Number 91 of my list of the top 100 (mostly Southern) meals and side dishes of all time.
When August drifts around every year, there is little to celebrate here in the Deep South. It’s hot and humid one day, hotter and more humid the next. A day or so ago he humidity was at 99%. I thought we had to be under water to get a 99% reading. There is one good thing about August in the South, however, and that’s the proliferation of summer vegetables. Tomatoes, peppers, okra, squash, and cucumbers will grow like weeds if there’s enough rain. And that’s the reason I developed a recipe for Summertime Soup – it’s chock-full of tomatoes and peppers, along with a few other items.
During our horrid summers I have a favorite vegetable market I go to once a week in Millbrook, Alabama, just a few short miles from my house. I like this market over other ones in our area because one of the family-owned farms – Penton Farms, out of Verbena, Alabama – sells me a weekly box of “seconds” tomatoes for a very good price.
“Seconds” are the tomatoes most buyers don’t want, because they usually consist of over-ripe, under-ripe, small, or blemished fruit. I don’t care what they look like or if I have to toss several of them in the compost pile. I’m not looking for perfect tomatoes. I use them to make tomato juice, one of my reasons for living – especially in the summer. Once they become juice, who cares what they used to look like? Now – the recipe for my homemade tomato juice is also on my list of top 100 dishes – it’s in my top 10, as a matter of fact. But it’s not the dish I’m telling you about today.
Summertime soup is a derivative of my tomato juice, however, because once I squeeze most of the juice from the tomatoes, I have a large pot of leftover tomato carcasses – the pulp and skins of the guys who sacrifice their juice so that I can make it through another awful August. This leftover pot of tomato pulp makes fantastic spaghetti sauce, chili sauce, and, of course, Summertime Soup.
The other main ingredients of this soup are potatoes and peppers, and today I have some red potatoes, along with some bell and banana peppers that came from the same farming family that sold me the box of tomato “seconds.” The only problem I have with bell peppers is that most Americans think bell peppers are green when they’re ripe – like limes – making the ripe ones difficult to find. I won’t buy green bell peppers. I like them at the peak of their ripeness, bright red or yellow. This means I often have to buy banana peppers, which are almost always good and yellow – in other words, ripe.
I don’t care which kind of peppers I use – banana or bell. I like them all.
- 2 tbs. good oil, either olive, grape seed, or canola.
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 good-sized onions, chopped. I use Vidalia, or other type of sweet onion. 4 cups peppers, chopped. Red, yellow, banana, bell – it doesn’t matter
- 4 cups potatoes, skins on (I always eat the potato skins.)
- 1 – 32 oz. container of chicken broth
- 4 cups tomato pulp (or, if you don’t have any leftover tomatoes, use two 15 oz. cans of stewed tomatoes
- 1 tsp., more or less, Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning
Sauté the onions and garlic in the oil. Add the peppers, potatoes, and chicken broth. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes. Add the tomatoes and seasoning, bring back to boil and simmer another 10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly. Add, in batches, to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour a big bold bowlful, add a little more Tony Chachere’s if you dare, and enjoy the fruits of summer.
Years ago I didn’t blend this soup, preferring to eat it with chunks of vegetables, instead. Now, however, I prefer it smooth, with all the various veggies blended together. Try it either way, or put some aside before you blend it and have some both ways. And if you can’t have your soup without meat in it, sauté a pound of ground beef and add it after you blend the veggies.
No matter which way you choose to make this soup, it’s one great way to get yourself through our danged hot-as-hell summers.