Corn and Red Pepper Bisque

Today’s chill in the air got me thinking once again about soup, and one of the favorites served as a first course over the years at our Thanksgiving dinners.  One thing I always try to avoid in a menu is redundancy.  If there’s butternut squash as a side, there’s no butternut squash soup to begin.  So whenever that’s the case, I’d prepare this gorgeously golden corn bisque with red bell pepper.

This recipe first appeared in Bon Appetit in 1998; I discovered it a few years later and have had it on our Thanksgiving menu several times.  It’s one of those simple dishes that’s short on effort and long on flavor – but only if you use the sweetest, most golden corn you can find.  Otherwise the result will not achieve greatness.  Trader Joe’s Supersweet Organic Corn beats all other in this regard, and I always make sure to buy mine well ahead of time because a few years ago they ran out…and my search for a substitute took forever combing the frozen vegetable aisles of half a dozen markets.Unknown

The soup can be prepared a day or two ahead, needing only to taken out of the fridge for about an hour and then reheated before serving.

CORN BISQUE WITH RED BELL PEPPER AND ROSEMARY

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INGREDIENTS:

1/2 stick unsalted butter (4 tbsp)

2 cups chopped sweet onions

1/2 cup each diced carrot & celery

7-1/2 cups Trader Joe’s Organic Supersweet Corn (about 42 ounces or 2-1/2 packages)

2 tsp minced fresh rosemary

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (this tiny bit adds a nice kick to the whole pot)

6 cups chicken broth

1 cup half & half

1 red bell pepper chopped

PREPARATION:

In a large heavy pot such as a 5-quart Dutch oven, melt 3 tbsp of the butter and sauté the onions, carrots and celery on medium high about 3 minutes.  Add 5-1/2 cups of the corn, the rosemary and cayenne and sauté another 2 minutes.  Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer uncovered about 30 minutes.

Working in batches, pureé the soup in a blender (I originally did this step with an immersion blender, but the Vitamix works so much better).  Return soup to the pot, stir in the half & half and the remaining 2 cups of corn.  Season to taste with salt and pepper – it may not need any.

Melt the remaining  1 tbsp of butter in a large skillet over medium high heat and sauté the red bell pepper until almost tender, about 5 minutes.  Stir into the soup.  Done!

This recipe makes about 3-1/2 quarts of soup, enough for at least 12-14 first-course servings, maybe with some leftovers.

Lentil Soup Plus

This is a bitingly cold day that screams for soup – something that can almost instantly satisfy the craving, not after hours of simmering, but more like 45 minutes start-to-finish.

Months ago I discovered a delicious Vegan Lentil Soup on Cookie + Kate’s blog, and borrowed many of the ingredients, a few of her techniques, and added my own spin to make this the soup that I crave more than any other.  It’s the addition of curry, cumin, and lemon juice that give this soup its warm, bright flavor; the addition of tomatoes to develop the gorgeous golden color; and the pureeing of just two cups of it to give it body.  With kudos and thanks to Kate Taylor for her blog and for getting this soup started for me, I’m delighted to share my version of:

LENTIL SOUP PLUS

Makes about 12 cups, for 6 hearty servings

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INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 large white onion, 2 large or 4 small carrots, and 2 stalks celery all chopped coarsely

4 medium-sized minced garlic cloves

1/2 T fresh thyme or 1/2 t dried

2 t cumin

1 t curry powder

pinch of red pepper flakes

Hefty grinding of black pepper

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes or whole tomatoes broken roughly by hand, with about 1/2 the juice from the can

1 cup brown lentils

1/3 cup green or yellow split peas

1/3 cup pearl barley

7 cups chicken broth (I always use Better Than Bouillion)

About 2 cups baby spinach or arugula

1-1/2 T fresh lemon juice

PREPARATION:

Heat olive oil over medium heat in large soup pot and sauté the chopped vegetables about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, thyme, curry, and cumin and stir about 30 seconds.  Stir in the tomatoes with some of the juice, the red pepper flakes and pepper.  Add the lentils, split peas and barley, stirring to combine.  Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, about 30 minutes.  Puree two cups of the soup in your blender until smooth and add back into the pot.  Finally add the greens and lemon juice and stir until the greens are wilted.  Enjoy!

 

 

Play-it-by-Ear Soup

I have a pot of this fiber-rich, thick as porridge soup just finished simmering on the stove and cannot wait to dig in for a late lunch.  As most cooks know, soup is what you make of it, highly adaptable.  Throw in what tastes good, clean out those leftovers, and you can rarely go wrong.

This soup started out many years ago from a recipe leaflet in a box of Kashi 7-Grain Pilaf (yeah, again a favorite ingredient).  It was called “Purifying Soup”.  Over the years I’ve mixed it up to make it my own, and here’s how it came together today:

PLAY IT BY EAR SOUP

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INGREDIENTS:

2 medium carrots, 2 small onions, 2 stalks celery chopped into bite-sized pieces

1 plump clove garlic minced

3 tbsp olive oil

2/3 cup each Kashi 7-Grain Pilaf, red lentils, split peas, and hulled barley

1 bay leaf

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp dill weed

A few twists of freshly ground black pepper

1/2 of 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes with their juice, crushed by hand

12 cups beef broth

1 fully-cooked Italian chicken sausages cut into pite-sized pieces

1 can dark red kidney beans drained

Large handful of baby spinach

PREPARATION;

In a very large soup pot, saute the vegetables until softened and then add the grains and stir to coat. Add seasonings, the broth and tomatoes with their juice. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer and cover the pot. After 40 minutes, add the sausages, spinach, and kidney beans. and simmer another 20 minutes until the grains are softened.

This soup becomes thicker as it sits, especially after being refrigerated, so it can be thinned with water or a bit more broth for reheating.

Can also be made as a vegetarian soup using a vegetable broth and leaving out the sausage.