The Challenge: Day Twenty-Seven – Summer in a bowl

“What will you be doing with all those peppers?” asked the woman behind me in the checkout line at Publix.

“I’m making some roasted red pepper soup,” I said, as I put all the peppers and the dozen cucumbers on the conveyor.

“With cucumbers in it? That seems a little…” She paused here, no doubt trying to find something to say other than “weird”.

“No, the cucumbers will be going toward a cold cucumber-avocado soup. The peppers and the cucumbers don’t work together well in a soup, I think.”

“I think you’re right about that. The pepper soup sounds delicious.”

“I’m sure it will be.”

It is, of course, delicious. I’m not a big fan of cold soups and never have been, but my mom was reading one of my numerous food magazines and saw a recipe for the cucumber soup, so I agreed to make one, loosely based on that recipe. The roasted red pepper-sweet potato soup is one I’ve been meaning to make for awhile, since I’m not visiting Biscotti’s every day for my fix.

First up: cucumbers. Half the cucumbers are pureed with a bit of honey and then put into a sieve over a bowl to drain.

The rest of the cucumbers are peeled, seeded, and thinly sliced, then tossed with honey and white wine vinegar. Overnight would probably be better for the draining/pickling, but I want to make bread tomorrow instead of fiddling around with soup, and I have real work to do as well. So, after ten hours or so, I pulled both and pressed the puree to release some more cucumber juice. The front bowl is the juice, the back bowl contains the sliced cukes.

I worked in batches to blend some of the juice, some of the sliced cukes, and an avocado together. Mix in some diced fresh dill, some salt and pepper to taste, and garnish with more fresh dill, and you have something that looks like this.

It’s good, but again, I’m not a cold soup eater. Mom liked it, and since it was for her anyway, that’s what matters. Plus, since it’s cold and doesn’t require reheating, we can take some over to the hospital Monday night while she’s locked in.

The other soup, of course, is the roasted red pepper soup. For this, you must have peppers.

Sliced lengthwise, seeded, and then pressed down on a baking sheet.

These go under the broiler until they’re blackened nicely. I’d have done this on the grill instead, but Mother Nature was rumbling outside (and still is as I type this), bringing us some welcome rain off and on. After they’re roasted, the peppers go into a bowl and are covered with some plastic wrap to steam a bit, which helps loosen the skins and makes them easier to peel. I also added a jalapeno to the roasting.

The other ingredients for this rather simple soup are prepped: onions – vidalias, of course, at this time of year – garlic, and some spices (pepper, bay, thyme).

The onions and garlic are sweated in a touch of olive oil over low heat. While that’s going on, the peppers are peeled and then given a rough chop. The sweet potato, baked earlier in the day, is scooped out of its skin. It’s so soft that nothing is really required for it.

When the onions are soft, the peppers, spices (in a tea ball, as I have no cheesecloth at the moment), sweet potato, and four cups of (my homemade) chicken stock go into the pan, with a dash of rice wine vinegar and a touch of Tabasco. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes.

Dig out the tea ball, add a bit of salt and pepper, then puree the soup in batches.

Before you know it, it’s soup. In this case, served with a dollop of sour cream and garnished with chives and fresh basil.

I liked this soup much better than the cuke soup, but then, I’m biased toward the heated soups. Served with a piece or two of crusty bread slathered with butter, perhaps a cheese or two, and it’s a meal. I settled just for the soup alone.

Each of the soups makes multiple servings (6) so there is plenty left over from both batches from our tasting this evening. Still, we must have an accounting. Below are the total costs for each and the total cost per serving as made.

Cucumber soup, total cost: 7.00
Roasted red pepper-sweet potato soup, total cost: 8.49

Total cost per serving, cucumber soup: 1.17
Total cost per serving, roasted red pepper soup: 1.42

The cucumber soup, by the way, requires no cooking at all. If it’s too hot to cook, or if you’re one of those raw food people, it’s not bad. Both soups are dead easy to prepare, lowfat, and low calorie.