Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Roasted Red Bell Pepper Soup

Give a Soup-a-holic an immersion blender and what she'll do?
She will go into a blended soup overdrive!

And that's precisely whats happening to me. So presenting today's soup echoing the color of the season: a bright red Roasted Red Bell Pepper Soup!


I am a self proclaimed roasted red bell pepper addict. Raid my pantry at any given time and you'll find few jars of these glorious red beauties stashed away in some remote corners. I use it in my humus, in my pasta, in my salads. One of my favorite lunch is roasted red peppers piled high on a slice of whole wheat bread, topped with goat cheese and then broiled for a couple of minutes.
D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S!

Today we are not talking about roasted red peeper from the jar or broiled goat cheese. But one day I will talk about broiled goat cheese! I promise, I will do!


Given my love for red peppers, its strange that I haven't tried this gorgeous soup until now. There are couple of reasons. Not having a immersion blender till now may be one, but the main reason being ,red peppers are so darn expensive! And you need quite a few for this soup.




Jarred roasted peppers is comparatively cheaper substitute, but nothing can beat the caramelized sweetness of freshly roasted peppers in this soup. So whenever you see red peppers on sale, grab quite a few of them and make this incredibly delicious yet light soup. A friend suggested buying them from Indian grocers. They are relatively cheaper there but definitely not as fresh. You might think twice about adding them raw in your salads, but it works perfectly fine roasted in this soup.

Blended soups really doesn't require any thickening agent. But my compulsion does. So today was cornstarch slurry's turn. It does give a nice creamy finish to the soup. The same effect can be done with heavy cream or cashew milk too. I made my slurry with cornstarch and milk, but water or broth will work just fine. 



We were completely in love with this soup and hope you would enjoy it as much as we do. The best thing about soups is the instant comfort they provide, almost like wrapping you in the cozy warmth of a plush quilt.  On that warm and fuzzy note, here is the recipe and a heartfelt Merry Christmas!

May your world be filled with warmth, joy and good cheer
Merry Christmas!


Recipe Snapshot: Roasted Red Bell Pepper Soup

Serves: 4 serving
(1 serving = 1 cup)

What I used:
Red Bell Peppers - 5, cut in half, seeds and membranes removed.

Garlic - 6 fat cloves, skin on.

Onions - 1 medium sized, chopped

Dried Thyme - 1/2 tsp (2 tsp, if using fresh thyme)

Dried Oregano - 1/2 tsp

Chicken or Vegetable Stock or Broth - 4 cups

Olive Oil - 2 tbsp

Cornstarch Slurry - 1 tbsp of cornstarch mixed with 2 tsp of cold milk or water

Hot Sauce (I used Tabasco) - 10 to 15 shakes or to taste (optional)

Red Wine or Rice Vinegar - 1/2 tsp

Salt

Pepper

What I did:
1. Preheat the oven at 450F.

2. Half the red peppers and remove all seeds and membranes. Lay them cut side down on a aluminium foil lined cookie sheet. Also toss in the skin-on garlic cloves. Drizzle a little oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes or till the peppers are soft and the skin charred. My oven has a problem of uneven heating. So few of my peppers were badly charred and few were just about wrinkled.


3. Once the peppers are soft, put them in a zip lock or cover the roasting tray with foil. This will help the peppers steam and skinning them will be easier.

4. While the peppers are steaming, in a stock pot heat two tablespoon of oil and add the chopped onion. Once the onions sweat a little add the dried thyme and oregano. If using fresh herbs, add a little more. Italian seasoning or herb de provence can be substituted instead of thyme and oregano. Saute till the onions are soft and slightly brown.

5. Meanwhile, peel the charred skin off the red peppers. 

6. Once the onions are lightly browned and fragrant, add the roasted and skinned peppers along with the delicious juices they released. Also squeeze the garlic pods and add the roasted garlicky goodness into the pot. Saute for two more minuets.


7. Add the vegetable or chicken stock and bring the liquid to a boil and then simmer for 5 minutes. Do not add any salt till this stage. I used store bought stock and it had plenty of salt.  

8.   Blend the soup with either an immersion blender or in a regular blender, in batches. If using a regular blender or a processor, definitely remove the plug on the lid and cover with a thick kitchen towel. This with allow the heat to vent without a creating a big mess.

9. Return the blended soup to heat. Add the corn starch slurry and bring it to a gentle simmer. Check the seasoning and adjust the salt and pepper according. The soup will thicken beautifully in no time.

10. Serve warm with dashes of hot sauce and little red wine vinegar and cracker or crusty bread on the side.

Notes/Tip: 
1. Red bell peppers are sweet and roasting them only enhances their sweetness.  To balance out the sweetness I like adding a few dashes of hot sauce and red wine vinegar. But that is purely optional.

2. Instead of cornstarch slurry, a splash of heavy cream can be used to thicken the soup. It will bring richness to the soup.



Diabetic Platter:
1. Bell peppers are low in calories! So, even if you eat one full cup of them, you get just about 45 calories. Bonus: that one cup will give you more than your daily quota of Vitamin A and C!

2. They contain plenty of vitamin C, which powers up your immune system and keeps skin youthful.  The highest amount of Vitamin C in a bell pepper is concentrated in the red variety.

3. Red bell peppers contain several phytochemicals and carotenoids, particularly beta-carotene, which lavish you with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

4. The capsaicin in bell peppers has multiple health benefits. Studies show that it reduces ‘bad’ cholesterol, controls diabetes, brings relief from pain and eases inflammation.

5. The sulfur content in bell peppers makes them play a protective role in certain types of cancers.

6. The bell pepper is a good source of Vitamin E, which is known to play a key role in keeping skin and hair looking youthful.

7. Bell peppers also contain vitamin B6, which is essential for the health of the nervous system and helps renew cells.

8. Certain enzymes in bell peppers, such as lutein, protect the eyes from cataracts and macular degeneration later in life.


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