02 December 2012

Simple Tomato Soup with Orzo

Sometimes we need something for dinner that is simple and quick but still comforting. Friday was one of those days. It is unofficially officially winter here. We are enjoying our second snow of the season already, and after two days of relentless snow fall, an accumulated foot+ of this powdery goodness is now piled up in our corner of the world. Admittedly I was waiting in excited anticipation for the snow to begin. It is absolutely gorgeous to look at and provides a great backdrop for winter sports. And now that it has fallen I look across the valley and I hardly recognize the city anymore with it's new winter outfit. It has literally been transformed into a winter wonderland.

If you could not tell already, I really enjoy winter and snow. But there are a few downsides, as there is to anything worth loving. The change in barometric pressure can trigger some pretty harsh headaches and the snow prevents me from getting around town by bike safely (my main form of transportation), leaving me with the option of taking the bus. Swiss public transportation is probably the most reliable in the world so this is a perfectly feasible option, unless of course you are running late for your last day of German language class and you cannot rely on your bus to also be running late!

So by Friday night after two days of snowfall and dropping temperatures, you can imagine how this soup came in handy. The recipe is adapted from Ina's cookbook noted above. I don't own it but had a peek at it's content on Amazon. Ina is a trusted source for foolproof and simple but delicious recipes, so I'm not surprised she came out with this cookbook. I added sweet and rich balsamic vinegar to balance the tomatoes' acidity and buttermilk for richness instead of cream, which worked beautifully in the soup.

It wasn't until I sat down and slowly, methodically started to slurp up the soup that I realized how much of a calming effect it had on me and decided I should share it with you. My headache dissipated, I finally felt like I could wind down from the week, and suddenly everything was right in the world again.

Simple Tomato Soup with Orzo

Serves 6

Notes: Serve with a grilled cheese sandwich. I enjoy whole grain bread with gruyere cheese and whole grain mustard. Ina suggests making grilled cheese croutons. Cut the grilled sandwich in small cubes and top individual soup bowls.

3 Tbsp. good olive oil
3 cups yellow onions, chopped (2 onions)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes (I used canned whole, peeled tomatoes because that's what I could find)
1 (15-ounce) can crushed or diced tomatoes
Salt and black pepper
3/4 cup whole wheat orzo or other small, short-cut pasta (or stir in cooked brown rice at the end)
1 cup buttermilk

In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Deglaze the pan with balsamic vinegar, and stir onions to coat. Add the stock, tomatoes, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

If using whole or diced tomatoes puree soup with a hand blender or transfer, in batches, to a food processor or blender and puree. Return soup to pot and bring back up to a gentle boil.

Add orzo to the soup and stir to make sure it does not stick to the bottom. Cover and cook 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally and checking that the soup stays at a gentle boil, until orzo is cooked through but not mushy (it should be al dente).

Stir in the buttermilk and simmer for 5 more minutes, stirring frequently. Serve with grilled cheese or grilled cheese croutons.


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