McCray: Tomatoes and basil a cool combo

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August 18, 2009 

Not another cold soup.

That's what my husband said when I ran this week's recipe past him. But this one's different, I insisted. There's tomato ... there's basil ... .

John perked up. Every summer, he's bent on using tomatoes and basil in everything. And I mean everything. He'd probably top ice cream with them if I'd let him. He can't stand to waste anything he grows in the garden.

So, when August rolls around and we are up to our eyeballs in tomato and basil, I'm on the lookout for recipes that use both ingredients. Tomato and bell pepper soup, from this month's Bon Appétit magazine, fit the bill.

Another reason I chose this dish is because there's no actual cooking involved. Who wants to turn on the oven when it's more than 100 degrees outside?

Prep was easy — so easy that my 7-year-old did almost all of it. She diced tomatoes and roasted red bell peppers and smashed garlic. I measured the tomato juice and other ingredients.

When it came time to check the seasoning, she wouldn't go near the spoon. She enjoys chopping tomatoes, but eating them? Gross!

The soup was anything but. It had a kick — the horseradish? — and a clean, pure tomato taste. The basil was a flavorful accent, but I don't think the goat cheese added much. Next time, I'll skip it and save a few bucks.

I ended up bringing the soup to work and it was a hit. I'll make it again ... and again ... and again. Anything to use up all those tomatoes.

What The Testers Had To Say

I saw this recipe in Bon Appétit and had to try it. I made it last weekend for my daughter and son-in-law and everybody loved it. The only change I made was to use crumbled goat cheese instead of rounds. The garlic is raw, so just be warned. It was very easy and made four generous portions. I served it with a toasted, rustic, French bread. I think it would be just as good or better as a hot soup.

— Sandy Loya, Modesto

A cold soup on a hot afternoon is always welcome, and if you're not looking for excitement, this soup will certainly satisfy your taste. It is a good, mostly tomato, soup. As the recipe is currently phrased, however, I would never make it again, for I know of a few gazpacho recipes that are more exciting. But if I were asked to make it again, I would certainly double the amount of horseradish and probably triple the amount of hot sauce. Also, I would not drop the slices of goat cheese in the middle of the soup bowl; I would spread them on thin baguette slices and serve these alongside the soup.

— Ralph Moore, Modesto

Bee staff writer Kerry McCray can be reached at kmccray@modbee.com or 578-2358.

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