Creamy Tomato Soup for a Chili Winter Picnic

Last week I had to fill out a name tag that said “February is for _____.” While most people scribbled hearts and wrote “luv,” I struggled between “sweet potatoes” and “seasonal depression.” Naturally, I picked seasonal depression – you really can’t argue with my wit.

With a goal of not purchasing a sun lamp (aka “sad lamp” and “happy light” – love the euphemism) on Amazon, I’m always looking for a fun field trip despite the season. Our winter picnic was just the fun I needed – and you can’t have a winter picnic without a hot thermos of soup. I’ve been craving summer tomatoes and this soup is about as close as you can get in mid-February. This recipe is particularly interesting because you roast whole canned tomatoes with brown sugar and then add them to the soup. This is much easier than roasting fresh roma tomatoes and putting them through a food mill – which I’ve attempted before. This saves a lot of time and clean up.  And, results in a great tasting tomato soup. I used fat-free half and half because I had on hand and wanted to save a couple of calories. It tasted just as good.

This is a great soup for work day lunches and freezing cold winter picnics!

PS: This recipe also gets a thumbs up from a 3-year-old!

Creamy Tomato Soup
Adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook

  • 2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes packed in juice, drained, 3 cups juice reserved
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • Pinch ground allspice
  • 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken stock, homemade or canned low-sodium
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (I used fat-free half and half)
  • Salt and cayenne pepper

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 450°F. Lined rimmed baking sheet with foil. With fingers, carefully open whole tomatoes over strainer set in bowl and push out seeds, allowing juices to fall through strainer into bowl. Spread seeded tomatoes in single layer on foil. Sprinkle evenly with brown sugar. Bake until all liquid has evaporated and tomatoes begin to color, about 30 minutes. Let tomatoes cool slightly, then peel them off foil; transfer to small bowl and set aside.

Heat butter over medium heat in large saucepan until foaming. Add onions, tomato paste and allspice. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots are softened, 7 to 10 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds. Gradually add chicken stock, whisking constantly to combine; stir in reserved tomato juice and roasted tomatoes. Cover, increase heat to medium, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, to blend flavors, about 10 minutes.

Using a handheld immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. Add cream and warm over low heat until hot, about 3 minutes. Off heat, season with salt and cayenne. Serve immediately or transfer to a thermos for a winter picnic!

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