Tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches are a good match any time, but the Fall may be the best time, because you can pair the soup and sandwich with apple cider, and still sit outside and eat.

Tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches on a fine Fall afternoon.

Tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches on a fine Fall afternoon.

The grilled cheese part is easy (though: 1. use great bread; 2. get great cheese; 3. use evoo instead of butter; 4. put a heavy cast-iron pan on your sandwiches as they’re cooking (with a sheet of wax paper between your sandwich and the bottom of the heavy pan)).

The tomato soup is a little (just a little) more tricky.

The default is some canned atrocity:

Campbell's Tomato Soup ingredients.

Campbell’s Tomato Soup ingredients.

Certainly, there are alternatives to Campbell’s, but even those tend to have ingredients like milk and cane sugar.

There’s really no need for this. It takes roughly 30 minutes to make it from scratch, and it’s just so much better. Particularly, now, when the tomatoes are abundant (and almost gone).

Here’s how:

Tomato Soup Recipe

Make the armomatics
1. Fill the largest pot you have with water, and put it over high heat with a lid.
2. Roughly chop:
a. 2-3 large carrots (peeled)
b. one medium onion
c. one red bell pepper (stemmed and seeded)
d. 2 cloves of garlic (mince these)
3. Add the above to a sautée pan that has been heated (over medium heat) with 1T of evoo in the order you chopped it; waiting a minute or two between each addition. Stir every now and then. Add 2t of kosher salt.

Peel the tomatoes
4. Fill a big bowl with ice and water.
5. Using a sharp knife (the goal is to just pierce the skin – don’t push the knife in too far)Make X marks in the bottom of 4 or 5 softball size tomatoes,
6. By the time the water is boiling – 10-15 minutes – the vegetables should be softened, but not limp. Take them off the heat.
7. Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water. Watch them closely; in about a minute you should see the skin starting to blister a bit around the X marks you made. Take them out of the boiling water, and drop them into the ice water.
8. Once they’re cool enough to handle, peel back the skin under running water (it should slide right off).

Combine the aromatics with the peeled/seeded tomatoes
9. Dump the water from the pot you had the boiling water in and put it back on the stove over medium heat with a few T of evoo.
10. Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out as many of the seeds as you can under running water; breaking them up with your hands and pulling out the stems. Drop the tomato pieces into the pot with the now hot evoo.
11. Pour the vegetable mixture from the sautée pan into the pot with the tomatoes. Stir and bring to a boil, and then turn the heat down to a simmer.
12. Let simmer for 20 minutes.

Blend the soup
13. A Vitamix is best – do it in two batches – using the highest setting for a minute or so (make sure to leave the air hole on the blender lid open so the heat can escape). An immersion blender or non-Vitamix blender will work too, but make sure you REALLY blend it.
14. Wipe the pot clean of any residual chunks, and pour the now smooth soup back in. Heat and adjust the seasonings.

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[The Chasing the Thrill posts chronicle my adventures in trying to capture that ephemeral moment when song and audio fidelity come together into a sound that makes me forget everything else. Mostly it will be my notes on the vinyl that I listen to, but may include some non-vinyl music moments as well. If you’re interested in the set up I use to listen on, here it is.]

The instrumentation, performances, and production on Morning Phase augments the lyrical tone without veering into threnody territory that it would have in lesser hands.

The instrumentation, performances, and production on Morning Phase augments the lyrical tone without veering into threnody territory that it would have in lesser hands.

It took me a while to put the pieces together on why I love this record so much. It’s the proverbial “sleeper”; a ripple on a pond portending something much deeper and darker below the surface.

Even the name – with its thinly veiled double meaning (Morning Phase::”mourning phase”) – beckons you to squint a little and look more closely.

When you do…when you put the time in, the record conforms to my “rule” in defining art: it rewards the greater scrutiny, without demanding it.

The closer inspection reveals that, indeed, there is mourning here. It’s not necessary to find an illustrative lyric – they all deal with loss and isolation.

The instrumentation, performances, and production all augment the lyrical tone without veering into threnody territory that it would have in lesser hands.

And this combination – mournful lyrics combined with elegiac music/production – is one I know well. This is REM’s domain, and, specifically, Automatic for the People terroir. Like Morning PhaseAutomatic is about loss and isolation, and like Morning PhaseAutomatic clothes these sentiments in instrumentation and production — both records lean heavily on acoustic instruments and string arrangements — that seems to simultaneously embellish and lighten the weight of the words.

The 180 gram pressing of Morning Phase does soften the edges a bit; allowing for an overall lower frequency wash throughout that is entirely consistent with the feel of the lyrics and the music.

By far and away, Morning Phase is my favorite non-jazz record of 2014, and certainly is in good company with its ancestral forbearer, Automatic for the People.

[Not that anyone would notice or care, but in prior “Chasing the Thrill” pieces, I put in numerical ratings. I’m not doing that anymore. If I’m taking the time write about them, it means I think they belong in anyone’s vinyl collection; they’re all great.]

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