I posted on cold soup once before, and it was a hit. It even got me a link on Wikipedia. (Applause may now commence.) I tried another one last night from my latest Bon Appetit, titled unassumingly “Summer Tomato and Bell Pepper Soup,” and with one spoonful fell instantly in love.
Never one to order soups that prance about menus with names like gazpacho and vichyssoise, I approached this cold soup with some reluctance. The recipe began, however, with the promise that “ripe summer tomatoes are perfect just as they are…” and I was lured deeper. Summer tomatoes simply make me weak.
The day had been another scorcher. Some new friends were coming over for dinner, and I was determined to use as little heat as possible for its preparation. I still had to visit three different locations to procure the appropriate ice cream, roasted red peppers, and good bread, but managed to keep my cool. The dessert was baked early in the morning, and the main course quickly seared and delivered to plates without too much of a sweat.
All the other accoutrements were served in the cool-as-a-cucumber-style of this fresh first course.
This soup’s preparation is as simple as a sandwich. “But I’m not a cook,” you might say. Well, this here concoction involves none of that intimidating heating-of-ingredients business. Like all simple dishes, the result rests only on the quality of your ingredients, not your skill.
Finding those really special tomatoes was, I have to admit, a bit of a chore. I tasted local tomatoes at the co-op, and smelled red globes at two major grocery chains: Disapointment lurked in every overflowing bin. The mushy, bland, and boring specimens reminded me that my dear tomatoes just haven’t yet hit their peak. But I wasn’t willing to give up yet. A stop at a friend’s garden led me to lush green plants bearing their tiny, heavy treasure.
In all shades of fire the tomatoes fell into my hands and into my soup. Yes, I still had to use some less-than-perfect “over the counter” tomatoes to plump it up a bit, but I believe it was these little explosions of sweetness that truly saved the day.
Just when I thought I’d have to kiss my soup craving goodbye until November, this one snuck up and told the humidity where to go. I instantly fell under its spell of fresh-picked tomato goodness, because, as American humorist Lewis Grizzard wrote, “It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.” Mr. Gizzard, I couldn’t agree more.
Summer Tomato and Bell Pepper Soup
2 and a 1/4 cups low-sodium tomato juice (I used Knudsen’s)
1 and a 1/3 cups finely chopped ripe, vine-ripened tomatoes
½ cup generous finely chopped roasted red bell peppers from jar (or roast and skin your own)
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 T red wine vinegar
1 T prepared white horseradish (don’t worry, it just adds a zing and you barely notice it!) or squeeze of lemon juice
1 garlic clove, crushed
Generous dash of hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco
Fine sea salt
4 rounds soft fresh goat cheese
6 grape tomatoes, cut in half
Thinly sliced fresh basil
- Combine everything up to the hot pepper sauce in a large bowl, whisk to blend. Season soup to taste with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled and flavors blend, at least 2 hours. (Can be made up to 6 hours ahead, keep chilled.)
- Serve each bowl with a goat cheese round and 3 grape tomato halves. Sprinkle with fresh pepper and basil. Drizzle with more olive oil, if desired, and serve with good crusty bread for dipping.
Bon Appetit, August 2009