Timing Has to Be Perfect

Otherwise, Tomato and Crab Soup wouldn’t deliver the garden’s glorious flavors with quite such style.  Certainly, the soup would be memorable any time of year, but in early August, when high summer vaults garden vegetables past each other in pursuing perfection, the results approach the divine.  Ambrosia.

Soup now, though?  While the humidity gives vegetables that extra we spend the whole year craving, coolness is what’s needed.  Fortunately, Tomato and Crab Soup, much like last summer’s gazpacho, is best served chilled.   Heat develops the ingredients’ flavors, and cooking forges an ideal combination, but the refrigerator refines these flavors and makes them delightfully refreshing.

Moreover, when Bon Appetit featured this preparation in its Everyday Meals compilation, the ingredients list promised a creation a bit more intriguing than standard tomato soup.  Lemongrass plays an ethereal melody, while a generous pour of coconut milk laces each spoonful with a sweet creaminess.  As though this weren’t evocative enough, lime juice, fish sauce and bird chilies complete the excursion.  This is tomato soup as enjoyed along Thailand’s glistening shores.

Still, it’s the garden, above all else, that makes this a spectacular experience.  The ingredients are available year-round, but at this particular moment they exult.  Here’s a look at some of the stunners that make this a recipe to remember:Garden Vegetables This bounty includes fresh corn.  Though it doesn’t go into the soup, corn is integral (obviously) to making the cornbread served alongside it.  The bread’s buttery sweetness is a perfect companion for the soup’s spicy tang.  This particular preparation comes from Williamsburg, at Christina Campbell’s Tavern, and is described in greater detail in the Peanut Soup entry.  Purely optional, of course, but the bread makes this a wonderfully satisfying meal.

The soup provides an inviting combination at any time, but it’s now, at peak, when the garden makes magic happen.  Enjoy the show.


Tomato and Crab Soup

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (*1)
  • 5 scallions, sliced thinly
  • two stalks lemongrass, trimmed, peeled and sliced thinly (*2)
  • 1 Thai or Fresno chile, seeded and minced
  • 2 and 1/2 pounds beefsteak tomatoes, chopped (*3)
  • 2 and 1/4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (*4)
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice (*5)
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • kosher salt
  • 1/2 pound fresh lump crabmeat (*6)
  • 6 snow peas, trimmed and sliced thinly on the diagonal

Over medium heat in a saucepan, bring oil to the point at which it begins to shimmer.  Add the scallions, lemongrass and chile and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes.  Introduce the tomatoes and cook until they soften, about 6 more minutes.  Stir in the stock, coconut milk, orange juice and fish sauce and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes.  Turn off heat and allow mixture to cool a bit, roughly 20 more minutes.

Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth. (*7) Pour all batches back into original saucepan, and stir briefly to combine.  Stir in lime juice and add salt to taste. (*8)

Refrigerate, covered, for a few hours if a chilled soup is desired, or ladle directly into serving bowls if a hot soup is the goal.  Garnish with crab and snow peas and serve.


1 – In a Thai soup?  No.  Olive oil has its place (see any Greek or Near Eastern entry), but for this method, peanut oil is best.  Even “plain” vegetable oil is better.  Olive oil?  What was Bon Appetit thinking?

2 – If you can’t find fresh lemongrass, the jarred variety isn’t ideal, but it is an acceptable replacement.  In a pinch, you always can slice two more scallions and squeeze in a lemon’s-worth of juice and a dash of sugar.

3 – As you can see in the picture above, a variety of tomatoes works best.  I chose a couple burgundy tomatoes for the depth and richness they add, but the final decision is the cook’s (i.e., yours).

4 – I selected chicken stock, as several months ago I made a large pot (a cauldron, almost) of it and froze the excess.  Quite handy, that.  No matter what you choose, homemade-when it’s available-is best.

5 – A medium-size navel orange will be more than enough for this.  Anything that’s left over, hey look, free orange juice!

6 – The crabmeat is a nice addition, but the soup will be just as good without it.  If you want this soup to be vegetarian (at least a couple of you are, and others married into it), omit the crabmeat, use vegetable stock instead of chicken, and substitute soy sauce for the fish sauce.  Not quite the same, but it still would be delectable and it’d be even healthier.

7 – For me, three batches worked well.  I stopped just short of making the mixture absolutely smooth, as a little texture is nice.  To each his own, though, so if you’re aiming for Campbell’s, pulse away.

8 – Optional, of course, but I also threw in a dash of white pepper, as it balances the tomatoes’ fruitiness.



2 thoughts on “Timing Has to Be Perfect

  1. The soup looks terrific. And there are not many things that beat the humidity like a chilled soup does. A delectable recipe as always.


    1. Much appreciated, as always! Are many local soups served chilled? When your state’s temperatures climb, as they likely do when it’s still snowing around here, relief has to be a priority. With so much agriculture around, certain vegetables must be grown for their cooling properties.

      Liked by 1 person

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