As general manager of downtown Columbus’s M restaurant, Kristen Luff spends her days and nights around exceptionally tasty food — so exceptional that M has earned and retained a coveted Four Diamond rating from the AAA travelers’ organization for the last seven years. And when she puts her mom hat on with daughter Kiera, 7, and son Jameson, 3, she doesn’t settle for anything less than tasty in their home kitchen.
But for a special treat one Saturday morning, Luff and the kids took over the M kitchen (executive chef Jeff Rabold was around, too, to help them find all the ingredients). The goal? To find a kid-friendly way to prepare M’s signature tomato soup (created by M’s founding executive chef Brian Hinshaw) to go with the grilled-cheese sandwiches they made out of brioche bread and Tillamook cheddar cheese.
“Really, the idea behind all this,” Luff explained, “is that even though it’s simple, if you start with quality ingredients, it’s going to taste better and be better for them.”
The kids probably had the most fun chopping/cutting up the herbs for the soup with scissors (“cut it like you’re giving it a haircut,” advised their mother) and buttering their brioche bread for pan grilling (which prompted much singing). But the best part was eating their creations — in a “fancy booth” out in the M restaurant.
“Could I have some milk, Mother?” asked Jameson of his waitress before wolfing down his soup and sandwich. Success!
M SIGNATURE TOMATO SOUP
- 12 Roma tomatoes, quartered, then drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper, then roasted lightly in a 400-degree oven until softened
- 1/4 pound of sun-dried tomatoes, rehydrated in water — save the liquid
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 of a white onion, peeled and chopped
- 32 ounces of tomato juice
- 1 cup warm chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 2 ribs of celery, chopped
- 1 cup cream
- 1/4 pound of butter
- 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
- kosher salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped rough
- 1 tablespoon thyme, chopped rough
- 1 tablespoon basil, chopped rough
Kid (with grown-up help, if needed): Roughly chop the parsley, thyme and basil by cutting them up with scissors.
Grown-up (with kid help, if needed): Roast the Roma tomatoes, rehydrate the sun-dried tomatoes, cut up the onion, garlic and celery.
Grown-up: Melt butter in a large pot. Older children can help sauté the onion, garlic and celery until they’re soft with no color. Gently sprinkle in the flour and stir until mixed in thoroughly. Then add the tomato paste and stir until mixed. Add the chicken stock and rehydrated-tomato liquid and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Add the remaining ingredients except for the cream and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir in the cream and simmer for 10 more minutes.
Grown-up: Pour the liquid into a mixer.
Kid: Push the button that lets you puree the liquid until the roasted tomatoes are completely broken down and mushed together.
Grown-up: Strain the pureed mixture through a cheesecloth (or chinois), pressing to remove all liquid. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add up to 4 tablespoons of softened butter (to thicken the soup).
Kid and grown-up: Slurp it up with your grilled-cheese sandwich and milk!
Note: This recipe makes four servings, and the soup can be refrigerated for later consumption (but be sure to cool it first before refrigeration).