I’m a tomato soup junkie. It’s been a comfort food of mine since I was young. The finest tomato soup I ever had was at Le Marais in New York. It was a Tomato Fennel Soup. I tried for years to recreate it, until I realized they had lied. So I make a Tomato Star Anise Soup that is on my list of restaurant recipes.
I was paging through Mollie Katzen’s Still Life with Menu when I came across her recipe for tomato soup with coconut. A quick search in the pantry revealed that I had all of the ingredients, so I made the recipe.
The soup is likable enough on paper; tomatoes, canned in this case because of the general state of vegetables in Israel nowadays. Cinnamon, sesame seeds, mustard seeds, ground coriander seeds, and cumin seeds, all diligently toasted. Coconut soaked in boiling water. I doubled the recipe, but knowing that cumin and I don’t see eye-to-eye, I kept it the same. I also threw in a hint of cayenne pepper, just to wake up all of the flavors. No curry you say? Not everything Indian has curry powder in it. Otherwise I did not deviate from the recipe, which is good advice in general. When you’re attempting a recipe for the first time, do it as close to the original as possible. Of course allow for kashruth, allergies, etc. [True story: I was talking to my mother about a recipe she said wasn’t good. She handed me the recipe, and as I went down the list of ingredients. When I asked her how she made it, she told me she left out an ingredient because she didn’t have it and one was substituted with something entirely different. I said, “Of course it didn’t taste right; it wasn’t the same recipe!”]
I’m so used to an underlying sweetness when it comes to tomato soup (childhood conditioning: canned tomato soup is sweetened) that the savory grabbed me a bit. Since Indian spice mixtures tend to bounce all over your tongue, I was tasting everything and it was well balanced.
Then along came cumin. It lumbered onto my palette and kinda sat there. The more soup I ate, the more it sat there. Even the spicy pepper was having a hard time competing with the absoluteness of cumin. It’s nice in that cumin can mimic a real woodsy dried Chinese mushroom, and even whispers “beef” into your taste buds for fleeting moment. But it doesn’t last long before the gym locker assertiveness takes control and I have the urge to wash it out of my mouth. I’m optimistic, though. Considering how cilantro and I are good friends now, there might be hope for cumin and me.
Overall the recipe is good and different, and something that I would now experiment with, especially since the coconut only barely peeked through the flavor onslaught and of course, the cumin.
It’s not my recipe so I can’t really post it here. If you have the book, it’s worth a try, and if you love cumin, obviously add it to your pile of recipes you have to try one day.