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Smoky soup heats up cold days

| Saturday, May 4, 2013, 6:24 p.m.
Yvonne Duivenvoorden
Smoky Tomato Soup, from “Seriously Simple Parties” by Diane Worthington (Chronicle Books, 2012).

Spring is in the air. The season is evident at the market, in the garden and in the occasional beautiful weather. Don't kid yourself, though — spring has its share of cold and rainy days, too.

I like to use canned fire-roasted tomatoes for a delicious, smoky flavor and a welcoming wave of heat that is further enhanced by a dash of chipotle Tabasco sauce. If you can't find the chipotle variety, try adding a dash of your favorite hot sauce. You'll notice that a few tablespoons of flour are added to the vegetables to help thicken the soup. If you prefer, you can skip that step, but the soup will be a bit thinner. Another variation is to add a rind of parmesan cheese to the soup while it is cooking. Remove the rind before adding the milk, and garnish each serving with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

This recipe makes enough for eight. Sometimes, when I want a more substantial soup, I add diced, cooked chicken or cooked quinoa. Serve this as a starter or as part of a main course, along with your favorite grilled cheese sandwich, bagel chips or garlic bread.

Diane Rossen Worthington is a cookbook author and a James Beard award-winning radio show host.

Smoky Tomato Soup

14 cup olive oil

4 leeks, light-green and white parts only, cleaned and finely chopped

2 medium-size carrots, peeled and finely chopped

2 ribs celery, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons flour

3 cans (14 12 ounces each) fire-roasted diced tomatoes, with their juice

6 tablespoons tomato paste

1 12 teaspoons sugar, or to taste

5 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 14 cups milk or half-and-half

Salt

12 teaspoon Tabasco chipotle sauce, or to taste

34 cup croutons, preferably cheese or garlic, for garnish

In a medium soup pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and saute for 4 to 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the carrots and celery and cook for another 4 minutes, or until they begin to soften. Add the garlic and cook for a minute, or until slightly softened.

Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables, reduce the heat to low, and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for a minute or until the flour is thickened and incorporated into the vegetables. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar and broth; raise the heat to medium-high, and bring it to a simmer.

Partially cover the pan, reduce the heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and all the flavors are well-blended. With an immersion blender, puree the soup, or if you prefer a finer texture, use a blender. (If using a blender, cool the soup first, and hold the cover down.)

Add the milk to the soup over medium heat, stirring to combine, and cook for another minute. Add the salt and chipotle sauce.

Ladle the soup into soup bowls and garnish each bowl with a few croutons.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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