All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013
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This soup is spicy & tastes rich & creamy despite its total lack of dairy. It gets the rich creamy element from soaked & pureed cashews. Ymmm! There are a few steps required but all are simple. Do not be intimidated. I used lots of celery because I had it & it needed to be used. I also used heirloom cherry tomatoes – for the same reason as the celery – but larger tomatoes are more desirable. You can use heirloom or Roma or any variety of tomato. My soup came out less red than your average tomato soup because not all my tomatoes were red & because I did not use tomato paste. Also – I used a red onion because that was what I had. Yellow or brown might be better. Also – since spending 90 minutes caramelizing an onion might be too labor intensive for you & make you blow off this recipe entirely – know that the caramelized onion ingredient can be omitted without a huge loss in flavor. Also – cashews can be soaked overnight rather than boiled & soaked for an hour. Also – this soup need not be vegan. Heavy cream added at the end is a nice touch if that appeals to you – and would make the cashews unnecessary. I recommend trying the cashew version at least once, though. It is a healthier option.
Vegan Roasted Heirloom Tomato Bisque
2.5 – 3 lbs heirloom (or other) tomatoes
10 celery stalks – chopped (VERY optional)
1 vegetarian bouillon cube (optional)
4 serrano (or jalapeno) peppers (optional)
10 garlic cloves – or to taste
1 cup raw cashews
6 or more fresh basil leaves – chopped
1 TBS crushed red pepper flakes (or less – to taste)
1/2 tsp dry thyme
1 tsp oregano
1 large onion – quartered & slices 1/4 inch thick
2 or more TBS tomato paste (optional)
S&P to taste
GARNISH OPTIONS – more fresh basil, balsamic vinegar, grated cheese, blue cheese or goat or feta (crumbled on top), fried sage leaves, shaved Parmesan, homemade basil oil, sour cream, creme fraiche, heavy cream, croutons – whatever you like. And LOTS of fresh cracked pepper!
Pre-heat the oven to 350.
In a small pan, cover the cashews with water & bring to a boil. Remove from heat & allow to soak one hour. Or, conversely – let them soak overnight.
Cut your tomatoes in half (or if using some cherry tomatoes, as I did, leave them whole) & toss all the tomatoes & FIVE of your garlic cloves & serrano or jalapeno peppers with 4 TBS olive oil, crushed red pepper, thyme, oregano & a sprinkling of salt. Place tomatoes cut side down on a greased (with cooking spray) or parchment paper lined cooking sheet & roast in the 350 degree oven for about one hour.
Meanwhile, saute the onions in 1/4 cup olive oil on low to medium-low heat, stirring often, for about 90 minutes. This will release their sugar & caramelize them nicely. Once they are caramelized, add tomato paste (if using) & saute for a few more minutes – stirring to blend with the onions. Set aside.
Once the cashews have soaked for an hour, puree them in a blender or food processor with the water until perfectly smooth. Set aside.
If using celery, saute the celery in 2 TBS in a large stock pot in olive oil for 5 minutes or until it becomes tender. Add the 5 remaining garlic cloves & continue cooking another 2-3 minutes. Or – if not using celery – start just by sauteing the 5 cloves or garlic for a minute or two & carry on as follows. Add the caramelized onion & tomato paste mixture. Add the cashew puree. Stir.
When the tomatoes are done roasting, see if any of the charred skins can be easily plucked off. Be careful not to burn yourself. Pluck off the skins that come away easily & discard. If the skin resists, leave it be. Cut the stems off your serrano/jalapenos & then add all the roasted items and any juices to the stock pot. Stir to combine. Add the chopped basil and the bouillon cube (if using).
At this point, you may or may not want to add some water. This is a judgement call based purely on how thick or thin you like your bisque. I went VERY thick & did not add much water at all – less than a cup in total. I used & immersion blender & pureed everything in the stock pot. You can do this or blend it in batches in a blender or food processor. Whether or not you add much water, once the soup is blended, taste it & add salt & pepper to taste. If you want a really creamy bisque, adding a half pint of heavy cream would achieve this nicely.
Tomato Bisque three ways: with balsamic vinegar and with grated cheese & with fresh basil.