Fried Green Tomato Soup, inspired by Toledo

by Terry B on November 15, 2017

Green tomatoes make this creamy soup less tomato-y, more vegetal. Leeks, garlic, thyme and bacon add to its savoriness. Recipe below.

Fried Green Tomato Soup

We seem to have a natural affinity for the Rust Belt. Marion grew up in Detroit, me in St. Louis. And while our ultimate destination on our recent road trip was Washington, DC and the Virginias, stops in Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Toledo moved us every bit as much.

These Rust Belt cities all show the ravages of time, of changing industries, job loss and shifting populations. But they also show resilience, and not just in a hunkered down, heels-dug-in sort of way. These cities are alive with the spirit and imagination of the people who call them home. Those who never left, those who left and later “came home” and those who moved to them later, by choice.

You see it in cool little shops and lively cafes, of course, but also in the well-tended yards and revitalizing neighborhoods—and in community activism and resources aimed at helping everyone share in any upswing. You also see it in forward-thinking companies wanting to be part of the conversation and growth in positive ways. In downtown Cleveland, we stayed at a Holiday Inn Express in the gut-rehabbed Guardian Bank Building, built in 1894. The lobby is fabulous, and the rooms amazing, with the original hardwood flooring of the former offices and soaring 15-foot ceilings. Speaking from our own new old house experience, it would have been cheaper and faster to knock the old building down and do new construction. But the company and the city saw something worth saving and did it beautifully.

We also have a natural affinity for art. We visit museums everywhere we go. This is where you feel the historic power of Rust Belt cities, the might and civic pride of the wealthy industrialists who built palatial museums and filled them with great works of art, for their cities.

Calder's Stegosaurus, Toledo Museum of Art

The last day of our trip, we stopped at the Toledo Museum of Art. We’ve been here a number of times and are always knocked out by the art and by the building itself. Here, you see Alexander Calder’s Stegosaurus. And I should say buildings—the museum has expanded numerous times and now includes a separate post-modern Glass Pavilion to house an extensive collection of glass art, as well as state-of-the-art glassmaking facilities. We stopped specifically to see a show there, Fired Up: Contemporary Glass by Women Artists. It included Dress Impression with Train, a life-sized glass dress by Karen LaMonte.

Dress Impression with Train, Karen LaMonte

 We also ate at the museum café, always a treat. There, along with a deliciously fatty Reuben sandwich, we had steaming bowls of fried green tomato soup. This recipe is not an attempt to recreate that soup—it’s just inspired by it.

Fried Green Tomato Soup
Makes 4 first-course servings

1 leek
3 strips of bacon
olive oil (if needed)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1-1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
5 cups roughly chopped green tomatoes (about 3 tomatoes)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chicken stock or reduced-sodium store-bought broth
2 cups water
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup half & half

Trim the roots and green tops from the leek and halve the remaining white and pale green part lengthwise. Rinse carefully and slice into half-inch half moons. Cook the bacon in the bottom of a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium flame until just crisp. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate and reserve. Drain all but 2 tablespoons of rendered bacon fat from pan—or add olive oil if your bacon doesn’t produce enough fat. Add the sliced leek and sweat, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and thyme and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 45 seconds.

Add tomatoes to pot, season generously with salt and pepper, and stir to coat with bacon fat (again, add olive oil, if needed). Cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are completely tender, about 25 minutes. At first, the tomatoes will kick off a lot of moisture; as that cooks away, be sure to stir frequently to prevent sticking.

Stir in broth, water and bay leaf. Raise heat and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook, partially covered, for about 30 minutes. Let cool slightly, then working in batches, purée soup in blender until completely smooth.

Return to pot and gently rewarm. Stir in half & half, adjust seasonings with salt and pepper, and serve, garnishing with bacon (if you haven’t already eaten it).

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Dani H November 15, 2017 at 8:19 pm

Your trip sounds wonderful (as does the soup.) Wherever we travel, we always try to visit art museums. That glass dress looks amazing! Thanks for sharing the pictures.

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