My mission this week was to cook a different healthy dinner every night, meals that would fill me up without weighing me down. That’s not always my mantra, but after a weekend of this…
…you sort of need that.
If you can appreciate that sentiment, maybe you’ll relate to this too: Have you ever spent the whole morning just sitting around, wondering what to do with all the glorious fresh basil and pungent cloves of garlic you have on hand? Ever daydream, for tens of minutes on end, about tender semolina boccatini enveloped in tangy pesto; a roasted garlic, tomato and buffalo mozzarella salad drizzled in basil-infused olive oil; a warm hearty tomato bisque that will pull you out of your winter seasonal affective “issues”?
Or maybe you just got back from the corner market, where you realized that fresh basil and garlic are two of the only fresh ingredients that can be purchased in New York on the cheap - without forking over your unborn first child as collateral. And that basil plus garlic equals a flavor of summer that can’t be hindered by freezing rain and icy sidewalks, even if your morning commute is.
It was out of this sentiment that Heirloom Tomato Basil Bisque was born.
This soup is thick, savory, and hearty, and feels “stick to your ribs” good, without the added fat or dairy. It would be great as a starter for a wintry dinner, or as a main course with some shredded cheese on top, or with some brown rice, barley, or orzo mixed it, or with a poached egg on top. AND it only takes about 15 minutes to make! After thinking it through, I realized this sounded like just about everything I look for in a weeknight dinner, and so off I went.
Heirloom Tomato Basil Bisque (serves 1)
- 1 cup of baby heirloom tomatoes (regular cherry tomatoes would work, too)
- 1 clove of garlic, sliced thin
- 1/2 cup of carrots or baby carrots, chopped
- 1/4 cup of pumpkin puree / canned pumpkin
- 1/4 cup of vegetable stock, plus more on hand if needed
- 1 tbsp of olive oil
- 4 – 5 large fresh basil leaves, chiffonade, plus extra for garnish
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste.
To start, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a medium-sized sauce pan. Add the tomatoes, whole, and the garlic, and saute until the tomatoes begin to singe and caramelize on the outside, about 3 to 4 minutes. Then add the chopped carrots and continue to saute until soft, about 3 to 4 minutes more. Be careful not to burn the garlic – that will completely ruin the dish, and you’ll have to start over. The tomatoes should eventually burst from the heat, but if they are softening and not bursting, you can give them a hand with a fork or knife.
Once the tomatoes and carrots have softened, add the vegetable stock, pumpkin puree, oregano, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir well, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Allow to simmer for another few minutes until all the ingredients are incorporated, and the carrots are completely soft. Then add the basil and stir into the soup so the basil wilts.
Now, if you prefer a more rustic soup, you can leave this chunky, as it is. Or, you can make it a bit smoother and creamier by pureeing it using an immersion blender, a regular blender or a food processor. If you want to add an extra hit of richness, you can stir in a tablespoon of half-and-half, or cream cheese. My decision?
I opted for an over-easy egg right on top, garnished with basil. The runny yolk of the egg thickened up the soup wonderfully, and added the creaminess and richness I was looking for while also providing lots of healthy protein. Plus, it gave me a use for one of the leftover eggs in my fridge.
Did I mention the whole thing was ready in 15 minutes? Yup….
So go ahead, and put some summertime in your winter suppers. Nothing works better to combat those wintertime blues