Spicy Tomato Soup
Paula loves Campbell’s tomato soup, but to me it tastes metallic and sweet. Far too sweet—like it’s been loaded up with sugar. (It’s mystifying to me that Paula can’t taste the sugar in it at all!)
I’ve put up with my share of canned-soup buying and even cringed through eating it, since my reward was grilled cheese sandwiches on Paula’s homemade bread. But every time, I’ve told her that I wanted to try making her a from-scratch tomato soup that she’d like even better than Campbell’s.
This was not supposed to be that soup. This was just a recipe I came up with in honor of my new immersion blender. (My last one broke after only three uses… six years ago.)
It’s just about as different as you can get from Campbell’s—that was the last thing on my mind when I was creating it—so I had no idea that this soup, warmed up with aleppo pepper and thickened with creamy red lentils, would be the one.
I know it’s still snowing (and soup weather) in many places, so before I dive into spring recipes around here, I wanted to squeeze in one last hearty, wintery dish.
I’m calling this “wintery” because it doesn’t mess around with out-of-season sub-sub-par fresh tomatoes; it goes straight for the canned ones. And really when are canned tomatoes more justified than when you need to brighten up a gloomy winter that’s overstayed its welcome?
Although I used canned tomatoes, I was not thinking of canned tomato soup. I wasn’t aiming for a sweet, thin tomato broth, but for a rich, creamy soup with lots of heat from chili flakes and cayenne, balanced by the fruity, bright flavors of aleppo pepper.
I was thinking Middle Eastern flavors—I almost added tahini to make it more creamy (would that have been weird?). Instead I simmered tiny, fast-cooking red lentils into it until they were tender and soft, then pureed it all smooth.
If you use the amounts of chili peppers I’ve suggested, you’ll end up with a soup just verging on spicy, but not too hot. Sprinkle in extra cayenne and aleppo at the end to amp up the flavors just to your liking.
I made the soup extra creamy by adding Greek yogurt, tempering it (warming it up) first so it would blend smoothly into the soup, without curdling. With this method, the yogurt becomes so stable that you can even freeze leftover soup to be re-heated on the stovetop, and it will taste just as good.
To make a vegan version, you can simply substitute coconut milk for yogurt. (I haven’t actually tried tempering coconut milk before adding it to hot soup—you can just add it and stir really well, especially if your coconut milk is already at room temperature rather than chilled—but maybe I’ll try that sometime out of curiosity and get back to you!)
For someone who loves tomatoes as much as I do, I guess it’s strange that I’ve never had a strong attachment to tomato soup. (With the exception of gazpacho.)
But if it’s an excuse to have grilled cheese for dinner then I’ll take it. (Tomato soup pairs well with this kale salad, too.) So I was very pleasantly surprised when Paula took a single bite of this soup, a few weeks ago—the first time I made it, and announced that she liked it better than Campbell’s.
I’m just glad we’re finished having grilled cheese sandwich dinners with a side of watery, sweetened “soup.” Now we can have spicy tomato soup dinners with a side of grilled cheese.
Print this recipe. (PDF)
Spicy Tomato Soup
Active time: 30 minutes; Total time: 45 minutes.
~ 2 Tbsp. olive oil (or 1 Tbsp. butter, 1 Tbsp. olive oil); more if needed
~ ½ medium onion, roughly diced
~ ½ tsp. aleppo chili pepper flakes; plus more to garnish
~ ½ tsp. crushed chili pepper flakes
~ dash of ground turmeric
~ 3 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1 28 oz. can of crushed or petite diced tomatoes
~ 1 14.5 oz. can of crushed, diced, or petite diced tomatoes
~ 3 cups vegetable broth
~ salt and pepper, to taste
~ ½ cup red lentils (or ¾ cup for a thicker soup)
~ dash of cayenne pepper, to taste
~ ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt (full fat), at room temperature
~ ¼ tsp. corn starch (or flour)
~ OR: instead of yogurt + corn starch, use ¼ cup coconut milk, at room temperature
How to make it:
0. If using Greek yogurt or coconut milk, measure it and leave it out of the fridge in advance, to warm it up to room temperature (since you don’t want it to curdle when you add it to the soup).
1. In a large stockpot, heat oil over medium-low, add diced onion and stir frequently as you cook the onion for 10 minutes or until very soft and translucent.
2. Add the chili flakes and turmeric, stir, and fry with the onions for 30 seconds. Then add the minced garlic, stir, and fry for another 30 seconds. Then add the canned tomatoes and the broth. (I like to add the tomatoes first, then pour some broth into the nearly empty tomato cans, then pour it into the stockpot, so the broth helps me get every last bit of tomato out of the cans.) Cover and bring to a simmer.
3. Once the soup is simmering, uncover, season with salt and pepper, then add the lentils. Keep at a simmer, uncovered, for 15-18 minutes while the lentils cook, stirring occasionally so that the lentils don’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
4. Taste test the lentils for done-ness, then remove from the heat, and use an immersion blender to puree the soup smooth (or use a regular blender, but be careful when blending hot liquids; make sure to allow steam to escape). Taste the soup and season with cayenne pepper, and additional salt, black pepper, and aleppo, if desired.
5. Temper the yogurt before adding it to the soup: in a heatproof bowl, whisk the corn starch into the yogurt. Then, whisking continuously, add 1 Tbsp. of soup at a time to the yogurt. Continue adding 10-15 tablespoons of soup to the yogurt, whisking after each one. By now the yogurt should be warm enough to add to the soup without curdling. Gently stir the yogurt/soup mixture into the larger soup pot, optionally reserving some to swirl over the top of each soup bowl as a garnish. (Or use room temperature coconut milk instead.)
6. Ladle soup into individual serving bowls, garnish with remaining tempered yogurt and/or an extra sprinkle of aleppo pepper. Serve warm.
Print this recipe! (PDF)
Related recipe posts:
|Gazpacho Soup||Lemony Lentil Spinach Soup||Parsi Tomato-Poached Eggs||Muhammara and Roasted Red Pepper Hummus|