With the first rain in Hillsboro after what seemed like months of dry weather and an honest-to-goodness record-breaking heat wave, it seemed like the right time to try a new soup recipe. Ashley found a recipe for a vegan tomato basil bisque in The Candle Cafe Cookbook at our local Hillsboro public library. That recipe, with our modifications (some not so intentional) is found below.
- 1 small beet
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup chopped onion
- 6 cups vegetable broth
- 12 small tomatoes
- 1 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 cup cubed tofu
- Salt and pepper
Preheat your oven to 350°F. While the oven is heating, trim and peel the beet. Put the beet on a baking pan and bake it until tender (1 to 1½ hours). Let the beet cool and chop it. There’s no need to be precise. You’re going to run it through a blender later. Maybe just chop it in half while it’s still hot.
Saute the onion, garlic, and celery in the olive oil until tender (about 5 to 10 minutes). If you don’t like lots of dirty pots and pans, use the same large pan you’re going to use to heat the soup. And don’t worry — you’ll still have lots of dirty pans. I did…
Add the vegetable broth, tomatoes, basil, thyme, and oregano to the sautéed mixture. Bring it to a boil and then let it simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Stir occasionally. Or frequently, if you’re like me. A watched pot is quite enjoyable. A stirred, watched pot, even more so.
Using a food processor or blender, blend the soup, beet, and tofu until smooth. Unless your food processor or blender is very large, you’ll need to stage this in several batches. No problem. As my mother used to say, it all ends up in the same place. (I think she was talking about something else, though…) In this case, everything ends up in another large pot or large bowl. Yup, another dirty dish.
Reheat the soup and add salt and pepper to taste. The cook book recommends garnishing with a whole basil leaf.
Variations (Or maybe just more directions…)
When we tried this recipe, we already had some boiled beets in the fridge and used one beet’s worth of that instead of trying to bake a beet. We used a food processor to blend the beet and tofu together to get a bright purple mixture that we added to some of the blended soup. Oh my! It’s still bright purple!! By the time we added all the blended soup to the mixture, it still seemed a little … purple!
We don’t know if a baked beet is less bright purple than a boiled beet. It might be worth a try. I don’t think it could be brighter purplier.
Regardless, we were concerned about the color. Drastic measures were called for. Out came the blender and we ran everything through again. This resulted in a much smoother mixture. It was also less purple, and more red, closer to what we had expected. By the time the soup was blended (twice) and reheated, the color was normal. Next time, we’ll just use the blender. And not worry so much.
Be careful using the blender. When blending hot mixtures, any air in the blender container will heat up and expand rapidly. (That’s according to Charles’ gas law for those interested in chemistry and/or physics.) The expanding air will blow the lid off at the exact moment the hot, purple mixture is testing its limits of containment. Fortuitously, I learned this by having my hand on the blender lid when I pushed “blend,” inadvertently holding the lid down and preventing any renegade soup from escaping and staining the cabinetry. You might want to put a wash cloth over the blender lid if yours has a central opening (like mine) with a smaller cap in it. Hot soup could escape through the cracks, burning your hand.
If you have no sense of adventure, let the soup cool before attempting to blend it — OSHA approved (and recommended by the cook book).
We didn’t have fresh basil. Sacrilege, I know. So we substituted ¼ cup of dried basil. Although the soup was good (why else would I be typing this recipe if it wasn’t?) next time we’re going to try fresh basil. After all, this is tomato basil bisque. Why go cheap on the named ingredients?
Speaking of which, the book mentions you can use a 15-ounce can of whole tomatoes instead of the 12 small tomatoes. We went with the fresh tomatoes. Canned tomatoes would be a lot easier and probably would effect the flavor a lot less than using dried basil. Obviously, I recommend using fresh tomatoes and basil you lovingly planted, tended, and harvested from your own garden. Probably the celery, onions, and oregano, too. You’re on your own making extra-virgin olive oil.
While I was pouring the vegetable stock into the pan, I realized the recipe might specify a recommended amount. It did! And I’d already added one cup too much. Oh well. I’ll just say it was intentional because I wanted more soup and leave it at that. We used a store-bought vegetable broth that touted its absence of gluten. The recipe book includes directions on making your own.
Have a go with this soup. I think we proved the recipe is quite tolerant of modifications while still resulting in delicious soup. :-)