The Hand Off: Roasted Pepper Bisque
by Sarah A. Maine
Last week Brianna quite literally transposed the ingredients from my frittata into a new dish – her Red Pepper Spinach Stir Fry. To me this particular exchange represents the essence of RecipeRelay – using a recipe as a guide to inspire your own creation. I consider many of my adaptations to be ‘parallel’ recipes to ones I find in cookbooks or get from friends – using almost all of the same ingredients but in a slightly different way. Sometimes I get an idea mid-way through the cooking process – a soup tells me it would rather be a curry or meatballs may demand lentils to be mixed in – I try to listen to the cooking process and then I keep my fingers crossed that I interpreted everything in a way that will have a tasty outcome.
Other times adaptation is driven by necessity – like when I forget to buy a specific ingredient for whatever I am making, I have to substitute something at the last minute. Most of the time I tweak recipes a little bit depending on what I already have, this is what I did with my mother’s recipe for Roasted Pepper Bisque. The word bisque refers to creamy soups that are made using the stock of crustaceans (shrimp, lobster, crab) or from puréed vegetables. A little more etymology: bisque, like biscuit and biscotti, derives from the Latin bis coquere, meaning “twice cooked” – the ingredients are cooked before being added to the soup-making process, where they are cooked again. This Roasted Pepper Bisque is completely vegetarian, the peppers being the essential “twice cooked” ingredient. Roasting the peppers adds a richness of flavor, a little extra dimension of taste that would not result from simply sautéing them. I roasted my peppers under the broiler but the same effect can be achieved on the grill.
It is important to know which part of a recipe can be changed and which parts are less flexible. In the case of soup, the proportions of liquid to solid are pretty important. If you want to switch out anything in this recipe, try to replace it with something of comparable texture and volume (color might also be a consideration). I thought about using a parsnip instead of a carrot but in the end I decided not to, I think you could also substitute a salad turnip, or maybe even a watermelon radish for the carrot – any crunchy root vegetable that isn’t overly starchy. In my kitchen the numerous members of the onion family are fairly interchangeable – especially if you are going to cook them. Raw onions have very distinct flavors but cooking mellows them into general oniony-ness so I feel comfortable swapping them out. In this recipe I used a leek (one of my all time favorite items to cook with) instead of a medium yellow onion – my main consideration was to keep the volume about the same.
Roasted Pepper Bisque
Prep time: 40 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour and 10 minutes
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
- 2 medium potatoes, peeled and baked
- 2 pounds red, yellow, and orange red bell peppers
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large carrot, minced
- 1 rib celery, minced
- 1 leek, trimmed, cleaned, and minced
- 2 cups water
- 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 handful fresh parsley, chopped
- Fresh ground black pepper
- Sea salt
- Wrap the potatoes in foil and bake for 30-40 minutes until they are done.
- Remove the tops and cores of the peppers, then slice the peppers into strips. Lay the strips on a cookie sheet greased with 3 Tbs of olive oil. Roast the peppers on the grill or under the broiler (set on High) for 10-12 minutes.
- Heat 2 Tbs of olive oil in a pot, add the chopped carrot, celery and leek. Sauté until the vegetables are just tender – about 5 minutes.
- Add the roasted peppers to the pot and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the water, stock, and potatoes to the pot – bring the mixture to a boil and then allow to simmer for 15 minutes.
- Allow the mixture to cool a little before using a food processor or blender to puree everything. Be very careful when blending hot liquids!
- When all the ingredients are blended, transfer them back to the pot and reheat – 5 to 10 minutes.
- Add salt to taste.
- Garnish with parsley and fresh ground black pepper.
This recipe makes quite a bit of soup, six big bowls or eight small ones, ideal for a first course at a dinner party, or as I mentioned in my Tuesday post – great for freezing to use at a later date. As with many other soups this one benefits from spending a night in the fridge, allowing the flavors to mingle and develop in each other’s company. The addition of the potatoes makes it a filling soup, suitable to use as the centerpiece of a meal. I recommend serving it with toasted peasant bread drizzled with olive oil and rubbed with fresh garlic. I used sweet red, yellow and orange peppers for this recipe but it would be interesting to create a variation using green peppers, perhaps add some with a little spiciness, or even a little chipotle for a smoky touch. As with most recipes, when I look a little closer, there is always room for experimentation. Let us know if you have any tasty pepper soup tips!