Recipe Test: Pureed Tomato and Red Pepper Soup

(Image credit:  Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times)

This is the time of year when I want belly-warming food.  Soups, stews, braises, and pretty much anything that can be cooked in a Dutch oven or a large pot and makes the house smell good are favorites in my kitchen.  That's why, when I happened on this recipe by Martha Rose Shulman of the New York Times.  I knew I had to try it.

This is a rich hearty vegetarian soup, and it's low in fat and calories.  It took a minimum of prep time and very little babysitting.  It's the kind of soup that you can get going on the stove top, and then do other things, checking on it for an occasional stir.  It helps to have an immersion blender, but a regular blender will work as well.  Just be careful not to overfill the blender or you'll be scraping hot soup off yourself and the ceiling.  And, by the way, if you don't have an immersion blender, you are working way too hard.  I have an inexpensive one, and I believe it is a kitchen essential for those of us who like home-made soup.

This recipe requires roasting your red bell peppers ahead of time.  This is a simple thing to do, and it's also fine to do it while you make the soup.  You can add the peppers in whenever you have them ready.  I would suggest getting your oven preheated before you start the soup, however.  It can take quite some time to bring your oven up to temperature.  You can also do this in a toaster oven if you have one large enough.  Just rinse your peppers and place them on a foil covered rimmed baking sheet, then roast them in a 500°F oven for about 30 minutes until the skins have blistered and turned black in places.  Then use tongs to place them in a bowl covered with plastic wrap or a zip-top bag.  Allow them to steam for 15 minutes, and you will be amazed at how the skins just slip right off.  Easy as pie.  Honest.  If you prefer, you can roast the bell peppers ahead of time and just set them aside until you're ready to use them.  While I think fresh roasted peppers are easy to make and more flavorful, it's fine to use the jarred ones . . . about half a cup of chopped peppers.

So here's the recipe:

Pureed Tomato and Red Pepper Soup
Recipe By:  Martha Rose Shulman
Serves 6

2 red bell peppers
2 tablespoons  extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion -- chopped
1/2 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup diced celery
salt to taste
4 large garlic cloves -- minced
1 28-oz can chopped tomatoes with juice
1/4 cup  tomato paste
2 sprigs fresh basil
pinch cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sugar -- optional
1 1/2 quarts vegetable stock or water
1/4 cup  rice -- preferably a medium-grain rice like arborio
Freshly ground black pepper
For optional garnish:
garlic croutons
freshly grated parmesan cheese
slivered fresh basil leaves

Preheat oven to 500°F.  Cover a rimmed baking dish with foil and place whole bell peppers on baking sheet.  Roast in preheated oven for 30-45 minutes until skins are blackened and puffed.  Remove from oven.  Using tongs, place bell peppers in a zip-top bag and seal, steaming them for 15 minutes.  Then remove stems and seeds and slip off skins.  Roughly chop.

Meanwhile, heat oil over medium heat in a large, heavy soup pot and add the onion.  Cook stirring often until onion is translucent, about 3 minutes, and add the carrot and celery and a generous pinch of salt.  Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender and fragrant, about 5 more minutes.  Stir in the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute.  Add the tomatoes with their liquid, the tomato paste, basil springs, cinnamon, sugar, if using, and salt to taste.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have cooked down slightly and smell fragrant, about 10 minutes.

Add the stock or water, rice, the diced roasted peppers (when ready), and salt to taste.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes, stirring from time to time.  Season with freshly ground pepper, taste and adjust salt.  Remove the basil sprigs.

Using an immersion blender, puree the soup.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Serve topped with croutons, Parmesan cheese, and/or slivered basil.

Enjoy this!  Leftovers are great for lunch or another meal.  I paired mine up with a recipe I found on montcarte.ca for Feta, Basil and Roasted Red Pepper Muffins.  These were delicious and easy to make, and they gave me a chance to use up some feta cheese that was hanging out in my fridge.

And now, the cat of the house is rubbing around my ankles itching to get out into this rare day of sunshine.  Time to give that new camera another workout.  Duty calls. 

3 comments from clever and witty friends:

Mrs.Pickles said...

Oh wow that sounds good. I am going to have to add to my list of soups to try in 2012!

Loretta said...

This one sounds good Barbara...we could really have a bowl right about now...it is cold here! lol.

PJ said...

Yum. This looks like a good soup to make. Love home made soups and breads.