Done is better than perfect.
It’s a motto that I believe in, but one that, as a recovering perfectionist, I have a hard time role modeling in my life.
Especially when it comes to photography for this site, I struggle with shooting outside the perfect (or at least, reliable) conditions of my apartment, with its predictable light patterns, go-to surfaces, and array of ceramics. Images have become even more important in the world of blogging. But I’m not sure my efforts to perfect them always serves you at the end of the day.
The truth is, I usually don’t do my best cooking in my apartment kitchen.
It’s when I’m out of my comfort zone, or beyond my home turf, that I really get to experiment. Especially when traveling in foreign countries, buying groceries from artisan makers and the most vibrant farmers markets, I’m known to crank out my most creative dishes.
I do my best to recreate them at home. But a part of me wishes I could just take a janky iPhone picture on AirBNB Ikea plates, write up the recipe, and be done with it. Knowing, of course, that the recipe is what you’ll actually be using anyway.
A slightly less dramatic example of this is my parent’s house on Martha’s Vineyard. It’s my happy place. My favorite kitchen to cook in. And an island that gives me endless inspiration at the markets. I’d argue that this is where I make my best food. And yet, a very small percentage of it ends up on the site.
I don’t have my favorite surfaces. I don’t have anything to house the food other than my grandmother’s purple paisley china, which if you know anything about food styling, is perhaps the worst possible backdrop for food. And the light floods the living room from all sides, making it hard to get any depth or flattering shadows on what I’m making.
Like most perfectionism, all these excuses just showcase my flaming insecurities in the photography department. If I was more confident in my abilities, I know I’d be able to make any situation work. But, alas.
All of this is to say that today’s simple recipe for vegan Creamy Tomato Soup, which I made on the vineyard last week, almost didn’t make its way to you. Even though it’s one of the most delicious and easy soups I’ve made in the last year, I nearly didn’t attempt to shoot it.
Instead, I fought those perfectionist tendencies, used a beat-up wood cutting board as a surface, placed it by the door to the backyard, and got the fuck over myself.
Done is better than perfect.
Though, if we’re getting technical here, this cream of tomato soup itself might be pretty close to recipe perfection.
Most people are used to either eating raw gazpacho made from fresh summer tomatoes (sometimes made creamy with stale bread, like in this recipe), or having a canned tomato creamy bisque with a grilled cheese sandwich in the wintertime.
This version is truly the best of both worlds. It uses peak farmer’s market tomatoes from my happy place, cooked gently for a few minutes on the stove to cut their acidity and release some juices. Though the recipe is only 5 ingredients, you might be surprised by the main one: cashews. A quick soak of the nuts makes the texture of the soup super creamy without having to add any dairy.
If you’re in the paleo or Whole30 camp, I think you’ll find this simple cream of tomato soup beyond satisfying. And if you’re sensitive to FODMAPs, don’t sweat it – I have some advice for you in the recipe notes!
Last but not least, the other moral of this creamy tomato soup story is that once I got over the roadblock of perfection, I actually really like the photos!
Read on for the recipe, and even if the conditions aren’t perfect, I highly recommend you make it ASAP.
With health and hedonism,
Vegan Creamy Tomato Soup with Basil
This creamy tomato soup is a cross between a classic cream of tomato and the orange-hued Spanish soup salmorejo. Instead of using stale bread or milk to create that gorgeous light red, this vegan paleo version uses soaked cashews for creaminess. With only 5 ingredients, it’s the perfect quick and easy use of summer tomatoes - it only needs a few minutes of cooking stovetop.
- Bring 1 1/2 cups of water to boil in a kettle. In a heatproof bowl, cover the cashews with the hot water and allow to soak for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over a medium-low flame. Add the garlic cloves and gently infuse the oil until the cloves turn golden brown on all sides. Remove the garlic and discard.
- Carefully add the tomatoes and all their juices to the pan. Stir in the salt, arrange in an even layer and nestle the basil leaves on top. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have released their juices (they should be submerged in liquid) but are still al dente, about 5 minutes. Remove the basil leaves and discard.
- Transfer the cashews and their liquid to the bowl of a high-speed blender or food processor. If you’re interested in achieving the two-tone look, add 1 cup of the tomato mixture and blend until smooth. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cashew-tomato cream and set aside. Add the remaining tomato mixture and liquid to the blender and puree until smooth.
- Divide the soup between 4 bowls and drizzle with the cashew-tomato cream. Garnish with an additional drizzle of olive oil and torn basil leaves. Serve warm or at room temperature.
This recipe is moderate FODMAP because of the cashews. If you're sensitive to cashews, you can reduce the total quantity to 1/3 of a cup. It will just be slightly darker in hue.