Last week we drove a little over an hour to meet our friends Pam and Darby (Pam is GiGi26 on Food52) for lunch in Williamston, Mi, a small town just outside of Lansing. Their drive was a little longer from Grand Rapids. I had a Caesar Salad with Polenta Croutons and fell in love with those little morsels. As we visited, Pam came up with the idea that the croutons would be good over tomato soup. I'm always playing around with tomato soup and make it frequently....fresh tomatoes in the summer and canned in the winter. I wanted a deeply flavored soup this time and so added sun dried tomatoes to this one. Thanks Pam for inspiring this! —inpatskitchen
about 2 quarts
For the polenta croutons
cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
For the soup
large shallots, minced
large cloves garlic, minced
cup diced sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, but drained
Bring the water to a boil in a 3 quart sauce pan. Add the salt and then vigorously whisk in the cornmeal. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring now and then and then add the basil. Continue to cook and stir for about 10 more minutes until the mixture is thick. Off the heat, stir in the butter and cheese.
Spread the mixture onto a 9x13 inch baking pan or sheet. Let cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for at least two hours.
Cut the polenta into 1/2 to 3/4 inch pieces and place on a parchment lined baking sheet or sheets. Bake in a pre heated 400F oven for 45 minutes to and hour until the croutons crisp up. You can make them ahead...just re-crisp in a hot oven for about 5 minutes before adding them to the soup.
For the soup
In a 4 quart soup pot, melt the butter and add the minced shallots. Saute over medium heat until the shallots soften and then add the minced garlic. Saute for another minute or so and stir in the sundried tomatoes. Sprinkle the flour over and continue to sauté until the mixture thickens a bit.
Crush the San Marzano tomatoes and add them to the pot along with the chicken broth. Bring to a boil and then simmer, partially covered, for about 20 minutes.
Let the soup cool and then puree it in a blender in batches. Add the torn basil leaves to one of the batches before blending. ( you can certainly use an immersion blender for this step and blend right in the pot but I wanted a really smooth soup.
When ready to serve, re heat the soup, ladle into bowls and garnish with the croutons.
I think I get my love for food and cooking from my mom, who was an amazing cook. She would start baking and freezing a month before Christmas in order to host our huge open house on Christmas afternoon. I watched and I learned...to this day I try not to procrastinate when it comes to entertaining.
My cooking style is pretty much all over the place, although I'm definitely partial to Greek and Italian cuisine. Oh yes, throw a little Cajun in there too!