TOMATO AND BASIL SOUP   
  Ingredients :
    Bechamel Sauce:
    2 tablespoons butter
    3 tablespoons flour
    1 ˝ cup milk
    3 lb 5 oz (1 ˝ k) tomatoes, peeled, seedless and chopped coarsely
    10 basil leaves, chopped
    1 1/4 cup beef stock
    2 bay leaves
    1 teaspoon thyme
    ˝ cup dry white wine
    1 tablespoon tomato paste (optional)

    Basil Croutons:
    5 basil leaves, chopped
    3 tablespoons salted butter
    4 slices of bread

  Preparation:
Bechamel Sauce:
To prepare the bechamel sauce, melt butter in a medium saucepan and add flour, stirring for 1 or 2 minutes. Gradually add milk and bring to a boil, stirring constantly until sauce thickens. Remove from heat.

Place tomatoes in a heavy bottom pan together with the beef stock, bay leaf and thyme. Cover pan and bring to a boil until tomatoes are cooked and turn into a purée. Force tomatoes through a strainer, return to the heat and add wine. Bring to a boil for 5 to 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add basil leaves.

Combine bechamel sauce with tomato and mix thoroughly. Correct seasonings. Add tomato paste, if desired.

Serve very hot. Garnish with a basil leaf fried in hot oil.

Serve with basil croutons.

Basil Croutons:
Melt salted butter and combine with basil leaves.

Remove crust from slices of bread and cut each diagonally crosswise. Place triangles on a greased baking sheet. Brush triangles with melted butter and basil. Bake until golden.

Serve with tomato soup.
 
        4 to 6 servings
       
 
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