As the days get shorter, and the temperatures plummet, the need for something warm and comforting seems to go up. The other day, tomato soup came to mind. With big thick slab of multi-grain sourdough to dunk in it. After a quick browse through the fridge, and an eye toward the basket of summer's last fresh tomatoes from my garden, it was obvious that it wouldn't be anything close to that canned variety.
I don't like to waste food. It's like pouring money down the drain, and just seems wrong on so many other levels as well. So, I'm always scouting for ways to use up or re-purpose leftovers. This was a perfect opportunity to use up some vegetables that I'd prepped for 'slaw' the day before and only used part of. Hint: Never dress all the prepped vegetables for slaw. Only dress as much as you'll use for a meal. I minced up the leftover 'slaw' which included some collards, cabbage, celery, a bit of sweet red pepper and some grated carrot.
Here's a perfect reason to get the Instant Pot out. It's a natural for this soup - well, actually any soup. You say that you don't have an Instant Pot? Why? It's the best replacement for A- the slow cooker, B- the rice cooker, C- all the old fashioned pressure cookers. With the new Air Fryer accessory/lid, you can air fry, bake, roast and broil, too. That's pretty neat, especially if you're living in small digs and don't have a ton of storage space, or the money to buy a bunch of different appliances.
Let's begin at the beginning: prepping your vegetables. It occurred to me that not everybody is fully versed in cutting up vegetables. I don't mean just whacking away, but cutting them into the right-sized pieces that will be appropriate for the dish and cook evenly. Some vegetables don't - on first glance - lend themselves to being neatly, and precisely cut. Carrots are an example, especially if you want diced carrots.
And, speaking of beginning at the beginning, let me show you the easiest way to clean a carrot, or any root vegetable. A plastic 'scrubby' pad. You now have permission to stop peeling all your root vegetables. A little scrub here and there, under some running water is all you need. If this is good enough for world-renowned chef, Thomas Keller (I got this idea from his MasterClass videos), then it's got to be good enough for the rest of us.
Now, let's break down the carrot into manageable portions for cutting. And, a part of this is about safety. By breaking down the vegetables into smaller portions, with flat surfaces to 'push' against with the knife, you'll not be so likely to cut yourself. Always give your vegetables a 'flat' side to put on the cutting board. And, please use a very sharp knife.
In half, and then down the middle in half again. Now lay those four planks down and get to work making your smaller cuts.
Now, you have something nice and bite-sized, plus it looks good, and will cook evenly. Go ahead and do pretty much the same with your celery, onion and tomatoes. Get everything out and at the ready that you'll need: additional vegetables (that's my minced 'slaw' ingredients), broth, seasonings, canned tomatoes and tomato paste.
Getting your mis en place ready, allows you to really focus on the cooking process. First, I sautéed the Mirepoix ( a classic aromatic combination of carrot, celery and onion) and garlic in the Instant Pot using just a splash of broth instead of oil. If you're still using oil, let me tell you that your flavors will be brighter and livelier without it. Oil mutes flavor. Broth, wine or water are perfect stand-ins for oil. A splash here and there, just enough to keep things from sticking, is all it takes. Don't forget to season as you cook. A careful pinch or two of salt, a grind of pepper, as you cook each part of the recipe adds 'layers' of flavor and nuance.
Add the other vegetables and sauté for a couple more minutes. The sauté function on an Instant Pot is ten minutes.
Now is the time to add your tomatoes - fresh and canned, a couple squeezes of tomato paste, additional seasonings and broth. You could also add a splash of white wine.
I gave my soup about three minutes at High Pressure, and then released the pressure to check the carrots. They were al dente, which was perfect, since I intended to put the lid back on, and let this soup simmer another 30 minutes or so. Remember to taste and adjust seasonings. Occasionally, depending on the tomatoes, you might want to add a tiny bit of white vinegar or a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to 'brighten' the flavors. I've been known to add a bit of brown sugar to tomato-based dishes, too, in order to 'balance' the flavor. Tomato varieties vary more than you might think in regard to their perceived sweetness and acidity. Adjust accordingly.
And, as you might thing, this soup tasted even better over the next couple days!
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