Creamless Creamy Tomato Soup

Source:  Cooks Illustrated Magazine
 
2 T. extra virgin olive oil (original recipe called for 1/4 cup but I cut it back to cut the calories)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 T.)
1/4 tsp. hot red pepper flakes or to taste
1 bay leaf
2 (28-oz.) cans whole tomatoes packed in juice (I used Muir Glen Organic--worth the splurge for this)
1 T. brown sugar
3 slices good-quality white bread, crusts removed and torn into 1-inch pieces
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 T. brandy (optional--I omitted)
1/4 cup fresh chives or minced green onion tops
 
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion, garlic, red pepper flakes (if using), and bay leaf. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and their juice. Using potato masher, mash until no pieces bigger than 2 inches remain. Stir in sugar and bread; bring soup to boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until bread is completely saturated and starts to break down, about 5 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf.

Transfer half of soup to blender. Process until soup is smooth and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to large bowl and repeat with remaining soup.  Return soup to pot. Stir in chicken broth and brandy (if using). Return soup to boil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve soup in individual bowls. Sprinkle each portion with pepper and chives or green onions and drizzle with olive oil, if desired.