Just Like That Famous Tomato Basil Soup

11 Oct

I was blessed at my second real, post-college job to make three wonderful friends. Jocelyn, Aimee, Kate, and I spent many a lunch and happy hour giggling and chatting, wandering the city, flirting with boys, and mapping out where our lives would go. Those girls knew me better than almost anyone. They threw my bachelorette party when I got married and were the first to send little onesies and Mickey Mouse T-shirts when my son was born.

We kept in touch for years, the four of us, in drips and drabs, stops and starts, ebbs and flows. The way old friendships go when everyone has families and careers and starts juggling soccer practices and field trips and the next phase of life.

Kate and I stayed especially close, probably largely because we lived close to each other. I was her maid of honor; she was my confidante when life got overwhelming. When she called me three years ago to tell me she’d been diagnosed with cancer, I cried for awhile and then sucked it up and tried to be there for her, going out to lunch and dinner while she could, and then bringing lunch to her when she tired too easily.

I didn’t do it as much as I should have, I know now. There was always work to do and kids to shuttle and life in the way, you know? But all the way until our last visits in a hospice facility, she made me laugh. We laughed together. And we cried and we talked about everything, from the fish in the pond outside her room to what happened when this life ended.

My friend died in June, a few weeks short of her 38th birthday. The rest of us reconnected and came together to mourn her, and this past weekend, I met up with her family in a two-mile fundraising walk sponsored by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. Wearing our purple T-shirts with water bottles in hand, we applauded those fighting the disease and those surviving it, and we all choked back a tear or two for Kate, whose name we proudly wore on our backs.

The walk was a sort of closure for me. It was a beautiful day and her husband and my daughter and I spent the two miles talking and laughing. We’ve healed, her friends and family and me. Just like Kate would have wanted.

I came home and made a batch of tomato basil soup, because that’s what our foursome always ordered when our lunch hours found us at the La Madeleine restaurant up the street from our office. Rich and creamy and comforting, it’ll always remind me of my friends and the blessings they’ve always given me.

This came from the internet. Randomly. Like a lot of copycat recipes, it’s posted everywhere with credit to a bazillion people. I cut the whole recipe in half, substituted evaporated skim milk for the heavy cream it called for, cut the butter in the original, and used frozen crushed basil instead of fresh; my grocer carries it in little cubes near the frozen veggies. If yours doesn’t, substitute dried or finely chopped fresh.

This really does taste like the famous soup we loved so much back in the day, without the calories or price tag. Every time I make a batch, I make a point to call a friend and just say hi. And then I look skyward and raise a spoon to Kate.

To make this, you’ll need:

2 cups canned crushed tomatoes (freeze the rest if you’re using a big can)

2 cups of tomato juice (I bought an 11-ounce can at the store and made up the difference with water–just as good)

1 tbsp sugar

4 tsp crushed or finely chopped basil (use 2 tsp if you’re using dried)

3/4 cup evaporated skim milk

3 tbsp butter

Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the tomatoes and juice to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.

Add basil and simmer another five minutes. Stir in milk and butter. Salt and pepper to taste and serve. This is also delicious the next day.

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2 Responses to “Just Like That Famous Tomato Basil Soup”

  1. krishna October 12, 2010 at 2:20 pm #

    i’m so sorry for your loss but glad you have wonderful memories.

    the only reason i started a garden was to get fresh tomatoes for tomato soup–of course i also planted basil too. i use low sodium V8 in mine and seems to add a bit of a flavor punch. Hoping my 6 fall plants yield enough for a winter of soup!

  2. mary m October 20, 2010 at 12:07 pm #

    What a beautiful post about friends. Love it Kim. This sounds so much better than boring old tomato soup, and not really much harder! Will add it to my soups to try list for this fall

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