Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup

I hate it when people say they “HATE surprises!”

Ummm, no you don’t.

You’re going to tell me that if I (or someone else you adore) showed up to your front door on a random evening with a quality baguette, cheese, wine and some fabulous conversation you’re going to be totally miffed? I highly doubt it!

Everyone loves a pleasant surprise – like a free coffee, unexpected flowers or getting a card in the real-life mail – but some people just prefer to feel in control of a situation they’re unsure of. And that’s completely okay.

But sometimes you just have to ease up and roll with the surprises. They’re probably going to be awesome ones.

This soup was a surprise – and a damn fine one. The surprise part came from adding some jarred roasted red peppers which gave the soup an excellent sweet-smokey flavor and generally tszujed the whole thing up.

Also, I suggest adding a tiny pinch of (surprise!) baking soda to your tomato soups (and sauces) – it reduces the acidity of the canned tomatoes allowing their sweetness to shine through.

If you’ve got some stale bread lying around, make some pan-toasted croutons to top this soup off – they’re super easy, thrifty and will impress the person who’s eating with you.

Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup (serves 2-4)
– 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more if needed
– 1 medium yellow onion, diced
– 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
– 1 can of whole tomatoes (I used canned cherry tomatoes, but plum tomatoes are good too)
– 2 whole (or 1/2 cup chopped) roasted red peppers (from a jar)
– 4 cups vegetable broth
– salt and pepper
– a pinch of baking soda

Heat olive oil in a large pot over a medium high heat. Add onions and a sprinkle of salt and cook stirring for 5 minutes until soft. Add garlic and cook for another minute until fragrant. Add a little more olive oil if the pan goes a little dry.

Add tomatoes, red peppers and vegetable broth. Crush the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon as you stir everything around a bit. Add a small pinch of baking soda and stir into the soup. The fizzy action means its working.

Bring it all to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

All the soup to cool for about 10 minutes and then puree it in a blender in batches. I left a  ladleful or two out, so keep a little texture. Do whatever you’d like!

Serve warm with chopped herbs (I got in on some chive action!) and pan-toasted croutons or bread.

Pan-Toasted Croutons
– 2 pieces of slightly-to-moderately stale bread (I used 3 day-old sourdough)
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 1 garlic clove, minced
– smoked sea salt
– cracked pepper

Cut bread into bite-sized squares and heat olive oil in a medium pan over a medium heat.

Add bread, garlic, salt and pepper to the pan and toss to coat the bread in seasoning and oil. Arrange the bread pieces in a single layer and cook them for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden. Store in an air-tight container for 1 day.

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