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November 19, 2009

Kitchen Tools: Immersion/Stick Blender, or, Tomato Soup with Cream Cheese

There are only two places I HAVE to go when I'm in Salt Lake City--Rich's Bagels for their awesome Asiago Cheese Bagel, and The Soup Kitchen in Sugarhouse for their tomato soup. I don't even like tomato soup--at least not the Campbell's variety--but theirs is sooo good! I've been told the secret to their velvety texture is that they add cream cheese.

Since I moved into the bigger rental a little over a year ago, I've begun slowly to experiment with some kitchen tools I've used little or never, like my crock pot. I actually tried to replicate the Soup Kitchen tomato concoction once a year or two back, but didn't have a way to fully blend the cream cheese cubes into the broth, so it came out as more of a stew than a cream soup, and while tasty not at all like the original.

This week I finally invested in a Stick or Immersion Blender, which can simply be stuck into a pot or drink cup to make a smoothly blended liquid. With that new kitchen tool as an asset, I thought I'd try it again. I left a box of cream cheese on the counter to soften. I took a quart-sized bag of Romas from my summer garden out of the freezer, and added a quart of my heirloom cherry tomatoes--mostly Isis Candy and Sun Cherry--for sweetness. I poured in one box of low sodium vegetable stock, about four cups. Turning the crock pot on high, I waited for the tomatoes to thaw a bit.

A couple hours later I cubed the cream cheese, added it in, then pulled out the manual for the immersion blender. By the time I figured out how to clean and use the utensil, the cheese had softened enough to give it a whirl. It was so much more powerful than I'd expected! I use a liner to lessen crock-pot cleanup, and of course I caught the bag with the blender. But the stick blender did the job in a matter of thirty seconds, even handling the thickness of the cream cheese and piercing some of the larger tomatoes that were still whole. A splash of cooking sherry, some added minced garlic and some salt was all that was needed to finish....a great reminder of summer with the sweetness of my homegrown vines.

I'm seriously disappointed in the coloring of the photos above. The soup was a rich pumpkin orange/red that spoke of creamy tomatoes. The lighting in my kitchen is too cool to give accuracy, probably because the tiny windows only allow indirect sun.

Lesson learned: peeling the tomatoes actually is a great idea. While I didn't mind the skins in my lunch today, I think I would feel more comfortable serving guests a pure version, so will strain the rest of this before I freeze it.

Without doubt, I'm a convert to the immersion blender and can't wait to try a few smoothie ideas. Now I can make smoothies for one without creating a whole blender mess!

And this was all so easy today I'm thinking about having a soup party, with one kind in my crock pot and one on the stove in my 5-qt stockpot. With all the food on the stovetop, and no buffet to worry about, I might have room for a couple of guests in my place.

What kind of soups are you willing to make from scratch? Do you use an immersion blender to make soups or smoothies, or find it's just another space-wasting appliance too specific to a single task? What tools make it easier for you to entertain or cook in bulk? Please leave a comment on the blog.

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