Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Roasted Sweet Red Pepper & White Bean Soup With Grilled Cheese Croutons

A simple soup of few ingredients becomes outstanding if grilling is used as a preparatory technique, garnishing is done with a flourish, and the flavour is brightened with a dash of sherry vinegar.

Pureed white beans gives body and creaminess to the soup

Sunny, hot weather in the last week has brought our potager's remaining green bell and Landes peppers into the gloriously mellow realm of red.

makes enough for a meal for two or four smaller servings
Peppers, red, sweet, large, 4
Onion, yellow, medium, peeled, diced
Garlic cloves, large, 3, smashed and skin removed
Beans, white, canned or cooked dried, 12 fluid ounces
Stock, chicken, 32 fluid ounces
Olive oil, 3 T
Vinegar, sherry, 1/2 tsp or to taste
Bay leaf, large, 1
Salt and freshly ground black peppercorns to taste
Pepper, green, a few strips for garnishing

for each grilled cheese sandwich (I made four)
Cheese, grated (I used a mix of cheddar and Parmesan), 2 heaping T
Bread, slices, 2 (I used sour dough rye)
Butter, room temperature, 1 heaping T

Preheat the oven grill. Rinse and dry the peppers. Place about six inches under the hot grill, turning them on all sides until blackened which takes about from ten to fifteen minutes depending on size and type.

Peppers while being grilled ooze goo so lining the pan with foil makes cleaning a cinch

Wrinkling of the skin is a good tell that they will be easily skinned.

Pop them into a sturdy ziploc bag suitable for freezing hot food where they will steam on the counter or table for about ten minutes. If they are a bit recalcitrant than put them back in the bag until they behave.

The skin should easily be pulled off the meaty flesh.

The peeled peppers may look unappetising, but once simmered and pureed, they will impart to the soup a velvety depth of flavour. Chop them coarsely.

Saute the onions and garlic in the hot olive oil for several minutes. Add the red peppers and the rinsed beans. Cook for another minute or so while stirring.

Stir in chicken stock and bay leaf.

I used two small leaves instead of a large one

Cover and simmer for about a half hour. Meanwhile make the grilled cheese croutons. Spread butter on one side of a slice and place buttered side down in a skillet. Cover with cheese. Butter one side of another slice and place it plain side down. Over medium heat, cook til browned and crusty which should take several minutes. Flip it over.

While the other side is getting grilled, press the sandwich with a potato masher, a small plate, or a flexible metal spatula. Pressing only on the grilled sides will prevent the spatula sticking to butter and pulling out bread chunks. 

Cut into small squares.

Grilled cheese croutons are darling.

Remove the bay leaf. Puree the soup with a stick mixer or in a blender. Reheat if necessary and season to taste with sherry vinegar, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Garnished with  julienne of green pepper, this soup is a lovely bowl of warm deliciousness. 

Along with mums, dahlias rule in the flower garden.

When fully opened, this variety has a diameter the size of a luncheon plate

Early fall is a good time to harvest bay leaves when they are at their most flavourful and mature. The foot-high seedling of five years ago is now nearly six feet. Prunings serves two purposes: leaves for culinary use and shoots for rooting to get more of these hardy, beautiful, evergreen, fragrant bushes.

Letting a few leaves remain on top of the cutting, remove the rest. The bush-to-be can be trimmed to a length of about four to five inches, dipped in rooting hormone, and tucked into a pot filled with a light, non-soil mix. Water it thoroughly and cover with a plastic bag which will act as a moisture-retaining tent. Keep it outside sheltered from winds and direct sunlight throughout the winter to encourage root growth and for it to be ready for spring transplanting.

The Calm One in his quest to use our oven more efficiently bought a four-tiered stand that was supposed to cook that many pizzas at the same time. The soggy results became the mother of invention as I now use it to dry herbs, and at present, specifically bay leaves which need to be crackly dry in order to eliminate any trace of toxicity. Rinse and dry them, spreading a single layer in a wicker basket or a plate and leaving them be for about two weeks until they are completely dessicated. Store in a lidded jar.

Dirac the kitten when concerned that I may be developing eyestrain, lovingly sits on the book I am reading to give me a break.

À la prochaine!