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Fresh tomatoes make creamy bisque

Thursday, August 15, 2002

If you follow PG Food's weekly list of the farmers' markets, you know that local tomatoes are here. We've been waiting for the arrival of tomatoes so we could feature an especially tasty soup -- Tomato Bisque. This recipe calls for canned tomatoes, but we thought, why not use fresh? We were pleased with the results.


Although the word bisque usually refers to a creamy fish-based soup, our recipe today is a creamed soup that does not contain fish. Tomatoes (skin removed) are cooked with onion powder, basil (use fresh if you can) and beef bouillon cubes.

Once the tomato mixture is cooked and the flavors are blended, the cream sauce is made. The two mixtures are then combined, heated through and served -- it's that simple. Because we used fresh tomatoes, we had to add a few steps: We peeled the tomatoes (directions below), then placed the tomatoes in a food processor before proceeding with the recipe. Using fresh tomatoes gave this soup a fresh flavor and that's what we were looking for. We served our soup with a mixed green salad with vinaigrette and warm corn bread.

Here are a few tomato facts that might come in handy:

To peel tomatoes, cut an X on the bottom of the tomato and drop in boiling water for about 5 seconds for very ripe tomatoes and about 10 seconds for firmer tomatoes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes to a bowl of ice water. Let stand for about 1 minute. When tomatoes are cool enough to handle, pull off the skin. Or place the tomato in a microwave oven set on high (100 percent) for 12 seconds. Let stand 1 minute before peeling.

Most supermarkets carry tomatoes that have been picked green and ripened with ethylene gas. That's why these tomatoes don't have the same texture, aromas and taste of vine-ripened tomatoes.

1 pound tomatoes equals approximately 3 medium tomatoes or 1 1/2 cups.

Store tomatoes at room temperature (use within 2 or 3 days) and never in the refrigerator -- cold makes the flesh pulpy and destroys the flavor.

To ripen tomatoes, place them in a brown paper bag with an apple and let stand for 2 or 3 days.

To seed a tomato, cut in half horizontally. Set a strainer over a bowl and gently squeeze the seeds into it. Or if you want to leave the tomato intact, cut off the top 1/2 inch. Use a teaspoon to scoop out the seeds.

A recipe for Tomato Bisque was requested by Lois Lyons of Munhall. Here's the recipe sent by Helen Lamison of Carnegie, who credits Taste of Country magazine.

Tomato Bisque

  • About 2 pounds fresh tomatoes or 2 (14.5-ounce) cans whole tomatoes
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 4 cups milk

If using fresh, peel the tomatoes as directed above. Place tomatoes in food processor and process until almost smooth. In a medium pot, combine all ingredients except butter, flour and milk. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Remove bay leaf.

Press the mixture through a sieve, and set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter; blend in flour until smooth and bubbly. Gradually add milk; bring to boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook two minutes, then reduce the heat, and gradually add the tomato mixture, stirring until smooth and heated through.


Kate Hornstein of Moon is searching for a Korean pancake recipe. Kate writes: "After eating a Korean pancake cooked by an outdoor vendor near Sam Bok's a month or so ago, I've craved the recipe. The pancakes have a nice, spicy 'kick' that very much appeals to my California-born tastebuds. Thanks for any help you can give!"

If you want to answer a recipe request from a reader or are looking for a recipe yourself, please write to Kitchen Mailbox, c/o Arlene Burnett, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222, or e-mail to aburnett@post-gazette.com. Please include a name, neighborhood/city/borough/township and state and a daytime phone number on all correspondence.

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