Growing up in the Maritimes there was no shortage of food and the rich cultural influences of European settlers is evident. While a Maritimer considers it “their usual grub”, the rich culinary influences are of Gaelic, German and Irish immigrants. Later Syrian and Lebanese would be incorporated into the offerings, but the influence of European ancestors’ remains today. It is considered impolite to go to someone’s house and not eat what was put in front of you. Whether you were full from just finishing a meal or you were served things you disliked, “ya ate what was put in front of ya if ya knew what was good for ya”. You’d sure find out on the way home in the car if you didn’t eat what you were served; the shame you imposed on your parents!
Despite the respect for food and traditions, people made ends meet with “modern convenience food”. One such item in my family was soup, which during winter we had as a meal at least once a week. People were passionately committed to their brand of “tinned” soup; you were either a “Campbell’s” or “Heinz” family but not both. No one teetered back and forward; people were devoted to their brand of soup. For my family it was “Campbell’s”. The rich creamy taste of condensed cream of mushroom and tomato were family favourites, with the odd chicken noodle, and a rare occasion the more expensive chicken with rice. The tomato was among our favourite and we turned many a meals out of a tin of condensed tomato soup. Macaroni, hamburger and tomato soup (uncondensed) was a staple we had once a week (aka Squabble and more in a future post on this meal), and frequently on Saturdays we had tomato soup. Always made with milk and often served with grilled cheese sandwiches. Today anytime I eat tomato soup I can remember sitting at Mom’s chrome kitchen table set looking out of the window watching the traffic come and go into the County Fair Mall, slurping soup with my sisters when Mom was out of ear range.
Today my taste is more refined and it has been decades since I have eaten tinned soup. Instead I make a rich tomato soup that has more wholesome goodness, served with a grown up goat grilled cheese. It takes the dampness of autumn away and sure to cheer your soul. Don’t forget to slurp!
Harvest Tomato Soup
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 stalks of celery, diced
½ large red bell pepper, diced
2 large carrots, washed and chopped (peeling optional)
1 large can of diced tomatoes (796 ml) OR 6-8 very ripe tomatoes chopped)
3 tbsp of tomato paste
3 cups of broth (I used chicken)
2 tbsp of olive oil
¼ cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
dollop of yogurt or sour cream (optional)
In a large size Dutch-oven pot or saucepan, add olive oil, onions, garlic and celery and cook about 5 minutes until softened. Add remaining vegetables and quickly coat in mixture. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, chicken broth and seasonings. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes until vegetables are tender. With hand-held emulsifier or blender, puree until large pieces of vegetables are smooth. Serve with optional dollop of yogurt or sour cream. Serves 6-8 bowls, depending on size and can be frozen once cooled. Refrigerate any cooled leftovers.
Grilled Goat Cheese
4 slices of bread (I prefer thin sliced for crunch)
2 tbsp of soft goat cheese
4 tsp of butter
Spread goat cheese on bread to make 2 sandwiches and butter one side, and place butter side down in a medium heat fry pan, (I prefer cast iron). Grill until golden, butter face side and gently flip. About 4 minutes each side and remove. Cut in halves and serve with soup, OR cut into optional croutons and serve on top of soup.