Friday, March 2, 2012

Whole Foods Friday: Tomato and Red Pepper Soup

I like tomatoes in soup. Even if they aren't a big part of the flavor, I like to see a few bits of tomato.

But tomato soup may be my all-time favorite.

When some people think about tomato soup, they think about a plain, creamy tomato soup. Smooth and comforting.

Sure, that's good. Sometimes I make a relatively plain tomato soup. But more often I dress it up with other things - vegetables, noodles, rice. - you never know what I might add.

This time, the tomatoes weren't the only bright red star in the soup. Roasted red peppers brought their sweetness and unique flavor as well.

And then there are the add-ins that add texture and body to the soup. It tastes rich but it's actually very light. If you make it with water or a vegetable stock, it's vegetarian. Skip the cheese, and it's vegan as well.

Tomato and Red Pepper Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1/4 cup mushrooms, very finely diced
1 teaspoon salt
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
1 16-ounce jar roasted red peppers
2 quarts water (or stock)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup tricolor orzo
Chevre, for garnish

Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the onions, mushrooms, and salt. Cook, stirring as needed, until the vegetables soften. Crush the tomatoes by hand, or chop them into small pieces. Add the tomatoes and their juice to the pot. Chop the red peppers as well, and add them to the pot.

Add the water (or stock) tomato paste, thyme, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cook, stirring as needed for another 30-60 minutes, until the tomatoes and peppers break down a bit and the flavors meld. Add water or more stock if the soup thickens too much.

Taste for seasoning and add more salt, if needed.

Bring the soup back to a boil, add the orzo, put the lid on the pot, and turn off the heat. The orzo will be cooked perfectly in about 15 minutes.

Serve with a dollop of chevre for garnish.