As I write this, my kitchen windows are fogged up and the room is scented with the warm aromas of tomato and pepper. It’s below zero outside, and I have a pot of soup on the stove. During this whipsaw weather pattern we’re experiencing here at the first of the year, from mid-40s to subzero to mid-40s again, soup is the only thing that makes sense. Fact is, soup is very often the only thing that makes sense. (A sentiment that I’m sure is shared by my friend Karen, a.k.a., SoupAddict.)
Following a big bowl of simple tortellini in brodo when I was a little under the weather last week (I’ll post that recipe for tiny tortellini in a bath of chicken stock soon), I’ve been craving vegetable-based soups, and hearty ones. Tomato soup, was an obvious choice … but then there were two gorgeous red bell peppers in the refrigerator that asked to join the party. So they went under the broiler before going into the stock pot along with some canned whole tomatoes and sautéed aromatics.
You can play with this easy pepper-tomato soup recipe any way you’d like. Stir in a splash of heavy cream before you reheat it. (Careful, though: not too much. You want to taste the vegetables, not the cream.) Add a kick of heat with a pinch of cayenne or smoked paprika. Take it south of the border with a dash of ground cumin and a topping of cilantro leaves and crushed tortilla chips. Dollop each serving with some low-fat Greek yogurt. Dip your grilled cheese sandwich in it.
Skip the dairy, and you’ve got a low-calorie vegetable soup (about 125 calories per serving, by my calculation) with practically no fat. Kind of what we all need here in the first month of the year: a bright, healthy soup recipe that doesn’t slack on flavor or warmth.
Low-fat roasted bell pepper and tomato soup recipe
2 large red bell peppers
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
2 cups vegetable broth (or, if you've been hoarding it since summer, tomato broth)
toppings: chopped basil, parsley or cilantro; garlicky croutons; sour cream or Greek yogurt
Preheat broiler. Core and seed the peppers, and cut them in half; flatten them with your hand. Place the peppers on a foil-lined baking sheet and broil until they're completely blackened, about 10–12 minutes. Remove the peppers to a large bowl and cover with foil (this will steam off the skins). When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel and coarsely chop them.
In a heavy, large stock pot, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers; add the carrot and onion and a pinch of salt; reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are translucent and softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Use your hands to tear the tomatoes into large pieces (discard the seeds if they seem excessively seedy; I find the seeds add bitterness). Add the tomatoes and their juices to the pot, along with the roasted bell pepper and the vegetable or tomato broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are completely soft and broken down. Take the pan off the heat to cool. Use an immersion blender (or a conventional blender) to puree the soup. Return the pan to the stove and heat gently until it's hot but not boiling. Serve with your choice of toppings.