Spicy, Hearty, Indulgent - Gluten-Free Tomato Bisque Soup
When it comes to simple, satisfying, and comforting meals, few entrées can top a steaming bowl of tomato soup.
And while many companies make even gluten-free varieties that are easy to heat and serve up in an instant. You might be happy to know that preparing a hearty homemade pot of tomato bisque soup doesn’t need to involve hours of cooking.
The inspiration for this recipe
Several years back, working near Hersey, Pennsylvania, my travel commitments wrapped up early. My flight wasn’t leaving until much later that day, so it was an easy decision to take on a side trip to visit Hersey. The town that’s famous for its chocolate.
Now, you may be asking yourself, what do Hersey and chocolate have to do with tomato bisque soup?
Well, it all began with the museum gift store. You see, the gift store was among my first stops. And that’s where I stumbled across a fabulous little coffee shop and café in the same building. It lured me into taking a break from browsing and sightseeing to enjoy a cup of chocolate-laced coffee latte and the most delicious tomato bisque soup I’d ever eaten.
Confession time - I have a hard time taking NO for an answer.
Of course, I asked for their recipe.
But my attempt to get the cafe’s tomato bisque secret was defeated.
So I did what any creative, got-to-have-it because it’s such a so-darned-good bowl of soup that a mission-focused girl like me might do. I scribbled down notes about everything I tasted.
The napkin was perfect for noting the flavors, and every tasty detail, with things like ingredients I knew were in the soup to attempt to recreate the recipe when I got home.
In the weeks following, I experimented with making an equally indulgent tomato bisque. But nothing came close.
The magical romantic comedy Chocolat (2000) is based on the book by Joanne Harris about a woman, Vianne Rocher, played by Juliette Binoche, who transforms a village through her chocolate shop.
Vianne creates the most delightful treats in the wonderful chocolate shop. When her first customers arrive, she offers them hot chocolate made from a 2000-year-old recipe with a tiny hint of chili pepper, saying, “It will give you a lift.”
Wala! Chocolate and Chili Pepper - Those were the secret ingredients!
But before I get to the recipe, you might find it interesting to hear about what I learned in this ‘rabbit hole’ of my tomato bisque food journey.
Tomatoes are the fourth most popular fresh-market vegetable sold
It’s not hard for me to believe since I love them so much!
Tomatoes’ popularity falls in line right behind potatoes, lettuce, and onions.
But despite their popularity, it was only about 200 years ago that they were thought to be poisonous in the U.S. The misconception was likely because the plant belongs to the toxic nightshade vegetable family.
Tomatoes are considered a nutrient-dense superfood
Tomatoes offer benefits to a whole range of bodily systems. Their nutritional content supports heart health, healthy skin, and weight loss.
Including tomatoes in your diet can help maintain healthy blood pressure. Eating them can reduce blood glucose in people with diabetes and even help protect against cancer.
Because tomatoes contain essential carotenoids such as lutein and lycopene, eating them can help in protecting the eye against light-induced damage.
Another pro-tomato attribute is that when cooking or stewing tomatoes before eating them, those preparation methods can boost the availability of crucial nutrients.
On the downside...
Tomatoes are in the top ten fruits and vegetables containing pesticide residue levels. So, it’s best to always wash them before eating them unless you are sure they have been grown organically without pesticides. But to be super safe, I’d wash them anyway.
A Bit of Tomato History
According to The Oxford Companion of American Food and Drink, tomatoes have been grown in the United Kingdom since the late sixteenth century.
But what is fascinating and hard to imagine is a time in history when tomatoes were not as popular as food. As crazy as that sounds, the early culinary use of tomatoes was only to use them as a secondary ingredient in soups.
When tomatoes became popular as food in the late eighteenth century, cooks incorporated them only to provide coloring and acidic flavor unmatched by other fruits or vegetables.
Early tomato soups were referenced in English medical, agricultural, and botanical journals as recipes were essentially vegetable soups where the tomato was down towards the bottom of the ingredient list.
Fast forward to the nineteenth century
As cooking, society, and tomatoes’ growth progressed, the number of them in soup increased while other vegetable ingredients decreased.
By the mid-nineteenth century, tomatoes became a significant ingredient and were commonly found in soup recipes in American cookbooks.
The progressiveness and popularity of the tomato in soups in America continued to transform the fruit at the close of the nineteenth century and into the beginning of the twentieth. Cooks then began to combine cream and milk with tomatoes and other ingredients during the early 1880s.
The rise In tomato popularity
Following tomato’s rise to being the star ingredient of tomato soup, the first known commercially canned tomato soup appeared on the American market in 1895 after the Civil War. The Franco-American Food Company manufactured the ready-to-eat canned soup in Jersey City, New Jersey.
That early predecessor became popularly known as America’s favorite tomato soup with the company and the recipe being acquired by the famed Campbell Soup Company of Camden, New Jersey, in 1916.
By the beginning of the twentieth century
Canned tomato soup grew in popularity to become and hold the title of America’s favorite soup, a position it held for the next eighty years.
Today, tomato soup ranks among America’s top five types of soup sold commercially.
Modern times in my gluten-free kitchen
While I have found tasty gluten-free ready-to-eat tomato soup options at the grocery store, there’s just something about the depth of flavor, not to mention the therapeutic value of making soup yourself if you have the time.
Make & Serve:
When making this recipe, plan on allowing 30 minutes to get it ready. Serve it up with some toasted gluten-free croutons and freshly grated parmesan cheese or your favorite four-cheese blend. Add a bit of chopped parsley for garnish, and enjoy!
To make this tomato bisque recipe sing, add a few fresh chopped chili peppers and enrich it with two ounces of semisweet chocolate. While the extra spice may likely excite your olfactory, the kick of spice with tomato and cream combined with the hint of chocolate meld deliciously together in a combination perfect for indulging upon and warming up the day. Aahhh, soup!
Spicy, Hearty, Indulgent - Gluten-Free Tomato Bisque Soup
- Dutch Oven or Large Pot
- 4 fresh chili peppers stems removed and chopped
- 28 ounces Tomatoes fresh (about six tomatoes peeled and cored)
- 1 medium Onion cut into ½-inch pieces
- 1 medium Carrot cut into ½-inch pieces
- 1 Celery stalk cut into ½-inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
- 1 tablespoon Basil* fresh chopped or dried
- 1 teaspoon Marjoram* fresh chopped or dried
- ½ teaspoon Baking Soda
- ½ teaspoon Kosher Salt
- ½ teaspoon Black Pepper freshly ground
- 1 cup Chicken or Vegetable Stock
- ¼ cup Whole Cream
- 1-2 ounces Bittersweet Chocolate grated
- Sauté the onion, carrot, celery, chilis, and Olive oil in a heavy Dutch Oven over medium heat until fork-tender.
- Add the tomatoes and the stock, continuing to cook until the ingredients come to a boil. Stir in the salt and baking soda, basil, marjoram, and pepper.
- Using an immersion blender (or, transfer to a blender) blend the ingredients until they are completely smooth.
- Return liquid to Dutch Oven on low heat and add in cream and grated chocolate. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Simmer on low heat until ready to serve.
- Dish and serve with gluten-free croutons, freshly grated parmesan cheese or your favorite four-cheese blend. Add chopped parsley for garnish. Enjoy!
(Nutritional values are an approximation. Actual nutritional values may vary due to preparation techniques, variations related to suppliers, regional and seasonal differences, or rounding.)
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