This is one of my 'go to' fast soups. I make one or two soups every week during the winter. Having soup on hand makes life easier and less stressful - if you forgot to thaw something out, no worries, you've got soup? Didn't have time to shop? No worries, ya got soup. Need a little something 'extra' to stretch those leftovers? You've got soup.
All you really need for this one is a 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes (I recommend no-sodium), a jar of those red peppers, some broth, onion, garlic, tomato paste and some seasonings.
You can go any number of directions with the flavors of this soup. Curry powder and you have the Indian subcontinent. Chili powder, some cilantro and lime juice, and you have Latin-inspired flavors. Today, I decided on something more in the Harissa section of the bleachers. Spicy. Subtly sweet. A little smoky.
I usually have a tube of this Tunisian Entube Organic Harissa Chili Paste on hand, and this was the perfect cold, windy late autumn day for it. Harissa refers to a blends of smoked chili powders found throughout North Africa. You can find it as a rub - for vegetables or 'meats' - or as a paste. I love these tubes, since I can use what I need and toss it back in the fridge. They keep, well, 'forever'. Months. I use them up faster than that.
My pantry is also never without at least one jar of 'fire roasted' red peppers. Slice them up, and you can toss them in with sautéed vegetables, soups, stews and salads. I've put them into the food processor to make a vegan, oil-free salad dressing (just add vinegar, a sweetener, maybe some lemon juice, the herbs and spices of your choice! Add some garbanzos or soaked cashews for protein, if you wish). The brand doesn't really matter. Buy what's convenient and least expensive.
Let's get cooking!
I sautéed (oil-free!) one half of an onion (diced) and about three minced cloves of garlic in the juice drained from the can of tomatoes. Normally, for and oil-free sauté, you'd use a splash or two of water or vegan broth to keep things 'moving' (not sticking). It works brilliantly. I wish I'd known this years ago. I would've saved a lot of calories. A pinch or two of salt as you go.
Add a nice big squeeze of tomato paste, and cook off the 'raw' taste. You want to lightly 'caramelize' the tomato paste, yielding a richer flavor. Add the Harissa paste. Start with less than you might. It builds on the spicy thing pretty fast.
Here's where I went rogue. Because I like to add some additional fiber and protein, I tossed in about three soup spoonfuls of red lentils. Stay with me here. You could also use brown lentils or yellow Moong Dal. I happen to have all of them in the pantry. Then lentils need to be cooked, so I added the diced canned tomatoes, filled that 14-ounce diced tomato can with water, added that, stirred it up and put the lid on. Let it cook - medium-low heat - for about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally. Taste a few of the lentils, and when they're al dente, you're ready for the next step. Or, if you choose, leave the lentils out entirely. Your call.
It's time to break out the Immersion Blender. You really need one of these. I could have done this in the blender, but a high-speed, VitaMix type blender would have been over-kill (and more to clean up). I didn't want what the French call a Velouté. Velveted soup. Although classic Velouté refers to something with loads of cream and/or butter, it can also refer to anything pureed. My Tante Jacqueline - who ran a successful hotel and restaurant in the Cantal - makes glorious velveted vegetable soups. Her soups use a lot of cream but I'm vegan plant-based, so mine, of course, don't.
Take the time to taste. And, taste some more. You're in charge here. It's your kitchen. I happened to have a Berbere spice blend that I'd done for an assignment when I was taking the Forks Over Knives Rouxbe Plant-based Culinary Course. I employed this blend here, adding a generous couple of soup spoonfuls. I also added a generous 2-3 soup spoonfuls of date syrup and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
LIST OF INGREDIENTS:
Jar of roasted red peppers, drained, rinsed and sliced
One 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes (low-sodium preferred) - don't drain. Use that juice.
½ of an onion, diced
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
Lentils - if using
Berbere seasoning - if using
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