MAKES 1 1/4 QUARTS
Even though only a few ingredients are necessary for this soup, it is very important that the tomatoes be in season for the best flavor. Many episodes of Ciao Italia have featured my Italian vegetable garden. In those episodes I show how the vegetables grow, are harvested, and cooked.
In the case of cherry tomatoes, I plant a variety called Sweet 100, a prolific and sweet-as-sugar tomato that is excellent for this soup. There is such a bumper crop that I can harvest the tomatoes, stem, wash, and dry them and pop them whole into heavy-duty zipper-lock plastic bags, freezing them for winter use. There is no fat in this soup. Make it in a nonstick soup pot for best results.
1 pound leeks, dark green tops removed and discarded
1/4 cup water for cooking the leeks
2 pounds whole cherry tomatoes, stemmed and washed
Fine sea salt to taste
1/2 cup long-grain rice
1 1/4 cups water for cooking the rice
Cut the leeks in half lengthwise, wash them well to remove any dirt, and cut them into thin slices. Put the leeks in a nonstick soup pot and add the water. Cook the leeks, covered, over very low heat and stir them occasionally until they are very soft; this will take about 20 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook, covered, over medium-low heat for 30 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to a food processor or blender (in batches if necessary) and whirl or blend until smooth.
Pour the soup into a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl. With a wooden spoon stir the soup and press on the solids to extract the juices. When the remaining pulp in the strainer is solid and dry looking, discard it.
Transfer the soup to the soup pot. Stir in salt to taste and set aside.
Meanwhile in a small saucepan combine the rice and the water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to simmer, cover the pot, and cook the rice until it has absorbed all the water. Transfer the rice to the soup and stir it in. Reheat the soup until hot and then serve.
Variation: Add fresh minced herbs such as parsley, basil, mint, or dill, or add diced mozzarella cheese to the soup just before serving.
Did you know that the ancient Romans revered leeks (porri) for their health benefits? It is said that the emperor Nero, who loved to sing, ate them every day to improve the quality of his voice.
This recipe is from CIAO ITALIA - BRINGING ITALY HOME by Mary Ann Esposito, published by St. Martin's Press in 2001.
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