The Best Summer Tomato Soup

Simply stated, I do not like chilled soup.  I’ve come to this conclusion reluctantly.  It seems the concept of chilled soup is a good one:  refreshing during hot summer days, easy to prepare, convenient and mostly healthy to eat.  But somehow it just leaves me, well, cold.  It’s not for lack of trying, though, believe me.  I have made my share of chilled soups, served them to family and friends and eaten plenty myself.  I’ve tried one variation after another, always hopeful that this will be the “one”, a chilled soup that I can really enjoy.  I haven’t found it yet.  So I offer this beautiful soup, made with the freshest of summer’s harvest, a few simple ingredients to enhance it’s wonderful tomatoey-ness, and a crunchy garnish.  It takes a little time to puree and strain, but the texture is perfectly smooth, light, and soupy.  (That’s my other soup-related pet peeve:  vegetable purees masquerading as soup.  But I’ll save that for another day.)  Serve it hot, the way soup was meant to be served, and enjoy the pure taste of summer.

Summer Tomato Soup
(serves 4-6)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped in a medium dice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon honey
4 pounds of your most perfectly ripe garden tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
3 strips of orange zest, each about 1/2 x 2 1/2 inches, white pith removed
fresh squeezed orange juice, 2-3 tablespoons
kosher salt
freshly ground white pepper
1 heaping tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup heavy cream, plus additional for garnish, if desired
1-2 tablespoons best quality brandy or whiskey
additional fresh basil for garnish
a few kernels of popcorn, for garnish

Melt the butter in a heavy 5 quart non-reactive soup pot over medium heat.  Add the chopped onion and a big pinch of salt and saute until softened.  Turn the heat down a little and add the garlic, dried basil and honey .  Cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and turn the heat up to medium-high.  When the mixture is bubbling and chunky in texture, add the strips of orange zest.  Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the tomatoes are very soft, 20-30 minutes.  Toward the end of the cooking time add the fresh basil and 2 tablespoons of orange juice.   Remove the pot from the heat and cool the mixture slightly.  Remove the strips of zest, then puree the tomatoes by either passing through a food mill, or processing in a blender or food processor.  Now force the mixture through a fine sieve to ensure a perfectly smooth texture.  (If you own a power stainer this task will go much more quickly).  If serving immediately, return the soup to a clean pot and reheat gently.  Adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, additional honey and orange juice to your liking.  Now add the cream and the brandy/whiskey and serve, garnished with fresh basil leaves, softly whipped salted cream, or a few kernels of buttered popcorn.
*If you wish to make the soup ahead, refrigerate it after pureeing and straining.  Then, add the additional seasonings when the soup is piping hot and ready to take to the table.  Once the cream is added, do not allow the soup to boil as it may curdle.  Reheat gently, stirring often. 
( closely adapted from “Soup and Bread” by Crescent Dragonwagon)

Summer Tomato Soup, garnished with salted whipped cream.

Crunchy buttered popcorn atop tomato soup, with crackers and cheese alongside.

Summer Tomato Soup with its favorite flavor partner, fresh basil leaves.



  • Renee

    I hear you about the chilled soup thing – it’s not my style either. I don’t eat a lot of soup in summer, but when I do, I want it hot! Your bowl of tomato goodness looks delicious – I love the whipped cream addition.

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