When Life Gives You Tomatoes | Fire-Roasted Tomato Bisque

Fire-Roasted Tomato Bisque | Once Upon a Recipe

Have you ever eaten something at a restaurant that is just so damn good that you cannot stop thinking about it? And so then you create excuses find good reasons to go back to that same restaurant to enjoy that same thing over and over again? And then, after the tenth time going to that same restaurant and eating that same thing, you start to wonder if maybe you could make the thing at home, saving yourself some cash and also freeing yourself up to possibly eat out elsewhere and discover new obsessions?

Cool. I’m glad we understand each other. That’s totally what happened with this soup!

Fire-Roasted Tomato Bisque | Once Upon a Recipe

There is a great little pizzeria franchise here in Alberta, BC, and Ontario called Famoso, which specializes in authentic Neapolitan pizza. The pizza is totally killer. Now, I have to preface the rest of this story by telling you that I rarely order soup in restaurants. I’m just not really a soup girl. Plus, when up against something like pizza (hello cheesy, carby goodness), the soup is going to play second fiddle every time. A friend recommended that I try the fire-roasted tomato bisque and when she claimed that it was something along the lines of “best ever,” I decided to put it to the test.

And then I proceeded to go back to Famoso to eat this soup more times than I would like to admit over the couple of months that followed. (Don’t worry, I still ordered a small pizza alongside it!)

Fire-Roasted Tomato Bisque | Once Upon a Recipe

This soup. Well, it’s a bisque really, and I must confess that I did not know the difference between a soup and a bisque until about 29 seconds ago when I turned to Google for help. Apparently, a bisque is a type of rich, thick, creamy soup that has been pureed so that it has an even texture. Although, according to Wikipedia, a traditional bisque is “a smooth, creamy, highly-seasoned soup of French origin, classically based on a strained broth (coulis) of crustaceans.” Well excuse me, fancy pants. 

Whether this is truly a soup or a bisque, I have no idea. But what I do know is…it’s freaking delicious. After scouring the Internets for recipes that seemed to resemble the taste of the soup from Famoso that I had essentially committed to memory, I found one that, coupled with a few little tweaks, seems to be pretty darn close. It’s not quite as creamy and dreamy as the restaurant version, but I am rather certain that Famoso uses a much more generous amount of half & half, or likely even cream in their soup. So let’s just call this the lighter and tighter cousin to Famoso’s soup. Bisque. Whatever. Just make it! ‘Tis the season for soup, after all.

Fire-Roasted Tomato Bisque | Once Upon a Recipe

Fire-Roasted Tomato Bisque (adapted from The Novice Chef)

This bisque packs a flavorful punch. The use of fire-roasted tomatoes is key – don’t go trying to sub in regular ‘ol tomatoes. They just won’t cut it here. I found fire-roasted tomatoes alongside the other canned tomatoes in my local grocery store, but any Italian grocer should carry them. Also, fresh basil will make this bisque even more fantastic, so if it’s available to you, go ahead and use it. The fresh basil at my local grocer was looking rather sad and pathetic. And finally, the generous serving of crumbled feta cheese really takes this soup over the top, so please don’t leave it out. 

1/4 cup herb-infused olive oil (or EVOO)

1 onion, diced

8 garlic cloves, minced

3 (14 oz.) cans of fire-roasted tomatoes (ie. Scarpone’s)

2 cups stock (chicken or vegetable)

1/2 cup half & half

2 tsp. dried basil

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper, to taste

Crumbled feta cheese, for topping

In a heavy pot over medium high heat, heat the olive oil and saute the onion until translucent. Add the minced garlic and cook with the onion for a few minutes. Add the cans of fire roasted tomatoes (juice included) and cover for about 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes.

With the lid off the pot, add the broth and half & half and bring the soup to a simmer. The mixture should start to thicken as it reduces (~10-15 minutes). Once slightly thickened, season to taste with salt and pepper. Lower the heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes more.

Time to puree! Using either an immersion blender (if you’re lucky), or a regular blender, puree the soup until smooth. Be careful if using a regular blender as the soup is (obviously) hot! You may need to puree the soup in several batches.

Serve with a generous mound of crumbled feta cheese (and fresh basil if you’ve got it), and stir it into your soup as you eat. Buon appetito!

Enough Said | Black Bean Chili and Cheddar Cornbread

There really is no explanation needed for the meal pictured above.

It’s Winter. It’s cold out, it gets dark much too early, and most often, leads to cravings for warm, hearty soups and stews. Now, I know that there are a kazillion chili recipes out there, and this might not look like anything special. But it was definitely the best pot of chili I’ve ever made, and so I thought I’d share what went into it. And the cornbread? Chili’s most reliable wingman.

About a year ago, I started adding cocoa into my chili after reading a recipe by Deb from Smitten Kitchen. It might sound strange at first, but the cocoa adds a beautiful richness to the chili. I haven’t made a batch without it since. Don’t be afraid – give it a shot! I promise the chili won’t taste like a chocolate bar. Even though that would be pretty awesome.

Can you believe that I used to hate cornbread?! I claimed that it was disgusting and dry…and then came to the realization that the last time I ate cornbread was at a rather questionable establishment, and that perhaps I should try making my own. Guided by reliable sources, such as Ree and Jenna, I realized that it ain’t so bad. In fact, it’s really good! Now me and cornbread are likethis. This particular cornbread recipe gets a little extra somethin’ from the addition of some sharp cheddar cheese. Served warm with butter and a drizzle of honey. Total magic. For realsies.

Friends, if you’re looking for a comforting meal this winter, give this dynamic duo a try. Maybe this weekend? I hear there’s a big football game on…or something like that…and chili is wicked sports party food! Alongside a pint (or four) of beer, you just can’t go wrong.

Black Bean Chili

2 TBSP. olive oil

1 onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, crushed

1 medium zucchini, cut into small chunks

2 carrots, chopped small

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

4 TBSP. chili powder

2 TBSP. cumin

1 tsp. smoked paprika

2 TBSP. cocoa

Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

1 tsp. salt

Pepper to taste

1 large can diced tomatoes

2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can brown beans in tomato sauce

2 TBSP. tomato paste

In a large pot over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil and add the onions, cooking for a few minutes, until soft. Add in the garlic, zucchini, carrots, mushrooms and cook for a few minutes longer. Add in the spices, cooking for a minute more. Add the tomatoes, beans, and tomato paste and stir well to combine. Allow everything to simmer for at least 30 minutes (longer if possible), stirring occasionally. This is the perfect time to prepare the cornbread!

PS. I added the zucchini, carrots and mushrooms for extra bulk and nutrition, but feel free to substitute for whatever tickles your fancy.

Cheddar Cornbread  (adapted ever-so-slightly from Eat Live Run)

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1/4 cup sugar

1 (heaping) cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

2 eggs

1 cup buttermilk*

1/4 cup butter, melted

Preheat your oven to 400°F. Whisk together the cornmeal, flour, cheese, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. Add the buttermilk, eggs and melted butter and mix well to combine. Pour the batter into a greased 9-inch baking dish and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve immediately with butter and honey (and chili)!

*If you don’t have buttermilk, combine 1 cup of milk with 1 TBSP. white vinegar and allow to sit for a few minutes before adding to the rest of the ingredients. Instant buttermilk!

Another Keeper | Sweet Potato Chickpea Curry

Hello lovelies! I hope you are all having a great weekend. If you are in Edmonton, you are probably digging your way out of all of the snow over the past week. Where is it all coming from? I can’t remember the last winter that saw us getting several feet of snow at once! Makes me want to just hibernate and wake up in April. Only 3 more months to go. *sigh*

Cold weather warrants warm, spicy, and fragrant stews around here. Honey and I are big curry fans, and typically eat some type of curry concoction at least once per week. We also try to eat a couple of vegetarian meals each week. This sweet potato chickpea curry kills two birds with one stone and has a lovely flavor from the peanut butter and orange juice. Not to mention the thai curry paste. I’m not a huge fan of very spicy dishes, but if you like your curries on the hotter side, increase the amount of curry paste you use. You could also substitute green or yellow curry paste, depending on your preference (green is the spiciest, yellow is the mildest). Enjoy my friends ~ happy eating!

Sweet Potato Chickpea Curry (adapted from The Best of Chef at Home, Michael Smith)

A splash of vegetable oil

1 large onion, diced

4 cloves of garlic, chopped

A small knob of frozen ginger

2 tsp. of Thai red curry paste

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 19-oz. can of chickpeas, drained

1 14-oz. can of coconut milk

1 cup of orange juice

1/2 cup of peanut butter

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1 cup frozen green peas

Several handfuls of baby spinach

Chopped cilantro

Add a splash of vegetable oil to a stockpot over medium-high heat. Toss in the onion and garlic and saute them until they are lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

Grate the frozen ginger into the pan and add the Thai curry paste. Continue cooking until the spices are heated through and fragrant, another few minutes.

Add the sweet potatoes, chickpeas, coconut milk, orange juice, peanut butter, and salt. Brig to a simmer, lower the heat and continue simmering until the sweet potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in the peas, spinach, and cilantro. Serve over rice.

A Family Favorite | Nana’s Hamburger Soup

I have been on a kick with belly-warming recipes lately, even though Mother Nature has been rather kind to us with decent November temperatures. Perhaps it is because there is just something so satisfying about the sights, smells, and sounds of a delicious hearty meal bubbling on the stove. Last week I whipped up this old family favorite, known affectionately to us as Nana’s Hamburger Soup. I truly had thought it was a recipe developed by my wonderful late grandmother, but was recently informed that this recipe originally comes from one of the Best of Bridge cookbook series. However, in my heart, this was Nana’s recipe, and I am sticking with that!

Our family used to take this soup along on winter ski trips, as it made a very satisfying lunch as we tried to warm up our fingers and toes before heading back out onto the hill. If you’re looking for a comforting new soup to try, look no further. This recipe will help you through the long winter months ahead (at least if you live in Alberta, that is), and may just become one of your family favorites. Try it, you’ll see!

Nana’s Hamburger Soup

1 lb. ground beef

2 cups diced carrots

2 cups diced celery

1 onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

3 cans consomme soup

2 cans water

1 can of diced tomatoes with juice (796 mL)

1 can of tomato soup (398 mL)

8 TBSP. barley

1/2 tsp. each of dried thyme and rosemary

1 tsp. dried basil

3 bay leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, brown the ground beef and drain. Add in the carrots, celery, and onion, and cook over medium heat for a few minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add in the rest of the ingredients and simmer over low heat for ~ 1 hour. Enjoy with baking powder biscuits or a nice crusty loaf of bread.

This recipe makes quite a large pot of soup – if you’re feeding a small group (or if you’re like me, and just cooking for two), you will probably have a significant amount of leftovers. We were able to devour the leftovers over the next couple of days, but this soup also freezes well. Happy eating!

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