Tomato Soup for Summer

Big Bold Summer Soup

August 5, 2010 · 52 comments

**homeroom update: We’ll be cooking mac and cheese at the Underground Farmers’ Market in Oakland this Saturday from 5pm-11pm. Live music, beer, and 40 food vendors! Details at**

An interesting thing happened the other day. I was cooking, as usual, when I realized how long it was since Alejandro and I went out to dinner, or even ordered in.

It wasn’t that long ago. But for us, it was unusual. I guess with all the commotion and stress over homeroom lately, we just haven’t had time, energy or the money to go out much (gosh, and we’re not even open yet!) Anyway. It was two weeks.

Are you laughing at me? Do you think I’m ridiculous for saying two weeks is a long time?

I put the question out there on twitter: How often do you eat a meal out that costs more than $20 per person?

I was surprised by the response. I would say we spend more than $20 per person once every two weeks, with cheap bites out in between. But my twitter friends, they don’t eat out much. At all. Many people said only a couple of times a year. A couple of times a year? I’m guessing that means birthdays, anniversaries, and a few special occasions. Maybe because I live, and lived, in urban areas, I’m accustomed to eating out a lot. I knew people in New York who ate home a couple times a year!

But really, I love eating home. I love preparing dinner while catching up on the day with Alejandro, and sipping a glass of red wine. I love knowing where the ingredients come from, and exactly what’s in the food we’re about to eat. And most of all, I love spending a fraction of the cost on a meal that’s most likely better than what we’d eat out.

Take this soup for example. It’s bold, spicy, vibrant, made with all local ingredients, and it cost me a few dollars to make.

It’s like a gazpacho, but you eat it hot. There’s a bit of prep work to this soup, but dang, is it worth it. Don’t be tempted to plug in your food processor – this soup is all about the mortar and pestle, and the individual greatness of each and every ingredient.

So tell me, how often do you spend more than $20 at dinner? Once a week? A month? A year? Leave a comment, and let me know where you live too. I’m so curious!

Bright and Spicy Summer Soup
Makes 3 big bowls

3 ears of corn, kernels cut from the cob
2 pounds of tomatoes (I used a mix of early girls and heirloom)
2 1/2 tablespoons roasted garlic (recipe below)
1 red torpedo onion, peeled and chopped
2 poblano peppers
2 jalapeno peppers
Handful of chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons of butter
Sea salt
1 sliced avocado
1 cup water

Roast the poblano and jalapeno peppers under the broiler until the skins are blackened and blistered. Let cool. Remove the skins, seeds and white veins, and roughly chop. Set aside.

Submerge the tomatoes in a pot of boiling water for 15 seconds. Drain and let cool. Using your hands, remove the skins and crush the tomatoes into a bowl.

Melt two tablespoons of butter into a large pot. With the heat on low, add the onions and gently cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and continue cooking on low.

Using a mortar and pestle, mash up the peppers until they break apart (do this in batches if you have a small mortar). Add the peppers to the pot.

Next, crush the corn kernels in the mortar until they too break apart. You should have some super sweet juice at the bottom of your mortar. Add the corn and the juices to the pot.

Increase the heat to medium-low and stir in the roasted garlic and a sprinkle of sea salt. Cook for 10 minutes. Taste again for salt.

Top with cilantro and sliced avocado before serving.

Where I shopped:
Corn, poblano peppers, jalepeno peppers, avocado, tomatoes, cilantro, torpedo onion: Berkeley Farmers’ Market

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{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

sara August 5, 2010 at 11:53 pm

yum! i’ve never been a fan of cold gazpacho, so I really like what youve got going here with the warmness!


Koek! August 6, 2010 at 2:43 am

I like my soups like I like mt soap operas… Bold and beautiful :-p Seriously though, this does sound gorgeous. Nice one.


Ambika Venkat August 6, 2010 at 6:20 am

That is one bold soup!!! I love the combination of ingredients you used..Awesome!


Kalea April 11, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Walking in the presence of giants here. Cool thnkiing all around!


Jo August 6, 2010 at 8:10 am

Yum — looks good! Wish I lived around there so I could sample some of your mac & cheese! I definitely think the dining out frequency is a city thing. I live in Boston, and I’d say I’m a once a weeker for meals >$20. (Are you including wine with that? That’s a huge factor in and of itself…) It’s basically how I catch up with friends — my boyfriend and I eat out together far less, but I think that’s because he’s a picky eater…


GG August 6, 2010 at 8:21 am

We grow heirlooms and Early Girls but Early Girls are my favorite tomato – I just love the flavor. Can’t wait to try your recipe. We eat out and spend more than $20/person about once every two weeks. We live down in the south bay in Morgan Hill, CA (just south of San Jose).


nancy August 6, 2010 at 8:32 am

Great recipe! Funny thing, it includes all the veggies I picked at my nyc farmers’ market this week (okay, we’re not lucky enough to have local avocados out here :) ) I roasted some poblanos and have been adding them to everything. So good.

And for the restaurant question, I’d say once or twice a week, on average.


Micheal April 11, 2011 at 8:52 am

That’s 2 celevr by half and 2×2 clever 4 me. Thanks!


michelle@TNS August 6, 2010 at 9:53 am

this is just in time for the explosion of tomatoes i’m about to have in the garden. plus, i’ll eat anything with a poblano in it, and i mean anything.

re: restaurants, probably once a week (nyc).


heather @ chiknpastry August 6, 2010 at 11:15 am

great looking soup! I made a corn chowder with squash this week and it was perfect since it was a rainy day.

i guess i’m on the opposite end from your twitterers. we probably go out and spend mor than $20 twice a week, but i live in chicago, so maybe that’s part of it – we can’t resist all the spots three blocks down the street! the rest of the time, i’m at home cooking, which is much cheaper!


Liane August 6, 2010 at 11:44 am

The soup looks delish !
My husband and I live in Fair Oaks Ca ( Near Sacramento ) and we eat out twice per week . Our days off come in the middle of the week , so we usually enjoy a great date night, free from crowds !


Jen August 6, 2010 at 11:45 am

My husband and I are cheap and really like to cook, so we rarely go out for meals costing more than $20/person. Less than once a month, but more than “a few times a year.” We are actually making an effort to go out more often because this area (we live in Berkeley) has so much to offer. When I do go out for food, I’m more likely to grab a banh mi, Chinese duck, Thai soup, tacos…something tasty that’s so inexpensive it doesn’t seem worth it to try and replicate it at home.


Allison Arevalo August 8, 2010 at 10:32 pm

I so agree – I love going out for good cheap food that I usually wouldn’t make at home – and there are some tasty options in the east bay.


Kristin August 6, 2010 at 11:58 am

My husband and I order in about once a week and usually it’s just pizza. We go out to eat at least once a month and spend way more than $20 per person, which I am realizing lately it is not worth it at all! I find myself saying “I could make this dish at home, relaxing outside in the backyard and spending quality time with my husband and our dogs. And, as a bonus I will know exactly what is in the dish”- just like you mentioned. The one problem is I don’t get home till 7pm and am usually rushing to get dinner ready before it gets too late. I love to cook and I keep telling myself to prep things in advance on the weekend or make larger batches of food to save time. Do you have any suggestions on what types of food freeze/reheat well, besides tomato sauce? (that is really all I freeze) And, do you ever make one dish that could turn into a few different dishes for later in the week?


Allison Arevalo August 8, 2010 at 10:56 pm

Hi Kristin – I always end up eating late too. It’s a bit of a drag. I’m also really bad at prepping things in advance. Sometimes I’ll roast a chicken, and that’ll last as sandwiches (toasted with cheese), in tacos (with avocado and manchego) or mixed with veggies. I also cook a lot of beans. I’ll soak and simmer a big batch and have them all different ways throughout the week.

Pasta is my go-to meal in a pinch. I’ll saute some garlic, anchovies and whatever vegetable I have in the fridge and throw it over pasta. For meat, I usually have sausage in the freezer. It’s super quick and goes with everything.


Kristin August 17, 2010 at 7:12 am

Thanks for all the tips Allison! :)


The Cilantropist August 6, 2010 at 12:02 pm

This soup sounds amazing, especially since I love and adore and crave gazpacho, but sometimes find it lacking a certain *zing.* I think this soup might be just the ticket!

Also, I am definitely like you, and I prefer to eat in. I think I like it because it feels more comfortable and intimate, and I can enjoy my food leisurely… and in my pajamas if I choose. I don’t think I eat out more than twice a week, although it is more often in the winter (when the abundance of produce wanes and I might not want to cook everyday).


Staysha July 19, 2011 at 9:22 pm

Ho ho, who wodula thunk it, right?


The Food Hunter August 6, 2010 at 12:02 pm

I’m a huge soup fan. I will be making this soon.


Melanie August 6, 2010 at 12:13 pm

The last two years, I probably cooked at home less than a dozen times – total. Yes, I went out for meals all the time! I probably spent $20+ on meals twice a week, but usually managed less than that the rest of the week… the East Village has so many good cheap eats! Now that I’m in Brooklyn (Greenpoint to be exact), I’m expecting to be spending more time at home, and hopefully I’ll finally start cooking again. I’ve been thinking about starting with soups, so your recipe is especially timely!


Allison Arevalo August 8, 2010 at 11:01 pm

Hi Melanie! I’m so happy you commented on this post! I was thinking about you when I wrote it. I remember talking to you about this once before.

Hope you’re enjoying Brooklyn! I definitely miss it sometimes. Let us know if you’re going to be in the bay area.


Angela@spinachtiger August 6, 2010 at 12:33 pm

This is my kind of soup and I can use my own garden for it. But, mortar and pestle really? I might cheat. haha

We eat out a minimum of once per week, more like two. We use groupons, so we splurge. Bill is usually $60-$80, but we already have a $40-$50 groupon (that we paid half for). In truth, we probably eat out twice a week, but the second one is more on the cheap. We can’t really afford eating out (my husband started a new business), but we eat ALL our lunches at home, so I need the weekend break. I hate to admit this, but our food at home is usually better, so we try foods I don’t cook (Asian, Mexican). We are always looking for that fun and inexpensive place we can frequent that doesn’t kill the budget.


Sarah August 6, 2010 at 12:46 pm

I never ate out all that much growing up, and even as I matured into the foodie I am today, it was still a special occassion thing, but ever since I met my husband, for some inexplicable reason, we eat out about as often as you and Alejandro do, often surprising ourselves with how much we manage to rack up in one meal because we’rre having such a good time. We started off in a small town in Maine, moved to a tiny island, and then to Bath, England, but our habits haven’t changed. I’d still much rather have a dinner party than go out, but love going to a restaurant as a couple.


Jenn AKA The Leftover Queen August 6, 2010 at 1:14 pm

This looks great – the photos are beautiful! Honestly these days, we are disappointed by eating out. The food is generally not anywhere as good as when we cook at home, and you pay out the nose for the privilege. We have a few really nice, local food kind of places around, and we go out to those sometimes. But that is about it.


Star August 6, 2010 at 3:54 pm

This soup looks amazing. I don’t have a mortar and pestle, so hopefully I can accomplish the same outcome with the peppers and corn somehow. My husband and I generally have a date night about once per week, though it’s been less lately, and that’s when we spend around $12.00 per person. Any more than that, and I just cannot justify the expense. I would rather just cook if we are going to spend more. And we live in North San Diego County. Thanks for the recipe!


Julia August 6, 2010 at 7:39 pm

This recipe looks great! I love your site, by the way. I don’t know if I’ll get a chance to stop by the underground farmer’s market tomorrow, but we might! (We live in Berkeley).
As to how often we eat out – we eat out probably about once a week (one lunch or dinner). But we don’t eat out for $20 or more per person very frequently – maybe once every month or two. (E.g. Last week our ‘meal out’ was Vik’s Chaat for lunch on a Saturday! – less than $20 total!)
Like you, we love home-cooked food the best…


Leah August 6, 2010 at 11:30 pm

We don’t really go out a lot–maybe once every 5 to 6 weeks, but that’s because when we go out we go OUT. As in a minimum of $150 is spent. We find that we’d rather have the occasional really good meal, as opposed to going out more often and being frugal about it.


Foodelf August 7, 2010 at 11:07 am

This sounds like a terrific soup – but your reference to the roasted garlic (recipe below) got lost somehow. I do roast garlic, but I’m always interested in someone else’s take on techniques.

I suspect this soup might work well chilled as well as hot.


Allison Arevalo August 8, 2010 at 11:03 pm

Oh wow! Thanks for pointing that out, I completely forgot to include the roasted garlic recipe. I’ll fix it now. And yes, I think it would be great chilled!


Suzanne Sanders August 7, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Maybe it’s the living in NYC thing.. but Peter and I eat out at least twice a week for over $20. The wine is what makes our bill go up. I know if we cut out wine from our life, we would have a huge savings account right now. But am I willing to give it up? NO. That soup looks delicious!


Anne August 8, 2010 at 11:09 am

I just happened to have almost all of these ingredients from this week’s CSA, so I made this great soup last night. It turned out great- tastes really bright. I added a little freshly squeezed lime and a pinch of brown sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes. Thanks for sharing!

P.S. your spicy mac at the Underground Market last night was AWESOME!


Dolores August 9, 2010 at 9:23 am

We eat out once or twice a week and as others have said often spend significantly more than $20 each on dinner. But I’m looking forward to the indulgence of eating IN this weekend — sharing your soup and a nice loaf of bread.


Kasey August 9, 2010 at 4:40 pm

Unfortunately, I spend over $20/person at a meal out much more frequently than twice a year. While I love to cook at home, and routinely make my own lunches, I find eating out unavoidable. With friends’ birthdays, various occasions and friends in town, I often just can’t say no. Nevertheless, cooking with special ingredients at home almost always feels more special, so I try to involve my friends as much as I can!


Molly @ molly's menu August 9, 2010 at 6:21 pm

Once you get used to cooking with fresh ingredients, knowing what goes into your food, and preparing it exactly how you want it it becomes increasingly difficult to enjoy meals out. I make a point of going out to eat at least a few times a month (we live in the DC area) just because I feel like I need to see what other people are cooking. More often than not I am disappointed in how much I’ve spent for the quality of food I’ve received (this includes fine dining). I enjoy not having to cook once in awhile but I must admit I am usually more satisfied with my own food.


Rachel August 10, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Reminds me of a similar soup I do with lentils. I’ve been making a surprising lot of soups this summer!


SeaD August 11, 2010 at 8:54 am

The soup looks delish! Here in Seattle, I go out to eat, on average, once or twice a week.


Laura August 11, 2010 at 9:33 pm

I live in Minneapolis and we go out at least once a week, but often it is less $20/person. We definitely do that a few times a month, maybe 2 or 3. I prefer eating in myself, but my fiance hates to cook, so I don’t mind a break every once and awhile.


tizzielish August 16, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Minneapolis is such a great city. I moved there for law school, then raised my kid there but I got burned out on winter so here I am in N. California.

What are your favorite restaurants in Minneapolis?


Darya August 12, 2010 at 7:37 pm

I’m with you, I eat out a couple times a week. I try to be good and keep it under 3, but often fail. We’re spoiled ;)

Beautiful soup, hope to try it!


Kathryn August 13, 2010 at 8:56 am

That looks delish! You should try my favorite split pea soup with kielbasa- it amazing!


Steffi April 11, 2011 at 9:21 am

Wow! That’s a reayll neat answer!


tizzielish August 16, 2010 at 2:05 pm

I rarely have a meal that costs more than $20 per person in a restaurant. That seems wildly extravagant to me.

I pick up cheap meals once or twice a week and mostly I do that to feel like I am a part of the city I live in (Berkeley). And I try to keep these indulgences below ten bucks. At this price point, I am not spending all that much more than I would have spent buying the ingredients.

When I was raising my kid (she left home about ten years ago), she and I ate out all the time, several times every week. I don’t think we often spent more then ten bucks per person in those days. Ten bucks ten years ago would be more today but not, I think, equivalent to twenty dollars today.

I don’t think I have eaten in places that cost $20 per person and up much in my whole life. . . I am poor these days but I used to be very solidly middle class. I just have never been attracted to spending lots of money on food.

I guess it is different for foodies?

My kid is a foodie. She graduated from Cornell’s Hotel School, then trained at Culinary Institute of America, New York and runs a high-end catering business. The meals in her operation tend to begin at $100/per person. And she is totally into eating out, keeping on top of restaurant scene, eating very fine food.

She didn’t get it from me.

I like to spend time in my home with friends and in friends’ homes. I like good food. Who doesn’t? But in some circles, food seems to have become way too precious. Esp. here in self-consciously food-hip Berkeley.

If someone has an interest in spending lots of time preparing and then savoring food, go for it. And invite me over!

I am relieved to learn that many of your Twitter followers don’t eat often eat meals that cost more than $20 per person. That is not a sustainable practice when you include all the peoples on this planet. Similar to how Americans use more than our fair share of oil for cars, which creates worldwide pollution, we are developing habits of luxurious consumption around a basic survival need: food.

Food needs to be seen in a more pedestrian way. Instead of swooning over exquisite breads and meals over $20 per person , let’s start swooning over fresh produce being affordable, widely available and widely eaten . at home.


Nicole August 17, 2010 at 11:37 am

Wow, this soup looks fresh and I love the ingredients you used. We usually spend more than $20 eating out once a week or once every two weeks. This is usually because it costs more to eat at places that have higher quality food that we can feel good about eating. Here in MI we don’t have many cheap eats that aren’t from a chain fast-food place. We like to eat out on say, a Monday, when the restaurants aren’t as full and it makes a Monday a bit more palatable. I love relaxing and cooking all weekend.


Crazy Sweet Life (Brianna) January 31, 2011 at 7:58 pm

Oh yum. This soup looks seriously good. I’ll have to give this a try!


Amy July 30, 2013 at 11:40 am

What an awesome recipe! It’s my favorite time of year, with my garden exploding with heirloom tomatoes and kale and all the other goodness. AND it’s actually been cool lately, and soup sounds perfect. As far eating out, I live in Nebraska with my rather large family and we almost never go out to eat spending $20 per person. We just can’t afford it. We’ll grab pizza or hamburgers or tacos maybe once a week, but that’s it. But the food at home is pretty good, with our own eggs, chickens, beef, and all the garden and orchard produce we can use, so it’s pretty hard to beat.


Edward April 13, 2014 at 4:12 pm

Looks awesome! Thanks for the recipe I’m going to give it a try!


Gudrun July 14, 2015 at 2:03 am

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Molly August 24, 2015 at 3:19 am

This looks so delicious and fresh I cannot quite believe it! Thank you for sharing!


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