Monday, March 8, 2010

Roasted Red Pepper Soup, Pumpkin & Blue Cheese Pizza

Since I'm just starting to write this blog, I forgot to take a picture before we ate our soup. Also, I don't have a digital camera because I sold it a few months ago, so I took this photo with my computer... In short, my visuals are disastrous. But please, forgive me, and trust that my pizza was not actually pixelated.

What it was, though, was rather successful, especially for toaster oven material, as I have no Real Oven (You may be noticing a pattern here in my relationship to technology). Well, welcome to my life! I mean that, too, not in a bitter sarcastic kind of way. I'm glad I sold my digital camera! And I love my toaster oven! And really, welcome to my life.

We, my boyfriend Clément and I, just moved into a new apartment that has a toaster oven and a real live gas stove, not to mention a lot more workspace--a huge step up from the last one, where we had only hotplates, and where we cut our vegetables on the computer desk. We became old hats at poule au pot, pot au feu, and soupe du marché. Then came the pivotal event of buying Tout Robuchon and learning all those little skills I'd never picked up - when exactly to salt the meat, how to know which species of garlic is in season, how to make aligot (!), etc.

I profess no form of culinary expertise, but I do have my curiosity and my appetite to offer you, Reader, as well as a sound confidence that I know delicious when I eat it. I may not always achieve it, Dear Reader, but that's not what it's about, now is it?

Anyway, back to my dinner. Back in my vegetarian days, I remember loving Amy's Roasted Vegetable No Cheese Pizza because of that delicious, sweet sauce that I couldn't identify at the time. I now recognize it as probably caramelized onions and reduced balsamic vinegar, so that was the inspiration for tonight's meal. That, and with a a toaster oven, I can roast peppers (!) and make pizza (!).

So here is what I made:

Roasted Red Pepper Soup
Serves 4

3 large red bell peppers
1 yellow onion, chopped
1-2 garlic cloves
1 medium-to-large potato
chicken or vegetable broth
heavy cream

Place peppers and garlic (unpeeled) in hot oven (220ºC, 425ºF-ish). Keep them there until the peppers' skins are wrinkly and blackened, 30-40 minutes, turning the peppers occasionally to allow all sides to roast.

Bring water to boil in a small pot, and place potato inside. Keep it there until it's soft.

Meanwhile, sweat onions in olive oil and/or butter on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and translucent.

When the peppers are done, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool enough that you can touch them. It's best to put them in a paper bag at this point, but you can do without. Once they've sat and cooled, peel off their skins and rid them of their seeds. Peel off the garlic's skins, as well.

In a blender or food processor, blend ingredients until chunks disappear and you have a lovely, creamy soup, adding a bit of broth to each blenderful. Put it on the stove and bring it to a boil to make sure everything is well-incorporated, and hot. Stir in heavy cream to your liking, I probably added about half a cup. Season to taste (I added a tiny splash of red wine vinegar, as well).

Pumpkin and Blue Cheese Pizza
Serves 2 as entire meal, 4 if you want just a slice (if eating with soup, for example)

4-6 large shallots
olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 chunk of pumpkin, or small winter squash, or anything of this nature
enough blue cheese to crumble on top (think: a small wedge)
pizza crust (I bought mine... it was about 10" across)
black pepper
fresh thyme

Cut squash or pumpkin into big chunks, I used 4" by 4" squares. Put the chunks into a pot that has a tightly-closing lid, and add enough water so there is about an inch to an inch and a half of liquid. Close the lid, boil. Check on it every several minutes, cook until soft. Remove skin, cut flesh into very small chunks.

In the meantime, heat a skillet to medium heat, add olive oil and shallots and lower heat to medium-low. Stirring occasionally, allow onions to caramelize by cooking them a good 10 or 15 minutes. Add a liberal dose (a big spoonful or so) of balsamic vinegar and a teaspoon of white sugar. Turn up heat a bit, to medium, and continue to cook stirring constantly until sugar has dissolved and balsamic vinegar has reduced a bit.

Coat your pizza crust in olive oil, then smear on your balsamic-onion mixture. Cover it with the squash/pumpkin, smearing it around a bit as well. Crumble blue cheese over it all, season with black pepper and thyme, bake for about 30 minutes at 200ºC/375ºF.


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