(Becky, the Mama.)
About a year and a half ago my daughter Rachel was in town, pregnant, and craving Tomato Basil Soup. The trick was to find a place that served a vegan version so she could indulge but still avoid dairy or meat-based broth. I think we drove to three restaurants before we finally found the place that served the soup she had in mind. And yes, she and her unborn child were absolutely worth it. But I determined that day to come up with a creamy vegan version of Tomato Basil Soup that we could make at home.
I, too, adore Tomato Basil Soup, especially the thick creamy version served at La Madeleine’s, a favorite French chain restaurant in the Dallas area. Alas, it is loaded with cream and butter and thus, with calories. The problem with trying to make any tomato-based soup with milk instead of cream (to cut calories), is that the acid in the tomatoes curdles the milk yielding a yucky mess you’ll have to sigh heavily about, just before you put it down the disposal. (Ask me how I know this.)
So I experimented with a can of coconut milk in place of cream and butter. Perfection. You really can’t taste the coconut flavor at all; it fades to neutral when paired with the strong tastes of the ingredients in the rest of the recipe. Even if you use the full fat can of coconut milk, this soup only about a 100 calories a cup. But you will not believe it when you taste it! On top of being delicious and easy, it is also vegan-friendly and nutritious. Pretty much the Perfect Recipe to keep in your Go-To Classic Recipes file.
I threw this soup together for a friend who dropped by unexpectedly for lunch one day, and she swore it was the best soup she’d ever tasted. Could not believe I whipped it up in just a few minutes. Plus it was ready to serve by the time our grilled cheese sandwiches came off the stovetop.
P.S. I hurriedly planted basil in a big pot on the porch this summer and it is still yielding oodles of leaves, which I used in this recipe. Greg spent a full day, in June, putting together three Topsy Turvy upside down tomato plants (as “Seen on TV”), put them on a fancy planter, then hooked them up to a complicated irrigation system. God bless him, the tomato you see in this picture is the one and ONLY tomato we’ve harvested, picked yesterday. But it sure was a pretty one.
Easy, Creamy Tomato Basil Soup (Vegan)
Yields about 10 cups of soup
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (with basil, if you can find it)
1 c. very lightly packed fresh basil leaves (or a good generous hand full) — I sometimes use 2 T. of jarred pesto instead of fresh basil if that is all I have on hand
¼ c. onion
2 garlic cloves
3 c. veggie broth (or chicken broth if you aren’t vegetarian and prefer this)
1 can coconut milk (Full fat version makes a creamier soup, but lite will also work. If desired, reserve a little for garnishing soup once it is in a bowl. You’ll find cans of coconut milk in the Asian section of almost all grocery stores now.) Note: You can also make a the more traditional soup by omitting coconut milk and add 1/2 cup of regular cream, at the very end of cooking the soup
1 ½ t. salt
1 T. sugar (or brown sugar or coconut sugar)
1 t. pepper
Put ½ the can of crushed tomatoes into a blender or food processor. Add basil leaves, onion and garlic. Blend until basil leaves are still individual but tiny specks of green.
Pour this mixture into a soup pot. Add the rest of the can of tomatoes, veggie broth, coconut milk, salt, pepper and sugar. Stir and simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes. Check to see if it needs more salt. Serve in bowls, and garnish if desired with a “squiggle” of reserved coconut cream.