It didn't take me very long to discover the French Bakery and Restaurant La Madeleine in Dallas. They have, in my opinion, the best Chicken Caesar Salad out there. The chicken is so tender and flavorful, unlike the typical bland chicken you find on most Caesar salads. They also happen to make my very favorite soup -- Tomato Basil. I was addicted to this soup from the very first time I tried it. I'll eat it any time of year, even during the summer.
I was raving about this soup at work when a co-worker told me that she had a copy of the recipe. I was instantly intrigued and asked her if she wouldn't mind sharing it with me. Well, before she had a chance to, my friend Aria saw me mention the soup in my Baked Potato and Broccoli Soup post and gave me the link to the recipe, on RecipeZaar. Thanks Aria!
The recipe itself is fairly simple, but is even easier because of the wonderful immersion blender I have. When we got married, we registered for the Braun Multiquick Professional Hand Blender (model MR5550MBC-HC) at Bed Bath & Beyond; at the time, it just seemed like a cool gadget to add to my kitchen. I never realized how useful it would really be until after we received it. I use it all the time now; in fact, it's probably the wedding gift that we have gotten the most use out of :) It has multiple attachments, including a wire whisk and blades for blending and food processing. Unfortunately, I don't think this exact set is available anymore, but there are definitely similar ones you can purchase that are made by Braun.
I typically substitute fat free evaporated milk for heavy cream in most recipes, but had some leftover cream I needed to use so I did not do that this time. Next time I will try the substitution and see if there is a significant difference in taste. This soup doesn't come out quite the same as what you get at La Madeleine -- I think theirs is a little thicker and must have a lot more cream in it -- but it's still a great creamy tomato basil soup recipe regardless and I will be making it again soon :)
Tomato Basil Soup
4 cups tomatoes, cored, peeled, and chopped (approx. 8-10) or canned whole tomatoes, crushed
4 cups tomato juice (or part vegetable or part chicken stock)
12-14 fresh basil leaves, washed
1 cup heavy cream (I used 1-1/4 cup)
1/4 lb (1 stick) sweet unsalted butter
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
salt, to taste
lemon juice, optional (I did not use this)
Combine tomatoes, juice/and or stock in saucepan. Simmer 30 minutes.
Puree, along with the basil leaves, in small batches, in blender, food processor (or better yet, one of those handy hand-held food blenders, right in the cooking pan). Return to saucepan and add cream and butter, while stirring, over low heat. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with basil leaves and serve with your favorite bread.
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