My lunchbox this month is in limbo between the seasons: I’ve been craving to fill it with fresh, crunchy foods, but I still need something to ward off the mid-spring chill. Soup is still what I want to eat for lunch most days.
One of the most divine soups I’ve ever had is the BLT Soup at Trio restaurant. I’ve had it dozens of times, whatever the season, and I never tire of the smoky bacon lardons, crispy croutons and tangy arugula pesto swirled into the simple tomato soup.
I didn’t realize how perfectly simple and easy it would be to make it at home until I stumbled onto the recipe in A Taste Of Wyoming by Pamela Sinclair. My favorite restaurant soup can be prepared in 30 minutes from ingredients I always have on hand: canned tomatoes, garlic, chicken broth, bacon and stale bread.
The day I made BLT Soup, the snow was piling up outside on my deck. I hadn’t seen a bundle of pesto-worthy arugula for months, but I still wanted that burst of peppery green that is the sine que non of Trio’s famous BLT soup.
I pawed through my CSA share from Snowdrift Farms. There were bags of Asian braising greens, baby spinach, kale and a bundle of radishes with bright green tops. Who needs arugula with this cache of greens?
I used my favorite canned tomatoes for the BLT Soup — an Italian import of sweet cherry tomatoes that I buy whenever I pass by Pearl Street Market. While the soup bubbled away — already warming me up — I prepared the croutons. The chefs at Trio favor sourdough, but all I had on hand was a loaf of olive thyme bread from 460Bread, gone stale from last weekend’s dinner party. I cut off the crust, cubed the bread, tossed it with butter and olive oil, and after eight minutes in the oven my stale loaf had been repurposed into irresistible buttery croutons for the soup.
The lardons — bacon cut into little rectangles and fried — were also done in no time. I made more than I needed, thinking they’d be good tossed over salad, pasta, eggs and potatoes throughout the week.
I lopped off the greens from the radish bunch, cut them into slivers like a chiffonade of basil, and quickly sautéed them in a tiny bit of bacon fat — my arugula pesto stand-in.
For my kids’ lunchboxes, I made simple grilled cheese sandwiches on brioche (soft and easy to chew for the teenager with braces), which I cut into triangles for easier tomato soup-dipping, and double wrapped in foil to stay warm.
The radishes — the first crunchy, recently harvested, bright food I’d had this spring — were the perfect snack, dipped in butter and rolled in salt, just like the French do.
Newman’s Ginger-O’s from the grocery store, an old favorite cookie, were tucked amongst the goodies for dessert.
Even though I cut the Trio chef’s recipe for BLT Soup in half, I had enough soup for all of our lunchboxes, with two more quarts to stash in the freezer for the next cold front. Just in case it’s going to be a long spring.
Recipe: Trio’s BLT Soup
Summary: Adapted from Trio chefs Will Bradof, Beau Little and Paul Wireman, as published in A Taste of Wyoming by Pamela Sinclair
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ¾ cup finely chopped onion
- ½ cup finely chopped celery
- ½ cup finely chopped carrots
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2, 28 ounce cans tomatoes (I prefer San Marzano or imported cherry tomatoes)
- 4 cups chicken broth
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 slices sourdough bread, cut into ½ inch cubes
- ¾ pound bacon, cut into 1 ½ inch rectangles
- In a large heavy pot, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat. Once the butter foams, add the onion, celery, carrots, and garlic. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic.
- Add the tomatoes and the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, add salt and pepper to taste, and blend to puree. (I use an immersion blender.)
- While the soup is simmering, toss the bread cubes with the olive oil and melted butter and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 375ºF for 8-10 minutes, or until the croutons are golden brown.
- For the lardons, place the bacon pieces in a frying pan and cook until the fat has been rendered and the bacon is crispy. Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels. Wipe out the pan with a paper towel, leaving about 1 tsp of bacon fat for sautéing the greens.
- Cut the radish tops into slivers and blot dry. Heat the frying pan with the teaspoon of bacon fat over medium heat, and add the radish greens. Sauté for 1-2 minutes, until the greens are limp.
- To pack in your lunchbox: fill a thermos jar with hot tap water for a few minutes, then pour out the water and add the hot soup. Place radish greens and lardons on top, and screw the lid on tightly. Pack croutons on the side and add just before eating. Serve with triangles of a grilled cheese sandwich, radishes dipped in butter and Kosher salt, a few of your favorite store-bought cookies.