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Creamy Tomato-Basil Soup

Sweet vine-ripened tomatoes are the key to flavor in this creamy soup. If your tomatoes are not at their peak of sweetness, add 1/2 teaspoon sugar to the soup. Yields about 8 cups.

1 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
6 sprigs fresh basil
4 lb. ripe red tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
4 cups homemade or low-salt canned chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 min. Tie the basil sprigs together with a piece of kitchen twine. Add the basil, tomatoes, chicken stock, 1-1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper to the onions. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium low and let simmer until reduced by one-quarter, about 20 min. Let cool. Remove the basil sprigs.

In a blender, pur├łe the soup in batches until very smooth, at least 3 min. Strain the soup into a clean pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from the heat; stir in the cream and balsamic vinegar. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Just before serving, cut the basil leaves into very thin slices. Ladle the hot soup into bowls and garnish with the fresh basil.

Recipe: Joanne Weir

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