The Soup Blog
Recipes, Culinary Insights & Humor Spooned Up Fresh Every Week…………………(Now in its Ice Cream Phase)
No Buts, Ifs or Ands: Caprese Soup

Cutting costs, slashing traditions

It was 90 degrees in Chicago last weekend. And when it’s that hot out, you don’t feel much like eating, it just makes you sweat more. Hence the classic summertime pairing of soup & salad.

I should really say former classic, because this summer will not be like seasons past.  As you can see from this food-administrator’s memo I recently came across:

In light of challenges facing the economy and all of us involved with it, a proposed RIF [reduction in food] will combine the elements of the traditional “soup & salad” into a single entrée.

The consolidation requires that the new menu item assume the responsibilities of both the soup and the salad in such areas as flavor, body and mouthfeel but will do so at a reduced cost both in terms of dollars and calories.

Management regrets the inconvenience this adjustment may bring to some long standing participants in the menu process.  However, budgetary restrictions make these cuts necessary to the overall health of the culinary community.  A generous outplacement package will be provided to those directly affected by this path management has chosen.  We thank them for their years of service and wish them well in their search for new opportunities.

We also wish a hearty welcome to the newest member of the team: soup/salad

I guess what all this boils down to is that the ampersand (&), that age-old stand-in for the word and, has been let go, replaced, ironically, with a slash. As far as new opportunities, I guess they’re talking about roles occupied by the plus sign (+) or the conjunction ‘n.

Okay, it was a long way to go on a pretty weak conceit, but the notion of food combining is not all that implausible.  Putting a soup and salad together as one dish will save labor, but will the result be a crispy soup or a watery salad.  Neither are particularly appetizing.

It is with genuine excitement therefore that I present the first candidate for the new soup/salad role:  Caprese Soup

The first delicacy to fill this position brings together the Caprese Salad and all it’s traditional flavors (balsamic vinegar, mozarella cheese, basil and roma tomatoes)  with, well, with soup.

The result, depite all the human resources/communications verbiage, is fabulous.

No, it won’t replace the Caprese Salad.  Nor would I want it to.  My wife has fond memories of the first time I made her this salad after a Saturday morning at the San Francisco farmer’s market.  For the sake of my marriage, the Caprese Salad will live on.

But this new soup takes the Caprese to a whole new place and has a much longer shelf life once you put it all together.  That’s the one drawback with salads—they wilt almost as soon as they’re dressed.  And tomato salads are no exception.  The dressing seems to leech water out of the tomatoes leaving the dish blander and a lot more soggy.

This soup also allows me to present one of my favorite tricks for turning basil into a beautiful threadlike garnish, called a “chiffonade”.  You start by stripping basil leaves from their stems and stacking them one on top of another.  When you have a nice stack (10 to 15), you make very thin slices across the central vein of the topmost basil leaf and you end up with an elegant presentation that you can spread across the top of your soup.

This soup can be served both warm or cold.  The texture changes somewhat when it’s cold, a little more rustic and less smooth, but it’s still delicious.

My friend Meg suggested another great garnish, either in tandem with the basil chiffonade or on its own—a small piece of fresh mozarella placed in the center of each soup bowl. This works better when the soup is warm as the heat melts the cheese a little around the edges and blurs the line between the tomato and the mozarella.

Up next week:  Goodbye Soup ‘n Sandwich, hello Soupwich?

Nah.

Caprese Soup
(serves 6-8)
2 lbs roma tomatoes, chopped
2 oz. fresh basil
6 cups stock
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 t dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic
½ of 1 medium onion, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
¾ cup olive oil
1 8 oz. can tomato paste
2 cups mozzarella, shredded
1 cup basil, cut into thin strips

  1. Add tomatoes, basil and stock to a medium sized pot, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  2. While the soup is simmering, whip together a salad dressing out of the mustard, garlic, onion, salt, pepper, vinegar and oil.
  3. Remove the soup from the heat, add the balsamic dressing and puree the mixture with an immersion blender or a bar blender.
  4. Stir the tomato paste into the hot soup and then add the mozzarella so that it dissolves into the mix.
  5. Serve warm or cold garnished with a chiffonade of basil.
  6. Goes great with buttery garlic bread or as a first course to a nice Italian meal.  (We served it with a fennel and bell pepper version of osso bucco.)

Image Credit: Yet another clipart collage.  Would somebody please buy this guy a copy of Photoshop?

Once again the Soup Blog brings things together in a new way.  Good, bad, groan-inducing? That’s for you to decide.  Please don’t keep your opinions to yourself. Leave a comment.  I’ll be reading and responding.

11 Comments to “No Buts, Ifs or Ands: Caprese Soup”

  1. Jane Huth says:

    Really love the Soup Blog. However, most members of my family do not eat dairy, which is in most (all?) of your recipes. We don’t eat wheat either, but there are easy substitutes for that. No soy-free substitutes are available for cheese or heavy cream.

    Can you offer a dairy-free alternative for at least some of the soups? That would induce me to try your recipes. I love soups, but fear ruining a great recipe by omitting a crucial ingredient (mozzarella in this case).

    • pcandres says:

      You’re right. I’ve been addressing vegetarian fare but not many dairy-free options. I’ll try to get some more of those in coming weeks.

  2. Paul says:

    so is that read soup slash salad?

    to quoth the larkman

    nevermore

    • pcandres says:

      I’m not sure if that’s a larkman quote, just punctuation, and weak humor.

  3. Titania says:

    Hey, I wrote a comment this morning and it must have been rejected. It was about the vegie chili and how good it is but I have a couple of things I add, notably about 1 T. of cumin. I also increase the chili powder a tad.
    What about doing a soup with curry in it, maybe with lentils?

    • pcandres says:

      See comment below. I like the sound of the lentil and curry soup.

  4. Jame says:

    Delicious – I didn’t even have to make it having had the opportunity to eat your own leftovers. I will, however, make it myself so that Declan can try it, too. I think that he will like it. I’d like to see what it tastes like warm. The cold option was wonderful in that mid-west heat/humidity (read “heat slash humidity”).

    • pcandres says:

      Thanks, Jame. It was nice to have a guest at our real table rather than the virtual one. Now, I’ve just got to get the gazpacho up on to the site, but you’ve already had that one too.

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