Has any one else had the beach on their mind lately? Let me tell you it has been co-old around here. Last week around 11am the thermostat in my car read -6 degrees and I thought, “wow, it’s warmed up 20 degrees already.” This week is considerably warmer but I have our beach vacation all booked for April. Until then, I will enjoy the snow and the beautiful blue sky days.
We are deep in soup season. And the upside of the cold weather is spending time inside a warm house, cooking. I made some vegetable broth last week, which I try to do every few weeks or so – it is really so easy. And it is a good way to use up any vegetables that might be on their way out. I chop up an onion, a couple carrots and a couple stalks of celery and roast them in a baking sheet with a little oil for about 20 minutes. Then I put them in a big pot filled with boiling water and cook the broth over medium heat for about 45 minutes with some salt and pepper. Strain and pour into containers to freeze or use in the next few days. It was just what I needed for this soup.
Years ago I used to buy boxed organic red pepper soup that was pretty tasty. I don’t buy canned or boxed soup anymore, especially not when they are so easy to make. I saw a great recipe on EatingWell.com that inspired me. This soup is better than the boxed soup, of course, and doesn’t take more than 30 minuted to make. The jalapeno adds a nice spice but if you don’t like spice, or are making this for your kids you might want to leave that out.
As for spices, fresh is always best. If you have spices in your cabinet that have been there for years, they probably aren’t good anymore. Buying spices in the bulk section of the market is great because you reduce waste. Just buy a little bit so the container of cumin, for example, isn’t still in your cabinet 5 years later. If you are so inclined, you could experiment with nutmeg. But a fresh, whoole nutmeg and with a cheese grater or zester, grind the nutmeg and compare the smell to the container that has been in your cabinet for a while. I took a cooking class once and the chef said he doesn’t keep spices for more than a year and goes to his mothers house every year and throws out all her old spices. I am not going that far, but it’s good to take notice of your spice cabinet. For this recipe I used whole cardamon pods and ground the seeds in a coffee grinder. It added really great flavor to this soup. And the smell was wonderful.
If you have a nut allergy, try replacing the pistachios with sunflower seeds or raw pumpkin seeds.
The most time consuming part of this recipe is shelling the pistachios. I find it meditative though. It’s also something older kids can do!
Red Pepper Soup (serves 2-4) –takes about 30-40 minutes
(adapted from eatingwell.com)
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 small onion, diced
2 large red bell peppers, seeded and diced
1 jalapeno, de-seeded and diced
2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 cup unsalted shelled pistachios
2 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons heavy cream, mascarpone, or creme fraiche
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro or basil
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell peppers and jalapeno. Cook until the onion is lightly brown around the edges, 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionaly. Add paprika, salt and cardamom and cook, stirring, until the spices are very fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
Add pistachios and broth (or water). Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from the heat; let cool 5 minutes.
Transfer the soup to a blender and puree until smooth. (Be careful when pureeing hot liquids.) Return the soup to the pot.
When serving, add a dollop of cream to each bowl of soup and sprinkle with cilantro and a few chopped pistachios.