I have never liked soup.
Fast fast forward to my last trip to a little restaurant called “Lunch.” This is a new place in Culver City, recommended to Zach and me by LeAnna (of the Brunch Club’s “BreAnna”). She just started working there recently and told us to stop by. We usually do what we are told when it comes to new restaurants. We love trying new places around town. In fact one of my favorite things about LA is the fact that you can go to a different restaurant every day of your life and never have the need to repeat. Once you reached them all, there would be plenty of news ones that sprang up to allow you to start all over again. Anyway, we went to lunch...at Lunch.
We sat at the charming deep counter in front of a huge widescreen television playing the Winter Olympics (cross country skiing to be specific). I love sharing a meal at the counter in a cozy restaurant. It was a cold rainy day which happens to be my least favorite kind of weather. The couple next to us were sharing a piping hot bowl of chunky chili. We each wanted to order our own things, but sharing a hot bowl of soup looked like a great idea. We decided to order the tomato basil soup; I got my own salad; he got his own sandwich. We sipped our sodas at the counter until the food was gone. To top it off, the server behind the counter asked us what kind of cookies we liked. He brought us a little plate of some chocolaty chocolate chip cookies that came with the meal at the end for a nice surprise. We chomped them as the cross country skiers worked their way across the big screen.
Sounds thrilling I know. The thing is, it was. I cannot explain the difference between a good and great restaurant experience any other way but by saying the great experiences are just so satisfying. It happens so rarely, but I know it when it happens. It doesn’t always have to do with the finest foods or the flawless service (although it certainly can). Much of it has to do with my mood matching the ambience and style of food at the restaurant. At lunch that day, everything just worked, and we will most definitely be back again and again.
I have also become a fan of tomato soup as a result of this outing. I don’t think I could make anything as good as the tomato soup we had that day. It was the perfect consistency and was bursting with flavor (very umami), but I was proud of my attempt with this recipe from Woman’s Health Magazine. It seems like a great basic recipe (which is what I am all about right now). We did the classic tomato soup and grilled cheese for dinner with a twist: hearty tomato soup (white cheddar sprinkled on top) and pressed white cheddar cheese sandwiches with bacon on a crispy baguette. Serve with a slice of Big Love Season 4 Finale on the tube.
Winter Tomato Soup
(recipe from Women's Health Magazine, serves 4 cups or 2 bowls)
1 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp no-salt-added tomato paste
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cans (14.5 oz each) no-salt-added diced tomatoes, including juice
1/4 c fat-free milk
2 Tbsp plain nonfat Greek-style yogurt
Heat olive oil in medium saucepan. Cook onion and garlic until soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste, sugar, thyme, bay leaf, tomatoes, and 1 cup water (recipe calls for 2 cups, but I used 1 cup...also it it a good idea to swish the water in the tomato cans to catch all the extra juices). Stir together and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes.
Remove bay leaf. Use a handheld blender to puree the soup in the saucepan, or transfer soup to a food processor (this is what I used) or blender. Puree until smooth. (If you're using a standard blender, allow the mixture to cool first; hot liquid may cause the blender to squirt out contents. Depending on the size of your blender, you may have to do this in batches.)
Heat milk in microwave for 30 seconds to warm, and then stir it into the pureed soup along with yogurt. Mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve.