In the past people have asked me many times what is my favorite thing to cook. Often people are surprised that I'm not cooking gourmet 24-hours-a-day.

My palate craves more simple foods, home style cooking. Regional comfort cuisine has been described has comfort food with a flair. And it’s my style of cooking.
 
My favorite thing to make has always been tomato basil soup. I make it at least once a month. It can cure the common cold or warm you up when its freezing outside. It's heavenly when paired along a simple salad and some crusty bread. I have changed this recipe more times than I can ever count. And you can as well. If you like it hotter you can add a little more red pepper flakes or if you like creamy tomato soup you can add in a half cup of heavy cream. It is a recipe that can always evolve with an ever-changing pantry or garden.
 
Tomato Basil Soup

 
3 lb plum or roma tomatoes
5 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp cracked black pepper
1 large yellow onion finely diced
1/4 cup minced garlic
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 (24oz) can of canned tomatoes
1/4 cup of fresh chopped basil
1 tbsp fresh chopped thyme
4 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock
1 tbsp kosher salt
2 tbsp butter
 
Preheat the oven to 350. Split tomatoes in half and scoop out the seeds. Place them in a bowl and toss with the olive oil, black pepper, and salt. Place on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick spray.  Bake for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile melt the butter over medium heat in a pot and sauté the onions until they arre golden brown - almost caramelizing them. Add the garlic and sauté for 5 minutes being careful not to burn the garlic and then add the rest of the ingredients.

After the tomatoes are done, add them and all the juices on the baking sheet to the pot and simmer for 45 minutes.  Blend all together in a blender, blending small amounts at a time. Don’t fill the blender more than half full. Use a kitchen towel to cover the top of the blender. Place back into the pot and bring to a simmer.

Mix together 4 tbsp of cornstarch and 1/2 cup of water. When the soup comes to a boil pour in some of the cornstarch mixture and the soup will thicken up. For something more rustic you can leave this natural and not blend it up or only blend half of it. Find a recipe that has been in your family for generations and make it yours. It might become one of your favorite things.
 
If you would like any recipe or party ideas contact me at Jallenshults@outandaboutnewspaper.com

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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