Spicy, Hearty, Indulgent - Gluten-Free Tomato Bisque Soup
When it comes to simple, satisfying, and comforting meals, few entrees can top a steaming bowl of soup. While many notable companies are making delicious canned tomato soups, even gluten-free varieties, that are easy to heat and serve up in a jiffy, preparing a hearty tomato bisque soup doesn’t need to involve hours of cooking.
A few years back I was working near Hersey Pennsylvania when my travel commitments wrapped up early. My flight wasn’t leaving Harrisburg until much later that day, so it was an easy decision for me to take on a side trip to visit Hersey, the town famous for its chocolate.
Right about now I’m sure you’re asking yourself just what does Hersey and chocolate have to do with tomato bisque soup?
Well, you see, during my visit, the museum gift store was among my stops that day. Located in the same building was a fabulous little coffee shop and café that lured me to take a break from browsing and sightseeing to enjoy a cup of chocolate laced coffee latte and the most wonderful tomato bisque soup I’d ever experienced.
Of course, I quizzed and pleaded with the kitchen staff to share their recipe for the soup, but it didn’t work. I even begged at one point before being told that the tomato bisque was indeed made in-house and that it was the cafes’ secret and the staff was not about to give it to me.
I’ll be the first to admit that I have a hard time taking no for an answer. Defeated in my attempts to get the secret recipe, I did what any creative, OMG-got-to-have-it, because its just-that-so-darned-good mission-focused traveling girl might do. I grabbed a napkin and scribbled some notes to remember the taste and as many of the ingredients that I could identify had been used in the soup to be able to attempt to recreate it when I got home.
In the weeks and months following my trip, I tried many recipe variations to make an equally indulgent tomato bisque. Nothing came close.
Then I watched the magical romantic comedy Chocolat (2000) 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 that has a tiny hint of chili pepper in it saying that “It will give you a lift.”
Wala! Those were the secret ingredients I’d overlooked!
But before I get to the recipe, I want to share a little of what I learned in this tomato bisque food journey.
Did you know that tomatoes are the fourth most popular fresh-market vegetable sold? Not hard for me to believe – they fall 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 United States. The misconception was more than likely because the plant belongs to the toxic nightshade vegetable family.
Considered a nutrient-dense superfood that offers benefits to a whole range of bodily systems, the tomatoes nutritional content supports heart health, healthful skin, and weight loss.
Including tomatoes in your diet can help maintain healthy blood pressure, reduce blood glucose in people with diabetes, and can help protect against cancer. Because tomatoes contain key carotenoids such as lutein and lycopene, eating them can help in protecting the eye against light-induced damage.
Another pro-tomato attribute is that by cooking or stewing tomatoes before eating them, those methods of preparation can boost the availability of key nutrients.
On the downside, tomatoes are in the top ten fruits and vegetables for containing levels of pesticide residue. So, you should always wash tomatoes before eating them unless you are sure that they have been grown organically without pesticides. To be super safe, I’d wash them anyway.
According to The Oxford Companion of American Food and Drink, the tomato has 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. In the late eighteenth century when tomatoes became popular as food, they were incorporated to provide coloring and acidic flavor that was unmatched by other fruits or vegetables.
Early tomato soups referenced in English medical, agricultural, and botanical journals as recipes were essentially vegetable soups where tomato was down towards the bottom of the ingredient list.
Fast forward to the nineteenth century, as cooking, society, and the growing of tomatoes progressed, the number of tomatoes in the soup increased while other vegetable ingredients used decreased. By the mid-nineteenth century, tomatoes became a major ingredient, and tomato soup recipes were commonly found 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 century. Cooks began to combine cream and milk with tomatoes and other ingredients during the early 1880s.
Following the timeline of the 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 canned ready-to-eat tomato soup being manufactured by the Franco-American Food Company 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 that canned tomato soup grew in popularity to become and hold the title as America’s favorite soup, a position it held for the next eighty years. Today, tomato soup ranks among the top five types of soup sold commercially in America.
Which brings us to modern times in my gluten-free kitchen – I must mention that 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.
Making this recipe takes a short 30 minutes to prepare. 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, I’ve added a few fresh chopped chili peppers and enriched it with two-ounces of semisweet chocolate. While the extra spice may likely excite your olfactory, the combination of the spice with tomato and cream 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
- Add onion, carrot, celery, chilis, and Olive oil in a heavy Dutch Oven. Sauté vegetables over medium heat until fork-tender.
- Add in tomatoes and stock and continue to cook until ingredients come to a boil. Add in salt and baking soda, stirring to combine. Add basil, marjoram, and pepper.
- Using an immersion blender (Or, transfer to a blender) blend until ingredients 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.
- 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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