Monday, August 26, 2013

Umami-rich Tomato Soup

Umami-rich Tomato Soup
Serves 6 (makes about 8 cups)
Umami-rich Tomato Soup 
This is not your typical tomato soup. It has magic ingredients to boost flavor. What, you say? This is one amazingly terrific tomato soup, which is rich in umami. After sweet and salty, sour and bitter, there is umami – the fifth taste. (Pronounced “oo-MA-mee) Discovered at the beginning of the last century by Kikunae Ikeda, a Japanese scientist who coined the name using the Japanese term for “deliciousness” – an understatement if ever there was one. Rich, deep and intensely savory, umami exists in a number of foods such as Parmesan, soy sauce, tomato products (juice, paste or ketchup), fish-based sauces (like Worcestershire and Thai fish sauce), many kinds of seafood, mushrooms, and meat, especially veal and stocks made from bones. For years, Western chefs and food scientists (sounds like a great career!) debated whether umami was a true taste.  That changed in 1998 when scientists discovered a glutamate receptor on the tongue recognizes the presence of this 5th taste (Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1998 30;855:398-406).

For home cooks, umami can open up a whole new pantry of ingredients. Just as a few shakes of salt can improve a dish, a correctly applied dash of cheese, wine or even ketchup can pump up the umami, without overwhelming the dish with the flavor of the added ingredient. With this boost, cooks can reduce fat and salt content of foods without sacrificing flavor. Roasting tomatoes increases their umami taste. This recipe, which I have adapted, comes from the famed SF chef Gary Danko. The addition of tomato paste, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce (based partially on umami-rich anchovies), soy sauce and grated Parmesan pumps up the rich, savory, umami taste.
Star of the show...tomatoes from my garden!!
I make this soup year round – and in the summer use tomatoes from my garden, in the winter I use canned whole tomatoes from Italy. I have regularly canned the soup, which has become a frequent hostess gift or holiday gift. Just scale up the amount so you have plenty to freeze, can and give away! (Canning instructions to follow on a future blog, see: Long-simmered Fresh Tomato Sauce - the base)
  • 2 lbs. fresh plum Roma tomatoes or 3 lbs. fresh mixed tomatoes from your garden or 3 (28 oz.) cans Italian whole tomatoes
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 3 small yellow onions (1lb) cut into ½” dice
  • 3 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp dried thyme
  • 4 Tb extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small fennel bulb or 1 large celery, cut into ¼” dice
  • ¼ C tomato paste
  • 3 Tb tomato ketchup
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • ¼ tsp Tabasco sauce
  • 2-3 C chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 4-6 large fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • ¼ C finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Preheat the oven to 375 degree F. If using fresh tomatoes, wash, dry and core them. If using canned tomatoes, drain tomatoes, reserving puree or juice. Halve the tomatoes lengthwise.

Divide tomatoes between two shallow baking pans, arranging them cut-side down in a single layer without crowding. Sprinkle them with garlic, onions, fennel or celery, salt and thyme and drizzle with oil.
Ripe tomatoes from the garden
Roast until tomatoes are slightly browned and tender, about 45 minutes. Let cool slightly.
Roasted tomatoes
Mix the roasted tomato mixture with tomato paste, ketchup, Worcestershire, Tabasco and soy sauce. My preferred approach is to put all thru a food mill to get out skin and seeds (although this can be a little arduous…good job for the kids or my husband!).  Alternatively, one could put the celery or fennel, tomato paste, ketchup, Worcestershire, Tabasco and soy sauce in a blender. Add some of the roasted tomato mixture and stock and blend until smooth.  
Food mill....a great workout!
Skins & seeds left behind in the food mill.
If blended, strain mixture through a medium strainer into a pot, pressing the solids with the bottom of a ladle or a rubber spatula to remove the seeds and small skin particles. Working in small batches, continue to put thru mill or blender and strainer. Add the final reserved puree or juices from the can and the remaining stock into the pot, using 2 C liquid total.

Bring soup to a slow simmer over medium-high heat, stirring to combine, about 10 minutes. Thin mixture with additional stock if necessary. Add salt as needed.

Serve in bowls with a sprinkle of basil; perhaps some shredded mint, cheese, or croutons. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil just before serving. For the croutons, I love the method I shared in “Pickled Vegetable Salad with Anchovy Dressing” posted July 22, 2013 (  For the Parmesan crisp – see Roasted Red Pepper & Eggplant Soup posted April 8, 2013 (
Ready to eat!
Serve the soup with a grilled cheese sandwich, some dry rose Champagne would be nice or Chianti, Gew├╝rztraminer or Sauvignon Blanc!

Bon Appetit


No comments:

Post a Comment