Servings: Makes 8 to 10 cups
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, diced
4 shallots, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and minced
1 stalk celery with leaves, minced
2 tablespoons minced fennel bulb
4 cloves garlic, minced (or more to taste)
3 pounds mixed ripe tomatoes, diced with juices reserved
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1 tablespoon gin
1 to 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup cream, optional
Freshly ground black pepper
16 large basil leaves, sliced crosswise into thin ribbons, for garnish
1. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the onion, shallots, carrot, celery and fennel and cook until softened, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic and continue to cook for 1 minute until aromatic.
2. Add the diced tomatoes with their juices, along with the lemon juice, sugar, paprika, gin and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the tomato liquid reduces and the mixture has thickened slightly, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool slightly.
3. Transfer the vegetables, in batches, to a blender jar and puree until smooth, then return to the pot. Add the broth, one cup at a time, until the soup reaches desired consistency, stirring to thoroughly combine.
4. Bring the soup to a gentle simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently. Add the cream if desired and adjust the seasoning to taste with salt and black pepper. Garnish each serving with basil.
Each of 10 servings: 95 calories; 2 grams protein; 10 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 5 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 6 mg. cholesterol; 262 mg. sodium.