Ah, the BLT. A perfect summer supper, complete with juicy tomatoes from our garden and homemade bread. Sigh. I get hungry just thinking about it. But what to do the rest of the year when the craving just won’t go away? Enter what we like to call the “deconstructed BLT” for winter – tomato soup and cheese biscuits. Tim and the girls love this meal! Tim likes it so much that he doesn’t even concede it’s the winter substitute for the real thing. For him, this is a year-round “A list meal”. So much so, that he chose it for his birthday dinner. Sure, you could do grilled cheese, which is perfectly acceptable and enjoyable, but these cheese biscuits – flaky, buttery, and most importantly, cheesy – are just perfect for dipping into the tomato soup, which is made without cream yet is still creamy. Then round out your soon-to-be empty plate with avocado slices (in place of the “L”) and crispy bacon. What’s not to love?
Creamless Creamy Tomato Soup
Serves 6-8, however we get 2 meals out of it. From Cook’s Illustrated, Sept./Oct. 2008
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1 medium onion , chopped medium (about 1 cup)
- 3 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
- Pinch hot red pepper flakes
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes packed in juice
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 3 large slices good quality sandwich bread , torn into 1-inch pieces
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons brandy (optional)
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- basil oil, for drizzling – which is just homemade pesto without the cheese added (can use chopped chives for garnish instead)
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and their juice. Using potato masher, mash until no pieces bigger than 2 inches remain. Stir in sugar and bread; bring soup to boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until bread is completely saturated and starts to break down, about 5 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf.
Add 2 tablespoons oil and, using an immersion blender, puree soup directly in pot until smooth and creamy. (Or if you don’t have a stick blender, transfer half of soup to blender or food processor. Add 1 tablespoon oil and process until soup is smooth and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to large bowl and repeat with remaining soup and oil. Return soup to pot.) Stir in chicken broth and brandy (if using). Return soup to boil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve soup in individual bowls or ramekins. Sprinkle each portion with pepper and drizzle with basil oil (or sprinkle with chives and drizzle with olive oil).
Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits
adapted from Ina Garten in Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics
You can assemble these and refrigerate these overnight and pop into the oven in the morning.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed (10 oz.)
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced (I dice and then put into freezer)
- 1/2 cup cold buttermilk, shaken, plus extra if needed when kneading
- 1 cold large egg
- 1 cup freshly grated extra-sharp Cheddar (she recommends very sharp aged white cheddar from Vermont – I use Cabot extra sharp white – 4 oz.)
- flat leaf parsley, chopped (optional)
- flaky or coarse sea salt
Place 2 cups of flour, the baking powder, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low, add the butter and mix until the butter is the size of peas.
Combine the buttermilk and egg in a small measuring cup and beat lightly with a fork or whisk. With the mixer still on low, quickly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and mix only until moistened. In a small bowl, mix the Cheddar with small handful of flour and, with the mixer still on low, add the cheese and parsley, if using, to the dough. Mix only until roughly combined.
Dump out onto a well-floured board and knead lightly. Add just a bit more buttermilk as needed if it seems too dry and crumbly. Roll the dough out to a rectangle 10 by 5 inches. With a sharp, floured knife, cut the dough lengthwise in half and then across in quarters, making 8 rough rectangles. (I make them smaller and skinnier for dipping, so I get about 20.) Transfer to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a Silpat. Sprinkle with sea salt and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are browned and the biscuits are cooked through. Serve hot or warm.