Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tomato Bisque

I've subjected my family to many new recipes over the past few years.  Lots of them have been resounding failures.  One night I prepared a pasta dish with lots of fresh herbs.  Kinsey said it tasted like she was eating grass.  So much for that one.  The only way to expand your repertoire of "tried and trues" though is to venture into the unknown.  When a recipe doesn't work out I have to admit I'm bummed about it.  It feels like it was a waste of time and ingredients.  When my whole family loves a new recipe though, you can't beat that feeling of success.  This Tomato Bisque recipe is one of those successes.  It comes from Tal Ronnen's cookbook, The Conscious Cook.  Tal is a vegan chef.  When Oprah went on a "vegan cleanse" diet for a few weeks last year, Tal was her personal chef during that time.  This soup is divine--the best tomato soup you'll ever eat, vegan or otherwise.  There's another great soup in Tal's book--the corn chowder.  I make one of these soups every week.  Kinsey often takes the leftovers to school in a thermos for lunch.   It's hard to believe that such a creamy soup as this is vegan.  The secret is a cashew cream made from soaked cashews blended with water.  Prepare to be amazed!

4 Tbsp Earth Balance
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp flour
5 cups faux chicken stock
1 (28-oz) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, juice included (I use Muir Glen brand)
1 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
1 1/2 cups regular Cashew Cream (see below)

Melt the Earth Balance in a large stockpot over medium heat until melted.  Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and continue cooking and stirring for 2 minutes.  Add the stock, tomatoes with juice, and parsley.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Season with salt and pepper, then add the Cashew Cream.  Continue to simmer (do not boil) for 10 minutes.
Working in batches, pour the soup into a blender and blend on high for several minutes until very smooth.  Ladle into bowls and garnish with parsley.
Makes 6 servings

Cashew Cream
2 cups raw cashews

Put the cashews in a bowl and add cold water to cover them.  Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.  Drain the cashews and rinse under cold water.  Place in a blender with enough fresh cold water to cover them by 1 inch.  Blend on high for several minutes until very smooth.  (If you're not using a professional high-speed blender such as a Vita-Mix, which creates an ultra-smooth cream, strain the cashew cream through a fine-mesh sieve).   
Makes about 3 1/2 cups regular cream
(so to make enough cashew cream for this recipe, I usually only soak about 3/4 cup of cashews.)

A note on ingredients:
Earth Balance:  This is a vegan butter.  It comes in sticks and you can buy it at Vitamin Cottage or Whole Foods.
Faux Chicken Stock:  The brand I use is Imagine No-Chicken Broth.  It comes in a 32 ounce container.  You can get this at King Soopers as well as Whole Foods/Vitamin Cottage.  Here's a tip.  There's about 4 cups of broth in one of these containers.  Rather than open another one for the extra 1 cup of broth needed for this recipe, I keep some regular vegetable broth in my fridge (which I use in other recipes) and just supplement with that. 
Muir Glen Tomatoes:  These are organic canned tomatoes.  The fire roasted tomatoes called for in this recipe have a fabulous flavor. 

Two final notes:
You can freeze this soup.  When you defrost it and plop it into a saucepan to reheat, it may have separated a bit.  Don't despair!  Just whisk as you heat, and it will return to the normal consistency.
Also, don't forget to soak the cashews the night before you want to make this!  I can't tell you how many times I've forgotten to do this and we've had to eat something else instead.  Write yourself a note if you need to!


  1. Thanks for the notes. When I go to the grocery store I quickly realize how unfamiliar I am with healthy cooking...it's tricky to find where many of these ingredients are. Can't wait to try this!