There is a cook-writer-scientist (similar to Alton Brown) who I greatly admire named J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. He was a recipe developer at Cooks Illustrated and frequent contributor to the cooking show America's Test Kitchen, and now writes the Food Lab column at Serious Eats.
Although Kenji's bio says his favorite foods are anything covered in pork fat, he just wrapped up a 4-week vegan experiment (sounds familiar to me!) and posted some pretty spectacular recipes. This one is so simple, he actually titles it "15-Minute Creamy Tomato Soup."
The secret to the soup's fake creaminess is 2 slices of plain white bread. Sounds weird, but it WORKS. I didn't really want to buy an entire loaf of Wonderbread (what else would I do with it?), so I bought it, swiped two slices, and gave the rest to my poor, starving, little brother who has zero nutritional standards. A win-win situation.
I ignored Kenji's whole recipe (except the bread part) and used some roasted tomato sauce from the freezer since it already had onions, garlic, basil, crushed red pepper, and other yummy ingredients in it. If you don't have that, follow Kenji's recipe and use canned tomatoes and dried oregano. Easy peasy and MUCH better than the red and white canned stuff loaded with artificial preservatives.
Un-veganize this with a kickass grilled cheese (mine had smoked provolone and avocado - hell yes!) and you have probably the most comforting winter dinner ever.
Creamy Tomato Soup (Without Cream), adapted from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt
1 small onion, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes to taste
2 cans (28 oz) tomatoes, plus 2 cups water
*or instead of all the above, 2 quarts roasted tomato sauce
2 slices white bread, cut into 1 inch chunks
Saute onion and garlic with spices in soup pot over medium heat until soft. Add tomatoes, water and bread and heat through. (Alternatively, just heat up tomato sauce and add bread).
Blend in small batches (add extra olive oil if needed) and return to pot to keep warm.
ONE YEAR AGO: Simple Winter Tomato Sauce
TWO YEARS AGO: Guinness Cake
THREE YEARS AGO: Pretty Ribbon Salad