Retro Recipes: Chilled Tomato Soup, 1969
Welcome to Retro Recipes! Brought to you from the capable kitchen of Eat Me Daily's Stephanie Butler, each week revisits a preparation from the past that straddles the line between ingenious and absurd. This week: Chilled Tomato Soup.
With Labor Day over and fall almost upon us, it's time for a Retro Recipe that celebrates the end of summer with a big soupy bang. Blight be damned, we haven't yet showcased the glories of the tomato in this column (with the exception of the ill-fated tomato soupshake, of which we will not speak again), and what better dish for it than an end-of-summer, picnic ready cold soup? This one features curry powder, sour cream, and lime, making it a refreshing alternative to your standard gazpacho.
The recipe for this chilled delight comes from a rather nondescript little hardback book from a Midwestern thrift store. It's A Picnic! (buy at Amazon) by Nancy Fair McIntyre, is the kind of book that time tends to forget. Published in 1969 and very much of the era, it features perfectly functional, appetizing recipes, but lacks the distinction and imagination that set good cookbooks apart from great ones. Still, books like this play an important part in charting American culinary history. There's quite a few casserole recipes, sure, but there's also soupe au pistou, tabouli, carnitas, and an Indonesia pork sate that I want to try for my next party. And just the inclusion of exotic dishes like these in a book obviously geared towards everyday use notes the strides made in American eating since ham logs and clam puffs.
Ms. McIntyre has solutions to all your picnic problems, with specialties suited for ski picnics, dockside dining, sportsman snacks, and, interestingly, "pacifying snacks to keep in the glove compartment." (with selections like dolmas and Welsh Rarebit, Ms. McIntyre and her editors were apparently dealing with a very different glove compartment situation than I'm used to). Chilled Tomato Soup comes from the "Grandstand Snacks" chapter, and while this soup would be perfectly welcome during a day at the races, I'd just as soon have it at home for a light outdoor lunch. I bought some huge tomatoes at the farmer's market, along with green onions, picked up some sour cream and limes at the supermarket, and took out my blender.
Watery, with a smack of onion
The recipe is simple, calling for the tomatoes to be peeled and seeded and chopped, then added to the green onions, lime juice and zest, flavoring to taste and blending. I like to salt my fresh tomatoes and let them sit before adding other ingredients to them, especially if I'm uncertain how tomato-y the taste will be. Once the flavor was up to par I added the chopped onions and the rest of the ingredients, and used my handy immersion blender to process the mix.
I ended up with a bowl of pink tomato juice, watery with a smack of onion. It tasted good, and the lime did wonders to brighten up my weak tomatoes, but it wasn't the strong tomato flavor I'd hoped for. The recipe promised "a culinary sonnet to the incomparable flavor of tomatoes," and this was more of a limerick. Really, though, what really bothered me most about it was the color: it was like the Tomato Soupshake all over again. The sour cream only made matters worse, turning the pale pink even paler.
Forget the color
Still, the end taste was pretty good, if you could forget the color. With stronger tomatoes it would be a great summer soup, especially with some cilantro and fried tortilla strips on top. In an ideal world, I'd update this recipe with more colorful heirlooms. Some Green Zebras or Brandywine Yellows would make this a truly memorable summer soup, and take care of that pesky pink problem. If you're one of the lucky few who find themselves in possession of a glut of blight-less homegrowns this September, throw a picnic and make this soup. Your friends (and your tomatoes) will thank you.
Recipe: Chilled Tomato Soup From It's A Picnic!, 1969
12 large, very ripe tomatoes
6 green onions
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon marjoram
½ teaspoon thyme
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons grated lime peel
1 teaspoon curry powder
Peel the tomatoes, chop, and put in a blender, together with green onions, salt, sugar, marjoram, thyme, lime juice, and lime peel. Blend until mixture is a puree, then add sour cream and curry powder. Chill in the refrigerator, and pour in a thermos.