September Special Feature: Tomato Soup

photo: pablo diaz

Grocery shopping in a new country has been a big adventure for me.  I remember my second day in Singapore, strolling through Cold Storage, eyes wide and glistening with excitement—there was everything from a Japanese snack aisle to an Old El Paso end cap.  I was so thrilled by the peaceful coexistence of Asian and American products all under one roof that I ran back to the apartment and [literally] wrote home about it.

Although, in time the honeymoon phase would end and I would discover that there was a complete lack of corn tortillas, that London Swiss rolls were nothing at all like Little Debbie, that cheese of any variety averaged about 7 SGD/100 grams and most importantly, that Dr Pepper was apparently a seasonal item.  I was devastated.

It was during this phase that I learned that all too crucial survival skill of adaptation.  When I finally put my love of American junk food aside, I realized that there was a whole world of new products and flavors to experiment with—ginger, coriander, oyster sauce (just to name a few)—and my experimental cooking really took off.

Two years and another continent later, I was still shocked on my first trip to a Dutch grocery store.  I was suddenly very aware of why there didn’t seem to be any jobs at Kraft Foods in Amsterdam: American products were practically nonexistent.  (And while Dr Pepper may be constantly stocked, it is not bottled in Plano.)  However, once I got over that initial shock and started taking random products home and translating the labels, I’ve found a few good grocery store gems here as well.

Which brings me to this month’s featured ingredient: tomato soup. 

This month’s recipes all make use of a fantastic instant soup that I found here in Amsterdam:  Cup a Soup, Tomaten Crème (you can do the translation, right?)

People may scoff, but it’s simple, it’s easy and it makes for some good eatin’.  Hands down, the best way to make a quick, tasty [and cheap!] meal is to use a can of soup for some easy flavoring.  Aside from the featured recipes this month, here are some great ways to use a cup of tomato soup to spice up your meals:

photo: chatirygirl

o   Boil meat on the stove or roast in a slow-cooker smothered in the soup
o   Pour it over beef burgers, steaks or meatloaf
o   Heat the soup with some garlic powder and black pepper in a pan and pan-fry a white fish (like cod or halibut) in it
o   Mix the soup with cooked pasta, ground beef and shredded mozzarella on the stove for some hearty pasta
o   Add rice, carrots, peas, celery and a dash of pepper   OR
o   Add tortellini and some chicken breast to make your soup a meal
o   Pour a little soup into scrambled eggs for easy tomatoes and eggs

Now, this particular Cup a Soup was a new find for me, so it's probably not available everywhere.  However, I noticed it was a Unilever brand, so I did some quick research and found that the same product is marketed as Lipton/Knorr elsewhere, so hopefully you can have some luck locating it.  Otherwise, I would suggest substituting a can of Campbell’s classic tomato or tomato bisque.  The best thing about the soup I have been using, though, is of course, the flavor, so you may want to sprinkle some of these seasonings that I nicked off the back of the box:
                                                                                 o   basil
                                                                                 o   onion powder
                                                                                 o   oregano
                                                                                 o   parsley
                                                                                 o   beetroot

~Happy Cooking!