Eating better food for less and other tales from a no-moneymoon

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Cheap and Cheerful

It's raining hard here today. Time to brighten this gray day up with some:

Yellow Pepper Curry Soup

There's no photo because my food photography skills are slim and certainly not good enough to capture the bright yellow color of this soup. So you'll just have to trust me -- it's pretty!

Serves 2 for smaller bowls, 1 for a large bowl
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
1/2 inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1-1 1/2 cups roasted yellow peppers (1 large pepper)
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/3 c. 1 % milk (or what have you)
Salt and pepper to taste

Roasted Peppers: Now, this normally wouldn't be a budget-friendly ingredient. *However* Mr. Lemon and I happened upon a lovely feature of the gourmet grocery blocks from our house: the bargain produce bin. It is hit or miss, but this means we sometimes find veggie gold -- in this case about 12 yellow and red peppers in mid-March for $1.50. Some need a little love and trimming, which Mr. Lemon reminds me of often as I have sympathy for the discarded produce and tend to be too gentle. Poor abandoned peppers!

When we made this haul I roasted in bulk (400F for 30-40 minutes, or until the skin blackens; steam skins off by placing peppers in a paper bag or make a pouch with parchment paper; peel away skin when cool.) Since we had such a large bounty, I pureed the roast peppers and froze them in 1 cup portions for later use. Especially with the bargain bagged produce, because it is sometimes a bit, ahem, mature, it's good to use it quickly or process it in a way that it can be frozen.

1. Assemble the soup: In a saucepan over medium heat, saute the onion, celery and ginger in olive oil until the vegetables become translucent. It will start to smell very good!

2. Add the peppers! Today I dropped the frozen pepper puree right in the pot and let the stove do all the work, but I could easily have defrosted in the microwave. I'm a lazy chef, what can I say? If the peppers are in pieces and freshly roasted, just give them a quick chop and add them to the veggie mixture.

3. Blender time: Once the peppers are either fully melted or have sauteed with the other vegetables for about 3 minutes, take the mixture off the stove and transfer to a blender to puree. Today, since I used pureed pepper, I skipped this step and had some nice, slightly chunky soup. But if you like smooth, thick soups, the blender is the way to go. Personally, I like having something to chew on in my soups.

4. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan, add the curry powder, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Add milk and bring back up to simmer.

I add a dollop of plain yogurt in the center when I plate this and then swirl it into the soup. Usually I have Greek yogurt (my favorite!), but we recently have been leaning toward a less expensive brand. A little chopped cilantro also looks nice against the bright yellow of the soup.

Today I had just a tiny bit of a yogurt cheese dip I'd made for a dinner party on Sunday (a super easy recipe I'll post at some point!) I literally saved 1 Tablespoon of dip...saving even a little bit can go a long way in adding flavor and cutting down on waste. I once wondered that my beloved Grammy, who had lived through the Depression I, saved one single lima bean. Now I think of her when I put away even small servings of food and ingredients.

Curry's spiciness plays nicely off the sweetness of the peppers
2-3 servings of vegetables, most of which I usually have on hand
Creaminess, but low in fat and very filling

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