I like fresh tomatoes so much that I usually grow a few more plants than I need in my home garden. In August, when a glut of ripe tomatoes need picking and quick use, I like to make this Fast and Easy  variation of “ Quick Tomato Soup ” from Irma Rombauer’s wonderful book, The Joy of Cooking. Her original recipe is good, but a touch of spice and a hint of garlic/oregano brings the soup to another level.

2 cups diced fresh tomatoes (any kind, raw)
1 stick of celery, leaves included
1/2 small onion, sliced
1 small garlic clove
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
2 cups stock
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp paprika (not smoked)
1/4 tsp cayenne (optional)
1/4 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
torn fresh basil leaves

In a food processor, whiz the diced fresh tomatoes, celery, garlic, and onion. Pulse and then run until smooth. Bring this to a simmer in a medium saucepan, and cover, simmering, for 15 minutes. Strain the resulting juices through a sieve and set aside.

*At this point, the vegetable juices freeze well. This is a great way to take advantage of summer bounty. When ready to use, simply thaw and carry on with the recipe.

In a larger pot, create a roux by melting butter and mixing in the flour. Cook over low heat until the flour/butter mixture is bubbling and the smell of flour has diminished. With a whisk in constant motion, slowly add the stock, a bit at a time, allowing the liquid to thicken each time. Vegetable stock will work, but beef stock brings a richer flavour.

Whisk until smooth. Then add the strained tomato mixture, and keep whisking over medium heat. Add the sugar, paprika, cayenne, and the pinch of dried oregano. Add salt and pepper to taste. When serving, add 1 Tbsp torn (not chopped) fresh basil leaves to each bowl. Serve hot with bread.

This recipe serves about 4 small bowls of soup. It looks just like canned tomato soup, but tastes astronomically better. The whole recipe takes about 25 minutes. Double all ingredients for a larger batch.