There are many things that pair well together. Two of my favorites, however, are tomatoes and basil. Perhaps the most common species of basil, sweet basil, is prevalent in Italian cuisine and has a clove and menthol-like aroma with a subtle peppery, yet sweet flavor. It is one of the few herbs that has a much more pronounced flavor when fresh, so using fresh rather than dried is often recommended. Basil is native to India and various regions of Asia with over 160 known cultivars (source).
Not only is fresh basil delicious, it is also chock full of vitamins and nutrients including but not limited to: Calcium, Copper, Dietary Fiber, Folate, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Niacin, Phosphorus, Potassium, Protein, Riboflavin, Vitamins A, B6, C, E and K, and Zinc (source). Basil also boasts a variety of health benefits. It has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, benefits the cardiovascular system, assists with strong bones and helps protect DNA (source).
Check out the many health benefits of tomatoes on my Corn and Tomato Salsa Fresca post here.
The recipe below utilizes both tomatoes and fresh basil, and is excellent on a cool day alongside a grilled “cheese” sandwich. Enjoy!
Tomato Basil Soup
Yields approximately 8 cups
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
6 large tomatoes (3-4 inches in diameter), diced
1 cup Sauvignon Blanc wine
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups coarsely chopped fresh basil
Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring often and being careful not to let the garlic burn.
Add tomatoes, wine, water, sugar, salt and pepper and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover, and allow to simmer for 15 minutes.
Add basil, replace lid, and continue to simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
Puree soup with an emulsion blender or place approximately 1-1/2 cups of the mixture into a blender and puree until smooth, approximately 30-45 seconds. Be careful not to place too much of the mixture in the blender or else pressure will build, causing a mess. Pour puréed mixture into a large bowl and repeat until entire mixture has been blended.
Place a large mesh strainer over a separate large bowl and add puréed soup. Stir to remove as much liquid as possible, and discard remaining solids. Season soup with additional salt and pepper to taste.
VARIATION: Tomato Basil Bisque – Add 1 cup non-dairy creamer after straining soup and stir to combine.