Turnrow Tomato-Basil Soup


Turnrow Books in Greenwood, Mississippi, is a magnet for Southern literature aficionados traveling the Mississippi Delta. It’s also a great place for lunch. In the charming café upstairs, chef Kenny Paschall has gained local renown for his creative homemade soups, salads, and sandwiches that change daily.

On the chilly day I visited last December while on a book tour for “Eat Drink Delta,” my mother and a couple of new Greenwood friends had steaming cups of his tomato-basil soup alongside a deluxe grilled cheese sandwich on fresh-baked artisanal bread oozing with three kinds of quality cheese. He was kind enough to share the recipe, which I adapted for my kitchen at home.  I like to make big batches of it to freeze, as it is so infinitely superior to any canned tomato soup.

2 tablespoons basil-flavored olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 large stalk celery, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil, divided
1 quart reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 (28- to 32-ounce) can diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1-2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-low heat.

2. Add onions, celery and 1 teaspoon of the dried basil and let it sweat until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

3. Add chicken stock, diced tomatoes and 3 tablespoons of the tomato paste. Bring to a boil.

4. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add remaining basil, oregano, sugar, Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Cook 10 minutes more.

5. Blend with a hand emulsion blender, or use a regular blender or food processor, until relatively smooth but still with some texture.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

Makes 7-8 cups.