Make upscale roasted red pepper soup at home for a fraction of the cost
Roasted red pepper soup first crossed my radar a few weeks ago, when two of the women in a group I belong to raved about it. They claimed this soup was pushed over the top with the addition of smoked gouda cheese. It was a special treat they ordered from a local restaurant. The special part became much clearer when they said the soup cost $18 per quart.
Once the sticker shock wore off, I thought about how much it would cost to make the soup at home. In late summer you can find half bushels of red peppers for three dollars at Eastern Market. In March, though, I would have to depend on peppers from the supermarket. I bought two large red peppers at $1.49 a pound for a total of $1.71.
The rest of the vegetables were a negligible cost. I save vegetable scraps to make stock, so I already had a quart in my freezer.
The most costly ingredient in the soup was the smoked gouda. Because the taste is so distinctive, I found that a little went a long way. I bought an imported brand and used about a quarter pound at a cost of $3.
Once the peppers are roasted and peeled, the soup comes together quickly. I considered using jarred red peppers, but I had tried them in the past and found the flavor couldn’t compare with freshly roasted peppers.
In total, two quarts of soup cost about $5.50 to make. The preparation time was less than 30 minutes of hands-on work. In full disclosure, my knife skills are not the best, so I used my 3-cup food processor to speed up the chopping.
The complex flavors of roasted red peppers and smoked gouda push this soup into the gourmet realm. I am providing the recipe for those who want to recreate this upscale soup at home for a fraction of the cost.
Roasted Red Pepper and Smoked Gouda Bisque
- 2 large red bell peppers or 3 medium, roasted, de-seeded and peeled and sliced
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 large carrot, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 rib celery, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
- 1 quart vegetable or chicken broth
- 1 cup chopped or crushed tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon basil
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1 teaspoon salt
- a few grindings of pepper
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 4 ounces grated smoked gouda
Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, celery and carrot. Cook for 7 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently until the carrots are tender. Add the roasted red peppers, tomatoes, herbs and broth; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer covered for 20 minutes.
Puree the soup using an immersion blender or regular blender. Return the soup to the pot and add the smoked gouda and cream. Cook over low heat until the cheese has melted.
How to roast and peel peppers
Method 1: Place the peppers directly on the gas flame. Using tongs, turn them until they are blackened all over. You can also roast the peppers on an outdoor grill. Roasting them over charcoal adds great flavor.
Method 2: Preheat a cast iron skillet on high. Place the peppers on the skillet. Turn them until blackened all over.
Method 3: Lay the peppers on an ungreased baking sheet leaving space between them to allow them to char evenly. Place the baking sheet in the oven as close to the broiler as possible. Broil for about a minute on each side. This method requires careful attention so that the peppers don’t overcook.
After roasting the peppers, place them in a tightly closed paper bag for 15 minutes. Then peel off the paper-thin skin. Don't use water to peel them as it washes off the smoky flavor. A dry paper towel can help remove any charred bits that remain. Cut in half lengthwise and remove the seeds.
— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at email@example.com.