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Tomatoes liven hearty soups

Larry Crowe, Associated Press

Before the last of the tomatoes fall off the vines, here are a couple of recipes for soups to warm up chilly evenings.

A creamy tomato and rice soup first caught the attention of Associated Press writer J.M. Hirsch when he was living in Germany, where it was sold by a local grocer. "It was rich and soothing while also bold and spicy," Hirsch writes in his cookbook, "Venturesome Vegetarian Cooking" (Surrey Books, 2004, $21.95 paperback), co-written with Michelle Hirsch.

After returning to the United States, he says, he searched for years for a comparable soup, preferably a healthier one than the cream-laden original. This new version is the result of the search, with toasted cashews giving the soup its gentle creaminess.


(Start to finish 30 minutes)

1/2 cup cashew pieces

6 large, ripe tomatoes

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 cups cooked short-grain brown rice

2 teaspoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1 cup vanilla rice milk

1 tablespoon minced fresh dill (or 1 teaspoon dry)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spread the cashew pieces on a baking sheet and bake 10 minutes or until just golden.

Meanwhile, cut the tomatoes into small chunks, reserving as much of the juice as possible. Place the tomato chunks and juice in a medium saucepan. Roughly chop half the basil and add it to the pan. Bring the mixture to a simmer over a medium flame. Add the cashews, tomato paste, 1 1/2 cups brown rice, soy sauce, vinegar, rice milk and dill. Cover and simmer 15 minutes.

Transfer the soup to a blender, in batches if necessary, and puree until smooth. Return the soup to the pan and add remaining rice and basil. Simmer another 3 minutes over a medium flame. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh parsley or additional basil, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

— Recipe from "Venturesome Vegetarian Cooking" by J.M. Hirsch and Michelle Hirsch, Surrey Books, 2004, $21.95 paperback.

This recipe for tomato and bread soup is a Tuscan classic that took a trip through the United States, where it picked up a bit of corn, and Thailand, where it grabbed what Hirsch calls "the amazing taste of galangal." This new twist on the Italian favorite is rich with flavor, and just a touch of fire.

Galangal is one of Southeast Asia's most popular spices, the book explains, with a savory and warm flavor that fits perfectly with many Italian dishes. Powdered, fresh and dried galangal are readily available online and in spice specialty shops. In a pinch, substitute powdered ginger; the taste won't be as savory, but it will give the soup the zing it needs.

The best bread for this recipe is a hearty round peasant loaf or other heavy-crusted bread. Stale French bread also works. Avoid using sliced bread, especially white, which will disintegrate in the soup.


(Start to finish 45 minutes)

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium carrots, ends trimmed, cut into matchsticks

1 medium onion, diced

2 cups corn kernels

5 large tomatoes, diced, with juice

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

1 tablespoon powdered galangal

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

5 cups vegetable broth

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 pound loaf stale bread, cut into cubes

Combine the oil and carrots in a large stockpot and saute over a medium flame 3 to 4 minutes. Add the onion and corn and saute until onion is soft, about 6 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes and their juice. Add the basil and galangal and bring to simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Add the broth and paprika and increase the temperature to medium-high. Simmer 10 minutes. Stir in the bread and cook another 2 minutes. Cover and remove soup from the stove. Let stand 15 minutes before serving to allow flavors to combine.

Makes 4 servings.

—Recipe from "Venturesome Vegetarian Cooking" by J.M. Hirsch and Michelle Hirsch, Surrey Books, 2004, $21.95 paperback.