TOMATO-RED BELL PEPPER SOUP WITH COUNTRY HAM AND CHICKPEAS

I like tomato soup. However, I rather love this Tomato-Red Bell Pepper Soup. The combination of tomatoes, red bell peppers, country ham, and chickpeas is amazing. I made one mistake–adding salt to the soup while cooking, which is usually the perfect addition to tomato-based soups. However, the country ham provided plenty of salt. Regardless, this soup is scrumptious!

Tomato-Red Pepper Soup with Country Ham & Chickpeas

1-28 oz can crushed tomatoes, undrained

1 cup roasted red bell pepper, chopped

1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup water

1 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

4 oz country ham, finely chopped

1-15 1/2 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1/4 tsp ground cumin

2 tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1) Preheat oven to 450 degrees

2) To large soup pot add crushed tomatoes and heat over medium; when tomatoes are heated through and start to bubble, stir in roasted red bell pepper, cream, water, basil, paprika, and black pepper; reduce heat to low and cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally

3) Meanwhile, to large baking dish add country ham and chickpeas; sprinkle with cumin, drizzle with olive oil, and toss to coat; bake in oven 5 minutes, stir, and bake additional 5 minutes; remove from oven

4) Using an immersion blender, puree tomato-red bell pepper soup (if you don’t have an immersion blender, you can use a regular blender, but be careful–hot!);

5) Ladle soup into bowls, spoon country ham-chickpea mixture over top, and sprinkle with parsley; serve!

Servings: 2 hearty dinner-sized servings; 4 hearty side dish servings

BEER CHEDDAR SOUP (WITH A KICK OF COUNTRY HAM)

Beer Cheddar Soup was on the menu but not of the “country ham” variety. However, since I bought too much of this Southern delight for my  Country Ham and Tomato Quiche, I decided to cut back on the bacon in this recipe and add the extra kick of country ham. Yum! A couple things to note: one of my guys thought this was “too hot,” so this recipe calls for fewer jalapenos than what I used; since country ham is quite salty, you probably won’t need to add salt. Eat on!

Beer Cheddar Soup (with a kick of country ham)

8 slices turkey bacon, cut into 1/2″ pieces

4 oz country ham, cut into 1/2″ pieces (I buy the biscuit-sized pieces)

1 onion, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1-2 jalapeno peppers, diced

1/2 tsp dried thyme

3 tbsp unsalted butter

1/3 cup flour

2 bottles of beer (I used O’Doul’s non-alcoholic)

3 cups chicken broth

1/2 cup half-and-half

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp Dijon mustard

2-1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Optional toppings: cheddar cheese, sour cream, diced jalapenos (for those who like it “too hot”)

1) In large skillet over medium-high heat, cook bacon and country ham 4-5 minutes until pieces begin to crisp

2) Lower heat to medium; add onion, celery, jalapenos, and thyme; cook 8-10 minutes

3) Add butter and melt; gradually sprinkle flour over top and, stirring continuously, cook 2 minutes

4) Stir in beer and chicken broth and cook 10 minutes

5) Stir in half-and-half, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, and cheese; cook 8 minutes, stirring often

6) Serve it up (I’m hooked on my cast iron soup bowls with their cute pail handles)

Servings: 4 dinner-sized portions/8 side portions

NOTE: This is a “repeat” recipe featured on my original “Kitchen Novelist” blog 05/01/12

COUNTRY HAM AND SPLIT PEA-LENTIL SOUP

As one of Senior’s favorite soups is split pea with ham, I decided to forego can and can opener and go the homemade route. For a different take, I used half as many split peas and replaced the missing half with fiber- and protein-rich lentils and substituted good old salty country ham for a ham hock. Thumbs up all around!

Country Ham and Split Pea-Lentil Soup

2 tbsp olive oil

1 cup diced onions

1 cup matchstick carrots

3/4 cup diced celery

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/2 tsp dried oregano

6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (definitely reduced-sodium if you use salty country ham)

8 oz chopped country ham

3/4 cup dry green split peas, rinsed

3/4 cup dry lentils, rinsed

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1/4 cup minced parsley

Optional: sour cream for topping and minced parsley

1) Heat oil in large soup pot over medium-high heat; add onions, carrots, celery, thyme, and oregano; cook 8 minutes, stirring often

2) Add broth, ham, split peas, lentils, vinegar, and pepper and bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and cover with lid; stirring occasionally, cook 45-50 minutes until split peas and lentils soften

3) Using an immersion blender*, puree soup lightly (you’ll want to retain the texture of some whole peas, lentils, and ham); stir in parsley, cook 2 minutes, and serve with optional toppings, if you like

*Note: If you don’t have an immersion blender, puree half the soup in a regular blender (Careful! Soup is hot!), then stir pureed soup back into un-pureed soup.

Servings: 4 dinner-sized portions