garden fresh tomato soup

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2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped small, about 1 cup
1 medium carrot, scrubbed and sliced thinly, about 3/4 cup
1 large clove garlic, chopped
2 -2 1/4 pounds fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 cup low sodium chicken stock or water
3 Tablespoons fresh basil leaves chopped
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper ( about 12 grinds)

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter ( optional)
2 Tablespoons -1/4 cup heavy cream ( optional)
extra fresh basil and croutons for garnish

Make the Soup:
        In a large heavy pot, heat the oil and add the onion and carrot with a pinch of salt. Cook until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients except the butter and the cream. Give it a good stir, bring to a boil, and then simmer for about 30 minutes.
        Transfer to a food mill or blender and blend until smooth. If using a blender or food processor, you can pass it through a sieve for a creamier consistency. Return to the pot and add the butter and cream if using. Gently reheat. Serve with torn basil leaves and croutons.

MAKES 4 servings. YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. To get a silky, creamy soup, a food mill is the best way to go. It leaves all of the bitter seeds and skin behind. It's great for all sorts of purees and certainly worth owning. You can snag one at a yard sale for a couple of bucks or new for around $20.
Alternatively, you can puree the soup in batches in a blender and then work it through a sieve with a rubber spatula. < 2. As far as garnish goes, THI IS A BLANK CANVAS. You can add any fresh herbs at the end. More cream, or cooked fresh shelled beans, bacon or my Basically Addictive Croutons, all would be tasty.
3. I know it requires more stove time, but how about a toasty grilled cheese?
4. This can be easily doubled or tripled.