this is an easy, pantry tomato soup i came up with. i’ve been eating a lot of packaged food lately and figured it might be best to actually make something for myself. craving grilled cheese and tomato soup with no money or soup to speak of, i realize pasta sauce and tomato soup essentially have the same ingredients and after a bit of googling, figured something out with what i had at home!

what you’ll need:

  • a jar of any pasta sauce
  • 2 cups of water
  • a pat of butter (a tablespoon, maybe less)
  • herbs to taste (fresh or dry. i used dried basil)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a creamy element. i used some creme fraiche from trader joe’s i had in the fridge for a bit that wasn’t going to keep for much longer but heavy cream can naturally be substituted. whole milk, sour cream, ricotta, maybe even parm are all things to can use to add a cream element as well or you can skip it altogether if you prefer!
  1. if you’re a fan of chunky soup, skip this step. for a smooth soup, dump the jar of pasta sauce into the blender with the 2 cups of water
  2. melt the butter in a saucepan and then add the herbs and sautee for a minute or so.
  3. add in the sauce/water mixture
  4. add a little sauce and pepper to taste while bringing to a boil.
  5. reduce to simmer on low after it’s reached a rolling boil, stirring frequently. at this point, you can simmer for however long you’d like. i tend to like letting it sit on low for a bit while i go read in my bedroom because i like the more concentrated taste but 5-10 minutes would be enough!
  6. whisk in your creamy element! in my case, creme fraiche.
  7. continue adding salt and pepper to taste (or don’t) until you feel like the dish is seasoned to your liking
  8. serve! if you’re me, you’ll accompany this with a grilled cheese and toss little pieces into the soup and eat them right out of there

Let’s talk about bagels.

As a pretentious New Yorker, I take my carbohydrates very seriously — this includes both pizza and bagels. I have no shame in admitting as much. Just as pizza is not simply bread with sauce and cheese slapped on it, a bagel is not simply round bread with a hole in the middle. The ingredients and method used to create a realbagel are what sets it apart from that which you can buy at a grocery store or chain eatery (I’m looking at you, Panera + Einstein).

I couldn’t get a decent bagel in Utah, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. While this recipe is not perfect, it will get you about as close to New York bagels as humanly possible without building some of your own wooden bakeware.

The “secrets” to the New York bagel:

  1. Overnight proofing — a lot of bread doughs require 60-90 minutes of rest. For the best bagel results, you need to allow for a retarded fermentation. In a refrigerator, the fermentation process will happen more slowly, allowing the yeasty flavor to better permeate the dough. It will also allow the water content in the dough to be more evenly distributed. I’ve tried a more conventional dough proofing process, and the bagels stunk. Don’t shortcut this.
  2. Barley malt syrup — If you google bagel recipes, you will usually find that they call for a tablespoon or two of whatever sugar you have (typically either table sugar or honey). This is complete malarky. You need to use barley malt syrup. I have only been able to find it at Whole Foods, but I guarantee that without it, your bagels will just taste like rolls. If you’ve never had a New York bagel, you won’t care. If you have, you will notice that the taste difference is staggering.
  3. Poach  before you bake — Real bagels are poached (boiled) in a solution containing barley malt syrup, salt, and baking soda. This gives the bagels their chewy external texture and their lovely golden sheen. Lazy/commercial bakers will skimp on this step by either brushing the bagels with a baking soda/water solution or omitting it entirely. Fools.

There are a couple of actual baking techniques involving baking the bagels on wooden boards and such, but these are advanced and not wholly necessary tricks of the trade. Honestly, while I think they would improve my bagels’ quality, I am too lazy for the time being. That said, if you don’t have a baking stone, I suggest that you get one ASAP, because these really don’t turn out as well when baked on a metal baking sheet.

Now that you understand what will be required of you, feel free to proceed forth to my carefully crafted (with the help of my professional bagel-baking father) bagel recipe at your own risk.

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