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Roasted Tomato and Pepper Soup with Polenta Croutons and Basil

September 27, 2011
By Wendy Monro - Food Writer , The Journal

Balance is what I desire to achieve. Doesn't everyone strive to be fun and smart, desirable and monogamous, friendly and authoritative?

Maybe not everyone looks for this. I know I do.

I try to balance out my giving and my getting. I try to be a good listener to friends and to give good advice, but not too much advice. I want to have fun with my husband but not so much fun that my children are neglected. I have to remember I am not 20 anymore.

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Roasted pepper and tomato soup with fresh basil and polenta croutons.

Well, my body keeps reminding me of that one anyway. Thanks body.

I want to have meditative and contemplative time, time to read, time to write, as well as time with friends just having fun.

I like to give my time to different charities. Then, I worry that I am not spending enough time at home. Am I neglecting my own family when I am away doing these things? Am I balancing this appropriately?

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Roasted Tomato and Pepper Soup with Polenta Croutons and Basil

Time: 40 minutes

Serves: 6

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 red/orange peppers

4 large tomatoes

1 onion, chopped

1 stalk of celery, chopped

1 clove of garlic, minced

2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

2 cups vegetable broth

2 tablespoons tomato paste

juice from of a lemon

1 cup basil, cut into ribbons, divided

Turn the broiler on high and allow it to heat up. Coat the peppers and tomatoes with one tablespoon of the olive oil. Place in the broiler for about ten minutes (until the skins are beginning to peel off). Turn them over after five. Take them out and let them cool.

In a skillet, on medium high heat, add the remaining olive oil. Saut the onions and celery for ten minutes. Add the garlic and saut for five minutes more. Add the spices and hot pepper sauce. Let these cook in for about five minutes. Peel the skins off of the tomatoes and peppers. Cut them into big chunks and remove as much of the seeds as possible. Add these to the celery and onion mix. Let this simmer for about five minutes. Spoon this into a food processor and puree. Put back into the skillet. Add the broth, tomato paste and lemon juice. Mix well. Serve with polenta croutons and fresh ribbons of basil.

I want to eat right and to exercise so my body looks and feels good. At the same time, I don't want to worry about what I look like all of the time. How do I find the harmony?

No, seriously, I am asking you. How is harmony and balance in life achieved? Does anyone get it right? Is there such a thing as right? Hmmm... I wonder.

I spent the last two weeks meditating and being counseled by Buddhist nuns. Yes, you read that correctly. I just wanted to learn something new.

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I have decided that there is no time to waste in wondering about things anymore. I need to get out there and learn and experience life to its fullest.

I had read a lot about Buddhism and wanted to know more. More than anything, I wanted to learn more about meditation.

Everything I knew about meditation in the past, I read in books. I wanted to experience it first hand with actual experts. So I dove right in and made my own conclusions and discoveries.

I am not going to go into my Buddhism lessons here in my food column with you. You're welcome.

I will say that I am nowhere nearer having THE answers. No, that is not entirely true. I did come up with one answer: there are no real answers.

I am going to stop trying to find answers to impossible questions and just appreciate the experience of life itself.

Life with all of its uncertainty and its predictability can be wonderful.

Life with all of its amazing beauty, love, and harmony, misery, hatred, and dysfunction, is marvelous to experience.

Maybe the balance is in accepting all of it as it comes: the good and the bad, the love and the joy as well as the pain and the suffering. Life in itself is a perfect balance.

I keep this balance in mind when I am cooking the food we eat in this house.

During the week, I don't eat any meat or dairy. Then, on the weekends, I allow myself a couple of cheesy treats and maybe some meat if it's something special.

So far, I cannot give up cheese all together. My love affair runs too deep to disrupt it. I can't give up cooking some meat or my love affair with my husband will end as in, he will leave me. I have to maintain a balance.

So, this week, I decided to make a roasted pepper and tomato soup. It's fall and getting colder.

Soup is always a nice way to warm you up from deep inside.

I really like tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich. However, this didn't jive with my healthy eating during the week lifestyle.

So, I decided to grill some polenta instead. Then, I really wanted to add cream to the soup. Oh, this was a struggle.

Creamy tomato soup is the best!! I at least wanted a dollop of sour cream on top. It was agonizing to leave this out. Instead, I opted for the polenta croutons and some fresh basil on top.

I have to say, when it was finished, I didn't miss the cream. The polenta was creamy and perfect. It was the balance I desired. Everyone loved the soup, especially Claud (who always adds butter and cream to any soup). Nobody noticed it was missing. It was just vegetables and spices and oh so delicious. This soup was a complete harmony of flavors. It was fun and smart, nutritious and delicious ... a perfect balance.



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