Tomato Basil Bisque
The chill in Kansas City air seemed more biting this New Year, especially after spending the whole of December in India. May be the huge difference in temperature wasn't the only reason, I was already missing the warmth and love of all the near ones who stayed back on the other side of the globe. A little respite and some shine in the gloom was spending a few hours at my sister in law's place in Iowa while driving from Chicago to KC during our return. It is always so good to see this family. The totally homemade hearty soup and lunch that they offered seemed like pure bliss after enduring almost forty hours of travel due to long layovers and delays. Moreover, my sister in law had also bought me a Christmas present which I fell in love with as soon as I saw it. She knows my knack for cooking and the gift was really well thought out. It was an immersion blender. I have the regular blender in my kitchen and always wanted to have the immersion one. But I like to prioritize my needs over my wants, so I never really bought it thinking my regular blender works and is good for now. But trust me an immersion blender can make life much easier, more so during the winter. I say so because the one thing that I crave most other than hot coffee during the cold days is soup. And this thing really helps making soups easier totally eliminating the risk of pouring some hot liquid into the blender and ending up burning yourself. Since KC saw a few days temperature going quite below freezing point last week and a snowy day too, my new kitchen tool was instantly brought into good use. Me and my hubby enjoyed this delicious homemade tomato basil bisque, thanks to my sister in law. A bisque is the other name for some soups of French origin. A bisque was traditionally made with seafood but later innovations have been made with vegetables too. Although there isn't much of a difference between a bisque and a soup but the former is thought to be more fancy and rich. The veggies used in a bisque are generally roasted before cooking, so I think it justifies the term that it has been derived from bis - 'twice' and cuites - 'cooked'. I really love this recipe because people who know me also know that I always go for the amazing combination of simple yet tasty and of course using handy ingredients. This recipe is no exception and hardly anything can beat it on a cold winter day. Moreover it also keeps in mind the health factor while filling up your stomach with something delicious. It makes for a great appetizer and can be even served for a light dinner or lunch with some toast on the side.
Tomato Basil Bisque
INGREDIENTS (for 4 servings)
Tomatoes (large): 4
Onions (chopped): 1/2 cup
Garlic (minced): 2 to 3 cloves
Vegetable stock: 4 cups
Dried basil: 2 tsp
Paprika: 1 tsp
Ground black pepper: 1 tsp
Rice (uncooked): 2 tbsp
Olive oil: 1 tbsp
Half and half cream: 1/2 cup
Sugar: 2 tsp
Salt to taste
NOTE: The above ingredients are the ones I used for this recipe as they came handy but you can replace them according to your convenience. For example you can replace vegetable stock with chicken stock or simply water, dried basil with fresh basil, half and half cream with fresh cream or milk. You can also use canned tomatoes instead of fresh but I would really like to suggest the fresh ones as I love their freshness and also the smoky flavor after roasting them.
Cut the tomatoes in halves and drizzle some olive oil and sprinkle some salt on them.
Let it roast in the oven for about 3 to 4 minutes or until the skin gets a little charred. You need to put the oven in broil setting. You can also pan roast the tomatoes if you don't have oven.
Heat olive oil in a soup pan and saute the onions till translucent. Then add the garlic and saute a little making sure it does not turn brown.
Now add the tomatoes and stir everything together. Add some salt keeping in mind that the stock which will be used may also contain some salt.
Then one after the other add the vegetable stock, paprika and dried basil.
Add the rice. The rice works as a thickening agent here.
Cover and cook on medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes or until the rice is fully cooked and the tomatoes are soft.Then turn the heat to low and use the immersion blender to blend everything into a smooth mixture. If you do not have immersion blender you need to very carefully transfer it into a regular blender at this point and transfer back to the soup pan once blended.
Add some ground black pepper and sugar and mix it in. Add sugar depending on the sweetness of the tomatoes. Adding a little sugar also helps to balance the acidity of the tomatoes and enhances the taste.
At this point you may want to check for the seasoning and also the consistency. You may want to add some more stock if you want it thinner or reduce it if you like it thicker. Generally a bisque is not very thin but do adjust according to your preference.
Finally add the half and half cream and mix until homogeneous.
You may garnish it with some half and half and enjoy it while warm and fresh.
Photographs by Swakshar Ghosh.