On a cold rainy day I crave warm tasty comfort food. The first thing that comes to mind is a grilled cheese and tomato soup. Oh yeah. And while my taste buds crave the bread and cheese, my digestive system does not. So I decided to soup up my tomato soup so it can stand as a hearty meal on its own. This vegan soup is made with tomatoes, carrots, cauliflower, celery, leeks, coconut milk and my kale beet green almond walnut pesto. Creamy. Nutritious. Warm. Rich. Satisfying.
Winter is coming.
Well winter is here. Even in Southern California where we are finally – for the first time in three years – are getting a lot of rain and cold weather (everything is relative) with it. Our garden is thriving. The mango tree is drinking up as much as it can. The clouds are gorgeous and when the sun and moon peak through every so often, it is quite spectacular.
Soup is all I have been craving lately. I am typically a person who likes to eat soup with something – a piece of bread or crackers. I wanted to create a soup rich enough in flavor I did not crave something to go with it. This soup is adapted from a soup I used to eat at in New York City in the late 90’s called The Daily Soup, which shut it doors in the early 2000’s. But their soups remain some of my favorite. I changed it to be whole fresh ingredients, veggie-ful, robust and vegan.
Soup can be made quickly. But the best soups are simmered for some time. Using all raw ingredient, this one takes a while to cook. So I tend to make large batches and freeze it.
First I start with browning the leeks in coconut oil. Don’t rush this part – aside from simmering the soup, this is the longest part of the cooking process. Leeks when cooked down will caramelize and offer a nice base and sweetness to the soup. This can take up to 30-40 minutes. Then I add in onions and again let them cook down in the leeks until they are translucent and preferably, slightly brown. Once the base has been properly cooked, I add in celery, carrot and cauliflower and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes before adding in the thyme, bay leaves, salt, pepper and cayenne.
Finally the tomatoes are added along with vegetable stock. Now you can use canned tomato…but when we have fresh tomatoes available, canned seems so unnecessary. Just remember to reduce the liquid – stock – if using canned tomatoes. I also make and freeze stock – it is so simple to do and healthier overall.
The soup is brought to a boil then simmered for about 45 min – until the tomatoes and veggies are broken down and soft. When I used to make this soup, I would add some brandy at this point. Alcohol, like salt, brings out the flavors. You can read about the purpose of cooking with alcohol here and while most people believe that alcohol burns off during the cooking process, it does not. While fruit juice and other substitutes do not fully replace the purpose of alcohol in cooking, it keeps the dish alchohol free. I use apple juice – which adds sweetness without having to add sugar to the soup and the apple flavor (similar to the brandy I used). The best part is that i can make it fresh just running an apple through the juicer…making this soup as whole and fresh as possible.
After the soup has been simmered, I remove the bay leaves, add in a can of coconut milk (I use a variety without guar gum and sold in BPA-free cans) and puree the soup with a hand blender, but feel free to use a regular blender (just beware the temperature). You can puree to as smooth or as chunky as you like. I like it pureed all the way, but not until it is completely creamy – I like a little texture. Or puree half the soup and leave some large chunky bits if you like. The process of pureeing really blends the flavors together.
I then mix in pesto. You can use any basil pesto. The key is the basil and the garlic. I used my power pesto made with beet greens, kale, almonds, walnuts and of course basil and garlic.
Finally I add in some diced fresh plum tomatoes and fresh garlic, salt to taste and serve with some diced chives and fresh basil for garnish.
It is a very bold, flavorful, fresh veggie-ful soup.
I honestly cannot eat enough of it. I am so glad I made extra. Happy Eating!
Tomato Basil Coconut Milk Soup
- 2 Tbs coconut oil
- 2 leeks, chopped and rinsed very well
- 1 large white or Spanish onion, chopped
- 1 head of cauliflower, florets chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 4 stalks celery, chopped
- 3 tsp dried thyme leaves
- 3 large bay leaves
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
- 3 cups diced fresh plum tomatoes (about 9 tomatoes) + 4 plum tomatoes diced
- 7 cups vegetable stock
- 16 ounces unsweetened coconut milk
- 2 Tbs apple juice (about 1/2 apple freshly juiced)
- 3/4 cup basil power pesto (or any basil pesto)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- fresh chives, chopped for garnish
Heat coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat.Add in leeks ans saute to caramelize – stirring every so often – for about 30-40 minutes. Add in onion and saute for about 5-10 min until translucent and slightly brown. Add carrot, cauliflower and celery and cook for another 5-10 minutes and then add thyme, bay leaves, salt, black pepper and cayenne. Stir to coat the vegetables. Add in 3 cups diced plum tomato and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 45 minutes.
Remove the bay leaves. Add in coconut milk and apple juice, stir well. Puree soup with a blender to desired consistency. Add in basil pesto, 4 plum tomatoes diced, fresh garlic and stir well. Add salt to taste. Ladle into a bowl and garnish with chives.