Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup (ARF/5 #8)

When I visit friends and family in Chicago I am taken to an inviting Indian restaurant. Upon arrival, diners are promptly brought a sweet, buttery, roasted red pepper dipping sauce accompanied by a basket of steaming nan. I can sit there all night undecided on what to order, finish off a bowl of dipping sauce, and leave happy and fulfilled.

This soup is made with that dip in mind. With the removal of some butter and the addition of some hearty chicken stock, it provides the perfect meal. The natural sweetness of the red pepper is brought to its fullest potential in this dish, taking center stage. It is sweet and beautiful: the black burnt skin adds a stunning accent against the deep scarlet of the soup. It is a healthy dish in these cold winter months. In the height of summer, it is enjoyable cold. For those that crave zest, add a little hot sauce, providing a perfect companion. For something more comforting, an addition of cream or milk provides a thicker consistency.

Red peppers are high in vitamin C and antioxidants while remaining low in calories. In this soup, I made my own stock (bought stock may also be used). I left whole chunks of vegetables in the stock along with chicken. I separated the chicken from the vegetables, adding the vegetables to the roasted red peppers and tomatoes, puréed with everything else. Chicken was returned post-purée to make this extra hearty. The verdict is that this soup is sweet, savory and aesthetically pleasing in the bowl. Served along with a toasted bagel or crispy bread, this is the perfect meal.

Serves about 8. Active Time= 15 minutes. Inactive time= 1 hour.
* 4 red peppers, halved
* 4 roma tomatoes, halved
* 1 head garlic, remove cloves from skin
* 1 medium onion, chopped
* 2 stalks celery, chopped
* 2 carrots, chopped
* 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
* 1 5-oz can tomato paste
* 2 Tbl fresh parsley
* 2 Tbl butter
* 2 Tbl olive oil

1) In an oven-safe dish, arrange tomatoes and peppers skin up. Use a dish that is large enough to avoid overlapping too much. Add garlic cloves. Drizzle with olive oil and put under the boiler for 20-30 minutes. Remove when skin of vegetables is blackened. Using tongs, place red pepper, tomatoes and garlic in a paper bag (rest inside a bowl to catch liquids). Close and let rest 20 minutes to continue cooking. Retain any liquid left in the baking dish.
2) While red peppers, garlic and tomatoes are in the bag, over medium melt butter in a soup pot. Sauté onion, celery and carrots until onion is soft, 8-10 minutes. Add stock and tomato paste; let warm.
3) Add peppers, tomato, garlic and any remaining liquid to the soup pot. Add parsley and bring to a simmer. Carefully in batches using a blender, or with a hand-held cordless blender, purée the soup.
4) Garnish with fresh parsley. Add chicken, cream or milk if desired.

NOTE: If you desire the addition of chicken, and do not have it in the stock, simply cook some up on a pan and add it after the soup is puréed. To keep this vegetarian but add some heartiness, toss chopped mushrooms in with the onions, celery and carrots.

Head on over to Sweetnicks for more ARF/5-A-Day recipes!

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