Recipe #31: Pipérade/Piperrada (Basque Red Pepper Soup)
Posted Mar 13 2008 12:00am
Tonight for dinner, I made pipérade (in French) or piperrada (in Spanish), a traditional Basque soup (i.e., some would say it's more of a stew, but I find that word so unappealing!), typically prepared with sweet red peppers, tomatoes, onions, & garlic, which can be served as an appetizer (i.e., tapas) or main course. A poached egg is typically added to the final product.
Now before you get all squeamish about the idea of a poached egg in soup, I will say this: I will admit that it also took me some time to warm up to the idea as well. I wasn't convinced at first, particularly because I hardly ever make poached eggs on their own, let alone combine them with soup. I'm more of a soft or hard-boiled egg kind of gal (but not with respect to my soup!). But anyhow....
As many of you who watch any of Gordon Ramsay's cooking shows (i.e., The F Word, Hell's Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares, etc.) probably already know, he often adds a poached egg to soups & other dishes. I have to admit that my first reaction to watching him doing this was, "Yuck! That's sounds (& looks!) horrible."
Now while I think Gordon has some fresh & clever culinary ideas & certainly respect him for his business acumen, I'm not always on board with some of his taste combinations. (Yes, I know, it's simply blasphemous to admit such a thing. Gasp. ;-) ) Even though I'm of British descent, I apparently didn't inherit a liking for Shepherd's Pie and the like. As you may've guessed from reading the rather vehement opining of past posts, I tend not to like meals which are heavy & starchy, which typically rules out a lot of traditional British (as well as German & Slavic) dishes. (Thankfully, these particular international cuisines have been updated/modernized to include lighter fare & revamped, more health-conscious versions of traditional dishes. Of course, there have been many a chef & cookbook writer who've made their mark with reinterpretations of traditional dishes, & in the process, have transformed their national cuisines.) But let's get back to our original topic, shall we?
So, as I was saying, I wasn't too keen at first on the poached egg in soup thing. However, tonight I changed my mind after watching the brilliant Basque chef, Gerald Hirigoyen, cook pipérade in his San Francisco restaurant , named after this very same dish ( Pipérade ) on a 1/2 hour TV segment entitled California Country . He made the dish look incredibly appealing & won me over with his tantalizing & exciting cooking demonstration. It very likely had something to do with watching him prepare all of those fresh ingredients (all local/California-grown produce) with such pizazz & passion.
Or maybe it was just the accent. Just kidding. ;-)
And of course, it probably also didn't hurt that he had such a charismatic manner about him. He certainly had a flair about him in the kitchen & out-&-about as he was talking to restaurant patrons. It was really wonderful to see him express such an unabashed joy for food & cooking. This is a man who clearly loves what he does for a living.
Watching people cook is such a visceral experience. I swear I could almost smell the soup through the TV as he was making it. ;-)
So, after all that, I decided that it might be worth giving that "poached-egg-in-soup thing" a try.
And you know what, it was surprisingly good. Actually really, really good. I was stunned & amazed.
And on that note, here's the recipe Pipérade/Piperrada (Basque Red Pepper Soup)
(Source: Food Down Under , Recipe #196924 & Recipe #21875 . These recipes just served as a basic framework, but of course, once again, I've customized my own version of this soup by adding ingredients, modifying amounts, etc., to make the recipe my own unique creation, & to suit my brood's own personal preferences & tastes.)
Ingredients: 1 Tbsp. olive oil (preferably good quality EVOO, extra virgin olive oil) 1 large onion, chopped 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 2 large red bell peppers, cored & seeded & diced into 1/4 inch pieces 4 vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces 1 dried red chili pepper, crushed & broken into small pieces (NOTE: You can also use 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes instead.) rock salt freshly ground pepper 1 tsp. fresh chives (or if unavailable, use 1/2 tsp dried) 1 Tbsp. fresh oregano (or 1 tsp. dried) 2 Tbsp fresh basil leaves, slivered (or, if unavailable, use 1/2 tsp dried) 1 1/2 tsp paprika 1-2 springs fresh thyme 1 Tbsp. fresh chopped parsley (for garnish) 1 poached egg (Or rather, prepare 1 poached egg for each bowl of soup.
Directions: 1. First, chop up all fresh ingredients & set aside. Place each ingredient in a separate bowl/container. 2. Heat oil in a large sauce pot over medium. Add onions & cook until tender & translucent (but not brown) for about 5 minutes. Be sure to stir frequently to avoid burning. (There's just enough olive oil with which to cook the onions, so if you find that you need more liquid, add a small bit of water, 1/8 to 1/4 c., to ensure that the onions soften but don't burn. This is a much healthier idea than using more oil! ;-) ) 3. Add red bell peppers & garlic & cook, stirring frequently. Cook until tender, about 7 minutes. 4. Add chopped tomatoes, crushed red chili pepper pieces, & salt & pepper to taste. Add all other dried spices at this point. Please do NOT add the fresh spices (i.e., parsley, basil, thyme sprigs, & chives) at this point. 5. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat, stirring often, until soup/stew has thickened, about 30 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste. 6. A few minutes before serving, poach eggs in boiling water (on low heat) for 1-2 minutes, then remove & set aside. [Poached eggs take literally no time at all to cook, so be sure you don't overcook them, or they won't taste very good. It's best to put each egg into a glass custard dish & holding the dish over the water, gently place (i.e., tip) them into the boiling water, to keep the egg whites together. Some people also like to add a drop of white vinegar & salt. For tips on how to cook the perfect poached eggs, please see this link .] 7. Garnish soup with poached egg & then sprinkle fresh parsley, basil, chives, & thyme on top. Serve & enjoy!
Yield: Makes 2 to 3 servings.
Serving suggestions: The soup tastes really good accompanied by something crunchy, like a side of cruciferous veggies (like celery sticks) &/or toasted bread or crackers. For the latter suggestion, I recommend going with either a lightly-toasted rustic, thick-crusted bread like sourdough, Ciabatta, or French bread, or going with a lightly salted chip (like an organic, baked corn/flaxseed tortilla chip) or cracker of some sort. I didn't have either of the first two types of breadstuffs on hand, but I did use Stacy's "Simply Naked" Pita Chips (which are, as the title implied, plain & lightly salted with seasalt), which were quite good.