Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Taste of an Epicurean Tour

A couple weeks ago I was privileged to take part in something so unique and special it had to be for a very special occasion.  And it was.  For my sister-in-law Anne's 30th birthday, she announced to her husband, my brother Paul, that in lieu of any kind of present, she wanted to go on an Epicurean Excursion with Portland Walking Tours.  So Paul, Anne, my mom, Jason, and I got all gussied up and headed up to Portland to do a tour of all things Epicurean. 

Anne and I both photog'd it up throughout the entire tour and since it was Anne's birthday, I was gracious (and bit the blogging bullet) and allowed her to be the primary blogger of our excursion.  (And that is my gift to you, sis.)  If you, dear reader, are like us and crave details and unique experiences, you can visit Anne's fabulous posts here (part 1) and here (part 2).

For my own post about our tour, I thought I'd focus on one of the highlight tastings of the trip: the Flying Elephant Delicatessen. 

Now, Flying Elephant Delicatessen is pretty much your standard delicatessen experience (which I happen to very much enjoy).  We shuffled in with our tour group, stood in line, and were given a sample of a unnamed soup which we then shuffled back out into the chilly Oregon sunlight to enjoy.

Now, our guide was smart.  He first had us taste the soup, then advise him what flavors we found.  Well, tomato was obvious.  Cream, onion, thyme... but the texture was different.  He had us guess as to what it was - what other flavor was in there, subtly brightening up the tomato.  "Orange," alerted a fellow tour-goer.  "Orange!"  Our guide bellowed out, gleefully, "Welcome to the Flying Elephant's famous tomato orange soup." 

It was lovely.

The recipe is so popular, our guide went on to explain, that the deli - tired of being hounded for it - released it to the public.

So when we got home, Anne located the recipe.  And so, I pass the tomato orange loveliness on to you.

This little Cuisinart guy isn't a standard part of the recipe, but I wanted to show him off anyway.  My immersion blender.  Best birthday gift ever.  Makes shakes and smoothies in glasses, purees soups in pans, does most of your federal income tax return (as long as you don't have too many deductions).  It's amazing.

So you toss the soup stuff together, puree it, and then get to the most important element of Elephant Tomato Orange Soup.  (It is not, curiously, elephant.)

Behold.  The orange.
I bought a nicely priced bag of oranges and squeezed them the old fashioned way (which is - halved, then forked).  I discovered that if I microwaved an orange for about 10 seconds (yes, I risked an orangey, pulpy explosion, I know - it's just how I roll), the juice came out even easier.

I then added my freshly-squeezed orange juice to the delicious tomato-y concoction bubbling happily on my stove.

I allowed it to cook up a bit, added some cream and... wait for it... waaait for iiit...

And my - oh my, do we have one delicious bowl of tomato orange goodness.

Look at the texture in the bowl below.  It's simply beautiful to look at and even more beautiful to eat.  I just love the bright tomato flavor.  It's marvelous.

Now listen, I understand that parts of this recipe - firstly the word "elephant" as a recipe descriptor - but namely "orange" can be a little off-putting for people who aren't too adventurous in their food involvements.  But I guarantee you this is a fabulous soup to try.  I'm so happy that our guide had us taste our way through this soup - I might have also turned up my nose at the words "elephant tomato orange" before the word soup.  But since I let go and opened my foodie mind a bit, I was rewarded with this new personal and family favorite (the Sweetheart heartily enjoyed several bowls).

Another odd ingredient in this soup is baking soda.  Do not leave this out.  The addition of the baking soda cuts the acidity in the soup, which creates a friendlier environment for the cream - in other words. the baking soda makes it so the cream does not curdle in the high acidity of the soup. 

Do yourself a favor - a unique, bright, and tasty favor - and make this soup.  It's perfect for spring (and summer) and so very lovely to eat.

 *   *   *

Elephant Tomato Orange Soup 
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick) 
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 2 (14 1/2 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
In a saucepan, melt butter; add onion and saute until translucent. Add tomatoes, salt, pepper, baking soda and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered about 15 minutes or until slightly thickened.
Puree in a food processor or blender (or with an immersion blender!). 
Return to saucepan and stir in orange juice. At this point, the soup can be refrigerated until ready to serve.
At serving time, add the cream and heat gently, stirring constantly, bringing to a simmer and adjust seasonings if necessary. Extra cream maybe drizzled on top of the soup immediately before serving for decorative effect.

*I doubled the above recipe for my family of 3 and had enough for leftovers over the next couple days.


Pressing on and pressing in.... said...

YUM! Looks like something I must have. Soon. Now? Thank you for sharing! What a fun day that must have been. We love Elephant Deli too. Makes me miss P-town....

Jen Rouse said...

Wow! I may have just found tomorrow night's dinner.

Anonymous said...

This is an awesome recipe to try for a "just girls" brunchy lunch. MMMmmmmm! Thanks for mentioning the hidden ingredient! LOL - those are so important!