I used to work next door to a little restaurant in downtown Cincinnati called Mullane's Parkside Cafe. Not just because I worked next door, I ate there a lot. Mullane's was bar none my favorite restaurant ever. Great people, super cool vibe, an unparalleled menu, and the best soup ever. Every day they'd have these big pots going and most days I'd wind up with a cardboard cup of something amazing, accompanied by a little plastic bag with some bread and a plastic spoon in it. Beef barley, curried squash, mulligatawny...the soups were varied and each better than the last.
There was a charming girl named Jill who cooked there. Once in a rare while Jill would let me look through her worn, hand-written soup bible and pick out the day's fare. That was magical. Jill moved away at some point (I think maybe to Oregon), but the soups lived on. My favorite was this tomato bisque. I went on about it enough that one of the other cooks finally wrote the recipe down on the back of the day's specials for me.
Now perhaps twenty years later, that recipe is still tacked up on the side of my fridge. The soups that day were potato rosemary bisque, Roman chickpea, and light French onion. Mullane's has been closed a lot of years now, but this spectacular soup lives on as a summer staple at my place. Although this one can be enjoyed any time of year, it’s never better than when using fresh tomatoes grown at home.
This is the first soup I ever made that didn't start with the opening of a can. Except for using fresh spinach instead of the frozen, this is the original recipe. Oh, wait. I did cut the amount in half. I'm not running a restaurant here.
As the last instruction of that hand scrawled recipe reads - Enjoy!
5 pounds tomatoes
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups onion, chopped
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1/4 cups fresh basil
2 cups spinach, chopped or 2 cups green peas
2 cups heavy cream
Blanch tomatoes to remove skin. Core, mash and set aside.
In large saucepan, sweat onion in butter.
Stir in garlic and basil.
Add tomatoes and bring to boil.
Reduce heat to med-low, cover and simmer 20 minutes.
Puree with immersion blender or in standing blender in batches.
Stir in cream and peas or spinach.
Salt and pepper to taste.