Do you take time for lunch? An old memory has inspired me to carve out a mid-day break and this tomato soup with herbed croutons is on the menu.
A Lunchtime Routine
Growing up during the summer months, when I was free as a bird, I would sit on front porch steps and wait for my dad. At noon he’d make the 10-minute walk from work to home for lunch and when he appeared at the edge of the park across from our house I knew it was lunchtime. You could set your clocks by my dad’s routines.
He’s never been much of a multi-tasker and doesn’t juggle many balls in the air. Instead, he focuses on one thing at a time. Like snapshots in a photo album his routines all stand alone and independent of each other.
We’ve never discussed it, but I suppose it’s his military pilot’s mentality that drives that sort of focus on the task at hand. Successful flying requires a “be here now” approach. Distraction, a mere annoyance here on terra firma, is a real threat at 30,000 feet.
So all those years ago he focused on lunch. With intention, he left his desk, walked the short distance home, and sat at the table. Although I was there it wasn’t something we shared. I was with him, but it was his routine. It was his time to clear his head to make room for the afternoon’s work.
Sometimes he made a sandwich, but more often than not he warmed a bowl of soup. We’d sit at the kitchen table and watch an old episode of I Love Lucy or Perry Mason on our small black and white TV. In the span of a 30 minute episode, he’d eat and then head back to work. I’d resume whatever I’d been doing when the clock struck noon.
Fast forward a million years. I’m a technology junkie and distraction-prone person. In the focus department, the apple has rolled from the tree. And lunch! Who has time for that? I rarely stop to enjoy lunch, to clear my head mid-day to make room for new ideas and thoughts to show up in the afternoon. At best, lunch is an afterthought at my desk. Sometimes lunch doesn’t happen at all and by three o’clock I’ve hit a wall.
So I’m pressing the pause button at mid-day now. It’s a chance to re-calibrate so I can tackle my afternoon responsibilities refreshed. I want to snuff out that late day slump.
And soup is on the menu.
Tomato Soup with Herbed Croutons
News Alert: Making soup from scratch during a busy weekday is not realistic! But carving out 40 minutes on a Sunday afternoon to make a big pot not only sets up easy-to-warm up lunches for the week, but also provides a pocket of solace before the work week commences. Chopping, stirring, and simmering a cozy pot of soup is a dose of therapy. It’s feel-good experience.
Some Ingredients You’ll Need
- In the winter months, when tomatoes are scarce or, at best, sad and flavorless at the grocery store, good quality canned tomatoes save the day. I like to use San Marzano whole tomatoes. They cost more than regular canned tomatoes, but their flavor and sweetness are well worth the extra change.
- I used chicken stock, but for an all-veggie soup experience substitute vegetable stock.
- I like my tomato soup bright. A splash of balsamic vinegar makes that happen.
- I topped my soup with Parmesan cheese, but feta, blue cheese, or cheddar works well, too. A different cheese each day, perhaps?
- In my world, no soup is complete without a garnish, so while the soup simmered I made some simple croutons. They keep well for a few days in an airtight container, but feel free to substitute your favorite store-bought brand.
Tomato Soup with Herbed Croutons
In the space of about 40 minutes you can make both the soup and the croutons. Start with the soup and while it simmers prepare the croutons or, if time and resources are scarce, use your favorite store-bought croutons instead.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: 4
- Category: Main Course
For the Soup
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ medium yellow onion, diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 28 ounce can whole tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- ½ tablespoon chopped parsley
- ½ tablespoon chopped basil (see note)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (see note)
- Grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
For the Croutons
- ¼ of 12 inch of a loaf of soft French bread, cut into 2 inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- While the oven preheats, make the soup. Heat the olive in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook them until they start to soften, about five minutes or so. Add the tomatoes (plus the juice). Break them up with a spatula and give it all a good stir. Add the chicken stock and vinegar. Increase the heat until the soup starts to bubble, then reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Let the soup simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- While the soup simmers, make the croutons. In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, herbs, and salt. Add the bread cubes and gently toss them in the oil until lightly coated. Spread the cubes in an even layer on a sheet pan. Bake at 375 degrees until they turn golden and have dried out, about 15 minutes. Let them cool for a few minutes.
- While the croutons cool, add the fresh parsley and basil to the soup. Puree the soup until smooth (see note).
- Serve the soup with croutons and grated Parmesan cheese.
Good basil is hard to find during the winter, so I buy the tubes of pureed basil. Look for them near the fresh herbs in the produce department.
Start with a teaspoon of salt, but be sure and give the soup a taste at the end. Depending on your tastes, you may want to add a pinch or two more.
An immersion blender makes pureeing a soup easy work, but if you need to use a stand blender be sure to let the soup cool before blending. Otherwise you risk a soup explosion and no one wants to clean soup off the ceiling.