tomato soup with coconut milk

I have a confession that is unlikely to surprise you: I haven’t been cooking much lately. Mike has been working long hours, and cooking for one gets dull. And frankly, I’ve been tired. And uninspired. And perfectly content to eat Trader Joe’s Indian food from a cardboard box and aluminum pouch. (It’s like backpacking food—at home!)

The “Food” folder in my inbox currently has 151 unopened e-mails—another sign of my flagging appetite for the blog recipes that arrive daily. But last week, somebody broke through: Heidi Swanson, that dependable vixen of wholesome comfort food, who, in turn, channeled a simple, yet unorthodox tomato soup from New York Times food columnist Melissa Clark.

Thursday night dinner

As fate would have it, in hopes of jumpstarting my culinary itch I had recently purchased cookbooks from both of these kitchen mavens. All roads seemed to be leading to soup for dinner.

What caught my attention was the central use of two staples in my pantry: canned tomatoes and coconut milk. I thought—No grocery shopping required; I can do this. And then, Wait, coconut milk? In tomato soup?

You betcha. The South Asian spices give the recipe a depth of flavor that belies its straightforward preparation. The spike of coconut milk sets it apart from any standard Campbell’s you’ve tried. (As Melissa Clark points out, it’s also a plus for lactose-intolerant types who want a creamy tomato soup, but can’t eat cream.)

It’s a versatile soup—which is good because the recipe yielded hefty leftovers for the two of us. It’s luxuriant with coconut cream, delicious with croutons, tasty with grilled cheese sandwiches, and not bad with a poached egg (though I recommend omitting the coconut cream for these last two serving suggestions).

I even used it as a soupy tomato sauce on leftover pasta for one hurried lunch. Heidi Swanson says she loves it best with the coconut cream, served over a scoop of brown rice with a squeeze of lemon, some toasted almonds, and a jolt of herbs.

tomato soup with coconut milk

A Simple Tomato Soup

Original recipe by Melissa Clark, adapted here by Heidi Swanson

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, olive oil, or coconut oil
2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, plus more to taste
3 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chile flakes
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes (pref. fire-roasted)
1 14-ounce can coconut milk

In a large pot over medium heat melt the butter. Add the onions and salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions really soften up—10 minutes or so. Not so much that they brown, just until they’re completely tender and unstructured.

Stir in the curry powder, coriander, cumin, and chile flakes, and cook just until the spices are fragrant and toasty—stirring constantly at this point. Just 30 seconds or so. Stir in the tomatoes, the juices from the cans, and 6 cups of water. Simmer for 15 minutes or so, then puree with a hand blender until smooth. (Or in batches in a regular blender or food processor.) At this point you can decide if you’d like your soup even a bit thinner—if so, you can thin it with more water, or if you like a creamy version, with some coconut milk. Taste and adjust with more salt to taste. Serve with a dollop of the thick cream from the top of the can of coconut milk.

Prep time: 5 minutes – Cook time: 25 minutes 

cookbook inspiration

In case you were wondering, both cookbooks are tops. I highly recommend them:

Cook This Now: 120 Easy and Delectable Dishes You Can’t Wait to Make by Melissa Clark

Super Natural Everyday by Heidi Swanson

(I’m yet to test-drive the third cookbook pictured. I’ll report back with any winners.)