Tomato with Cheddar

One of my absolute, all-time favorite soups.

My daughter, Lauren, practically drinks balsamic vinegar; and since it’s made from grape juice, it’s not really surprising that she finds it so appealing. Aged in oak, ash, cherry, mulberry, and juniper barrels for eight to 12 years, balsamic vinegar is sweet, rich, and tart-sour. It imparts and indefinable quality to everything it’s included in. In this recipe, it both cuts the richness and highlights the other flavors. Don’t even think about leaving it out.

Yield: about 12 cups.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 Spanish onion, chopped
1 carrot, sliced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 28-ounce cans diced or whole tomatoes, including liquid
8 cups chicken stock
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
½ cup heavy or light cream (optional)
½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves, plus additional for garnish

1. Place a large heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium-high heat and add the butter. When the butter has melted, add the onion, carrot, and garlic and cook until tender, about 10-15 minutes.

2. Add the tomatoes and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to low and cook until the mixture begins to come together, about 30 to 45 minutes.

3. Place a small amount in a blender and blend until smooth. Add the cheese and vinegar and repeat in batches, until all the soup has been blended. Serve immediately, or transfer to a container, cover, and refrigerate up to 3 days. Just before serving, stir in the cream, if desired, and the basil. Serve garnished with the extra basil.

From Warehouse to Your House: More than 250 Simple, Spectacular Recipes to Cook, Store, and Share When You Buy in Quantity (Simon & Schuster, 2006)