decades later I was playing around my teaching kitchen and that memory popped up while making a tomato-basil bisque. What if I put peanut butter into recipe?
Dear reader, you must come back with me into our snow fort.
INGREDIENTS: Serves 5-6
- olive oil, 2 TBS.
- onion, 1 cup, (1 small), diced
- garlic, fresh, 4 tsp., (3 large cloves), minced
- tomatoes, peeled*, 2 cans, 28 ounce total
- salt, 1 tsp.
- soy sauce, 2 TBS.
- peanut butter, 1/4 cup, creamy style
- milk, whole, 1 cup, or substitute
- fresh basil, 2 TBS., chopped
* I have used in-season tomatoes, canned, peeled whole tomatoes or canned sauce. If using vine ripened, see below for technique to prepare. I recommend using a high speed blender to create an ultra-smooth soup.
- Prepare the garlic and onion.
- Soften them in a soup pot with the oil, about 3-5 minutes.
- Stir in the tomatoes with their liquid, salt, and soy sauce; bring to simmer, partially cover and cook for 20-25 minutes. Reserve the peanut butter and milk until next step.
- Draw off a little of the soup and stir in the peanut butter then add back to the soup along with the milk. Simmer for a few minutes more. Don’t bring to boil.
- Puree the soup, or pass through a fine sieve to yield a creamy consistency.
- Serve garnished with chopped, fresh basil.
MASTERY EN PLACE: Canned Tomatoes Better Than Fresh?
As the farm to market movement resurges, it has been assumed that fresh produce is better than canned or frozen. But if you ask the chefs, many prefer canned due to the much improved flash preserving now available. Produce can literally be processed in the field at the height of ripeness. Chefs Tom Douglas and Mario Batali prefer canned tomatoes, especially if out of season, which is usually the longest stretch of the year. When there is a sale and you are familiar with a brand, it’s a good idea to buy in bulk and enjoy a steady supply of just-picked and preserved. Chef Douglas will first buy a single can and test before buying in volume.
When my own vine ripened tomatoes are in over supply, it’s convenient to cook them down and preserve. Here’s how: slice a shallow X through the blossom end of the tomatoes and drop them into barely simmering water for about 30-40 seconds. Remove and then use a knife to pull at and peel off the skins. Chop the tomatoes and sauté in olive with a bit of salt until softened, about 15 minutes. Cool and place in freezer bags and freeze.
“In Japan we have the phrase shoshin, which means “beginner’s mind.” This does not mean a closed mind, but actually an empty mind and a ready mind. If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything. It is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.” – Shunryu Suzuki