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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Basque Shepherd's Cheese Grilled Sandwich

I don't know why, but this winter season has felt and still feels (even though officially spring arrived a while ago...) like taking forever. Last Tuesday was soooo cold, that we had to turn on the heat again, just when we thought we were done with it :(
I was working in my kitchen, filling a bunch of chocolate orders, and although most of the times when I'm making truffles I get so into it, and time seems to fly, I don't even remember to have lunch (a bad thing... I know...), but last Tuesday the cold got to me, within my bones... so I had to have soup, but I wanted to make something quick, yet comforting, cause I had to get back to work, so Tomato and Red Roasted Pepper Soup came to the rescue.

I accompanied it with a kicked up classic: Grilled cheese Sandwich, but not just any grilled cheese sandwich, I used Basque Shepperd's Cheese... mmmm Delicious!

It sure did it's job and got me back to work, all warmed up and energized too!
This recipe is adapted from the Food Network, Down with the Neelys, I changed a couple of things, since I wanted to make the soup vegan to see how it turned out.
Here is what you will need:

Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper 

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Vidalia onion, chopped
1 Carrot (I omitted this, since I didn't want the soup to be too sweet)
2 Cloves of garlic (I added one more, I love garlic)

Kosher Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
1 Tablespoon of tomato paste
1 (14.5 oz.) can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 (12 oz.) jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped (I used Belarra Piquillo Peppers, they are my favorite)
2 1/2 cups of low sodium vegetable broth
2 teaspoons of sugar (I also omitted this for the same reason, and I'm glad I did because the soup came out just perfectly sweet for my taste)
1/2 unsweetened almond milk
Basil, I used cilantro cause I didn't have basil at hand and it was very tasty too.

Heat the olive oil in a 2 quart saucepan over medium high heat. Add onion and carrot and saute until tender, about five minutes. Add garlic and saute until just fragrant. Season with salt and pepper. Add tomato paste and cook until toasted, just one more minute.

Add tomatoes, red pepper, vegetable broth and let simmer for 25 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and the flavors have melded together. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, pepper and sugar if needed. Add the almond milk and basil, puree using a hand held immersion blender until smooth.

Serve in soup bowls with a sprinkle of fresh basil on top, cilantro in my case.

AOC Ossau-Iraty / Basque Shepherd's Cheese
Now, let me tell you a little bit about this delicious cheese...
It's real name is: AOC Ossau - Iraty because it's there were it's produced, in southwestern France in two neighboring provinces: the Ossau Valley in the Bearn and the Iraty Forests of the Basque Country (Pays Basque)

The three initials before it's name mean: appellation d'origine controlee which only means that this product has been certified to be produced with the special characteristics of that particular geographical area. Along with Roquefort these are the only two sheep milk cheeses with AOC status in France.

It's uncooked, pressed cheese handcrafted with raw, unpasteurized milk from Manech and Basco-Bearnaise Sheep, and has to be aged at least for 90 days to reach it's fatty, sweet and nutty perfection.

It has been called the grandfather of Basque Cheeses, made the traditional way by Basque Shepherd's for millenia.

It's so good, that it's in the book: "1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die"

I simply lightly buttered two pieces of Soft Rustico Multigrain Bread, added some cheese and grilled it, perfect pairing for this delicious smoky soup.

Enjoy with a nice glass of red wine, for me it had to be Rioja Wine of course... :) and there you have it: 
Total comfort food on a plate.

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