Sinigang à la Andalusia: Red Pepper-Blood Orange Bisque

(Looks like I have quite the backlog of posts hidden in “Drafts” so while I cook up [pun most definitely intended] some fresh content…I hope you enjoy the leftovers [yup there it is!] from yesterday’s writing.  This is one of the few things I did after finally getting a blender many moons back…]

…this first one is a combination of two different soups: the Filipino Sinigang (a sour tamarind broth with a mixture of vegetables and some type of meat), as well as the Spanish Caldillo de Pero (an Andalusian soup soured by the local sour oranges). It’s got the smoky creaminess of a red pepper bisque but with an appetizing tang. In lieu of the traditional fish and to balance the richness of the soup, I’ve topped it with some fried okra, caramelized oranges, and ginger confit.

It’s got quite a few components (not to mention is quite a liberal interpretation of the two soups since I actually used sweeter blood oranges) but the resulting bowl is complex, balanced, and refined enough to elevate the ordinary to gastronomical suave-ness.  Definitely something to keep up your sleeve for more creative nights (or when you need to make una buena impresión).

INGREDIENTS:
8 medium red peppers
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 pack (about 3 cups worth) okra, sliced into 1/2″ thick pieces
1 c. all-purpose flour
2 blood oranges, peeled and sliced into sections (try to remove as much of the bitter pith as possible)
The juice of 3 – 4 sour oranges (available at some of the more diverse supermarkets but young oranges work fine too)
The juice of 4 – 6 limes (fewer if you managed to find sour oranges)
1 large Spanish onion, sliced thinly
1 knob of ginger, minced (one the size of your hand should do)
1.5 c. olive oil (feel free to go fancy on this one!)
1 – 2 quarts of vegetable stock (depending on how thick/brothy you want it to be)
1 – 2 c. half-and-half (again depending on how creamy you want it to be)
1 c. brown sugar

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT:
Blender (the stronger the motor, the smoother the soup!)

 


 

1) Wash, dry, and lightly oil your peppers while setting your broiler on high. I happened to set mine on low just because I wanted to be able to do other things, but if you’ve got the time and focus, go high!  You can also do this on a grill for a different flavor and I’ve seen some do it on their stove flames themselves.  I’d only recommend the stove method as a last resort since it’s far too inefficient and time-consuming.

2) Place the peppers on a baking sheet lined with foil and place them under the broiler on the top rack about 4 – 6″ away from the flame.  If you’ve got your heat on high, watch them closely since they char pretty quickly.  When they do, turn them over until all sides are black (don’t worry about “over-charring”.  You’re peelin’ ’em anyway) and the insides nice and soft.  Set aside to cool for 15 minutes.

 

Took a pic about a quarter of the way through. Keep going till most of it is black!

Took a pic about a quarter of the way through. Keep going till most of it is black!

 

3) Heat the olive oil in a small pot on medium-low and place the minced ginger in. If you hear sizzling and the ginger begins to fry, drop the heat immediately until you see the oil barely shimmering.  You want to slowly cook the ginger and infuse the oil with it’s spiciness.

4) When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel them and remove the stems and seeds.  Slice them lengthwise into long strips.  Meanwhile, bring a pack of the broth to boil in a stock pot.

5) Once boiling, toss in the peppers and tomatoes and reduce to a simmer.

6) Fry your onions until they’re just beginning to brown.  The darker they are (and feel free to go as far as caramelizing them if you’d like!), the more intense the flavor.  Toss into the soup.

7) By now, the tomatoes should be soft and it’s time to blend it all together.  Ladle the soup into your blender, taking care not to fill it over the halfway mark and making sure you got a good mix of peppers, tomatoes, onions, and broth in there.  Remember, vent your blender and start low so you don’t blow the lid off and cover your walls in red (actually…that sounds like a fun idea)!  Increase the speed until you’ve got a nice, smooth mixture.  Strain this into a separate container.  Continue doing this until you’ve blended all of the soup.

7) Return the now smooth bisque into the stock pot and bring to a simmer along with the citrus juices.  Add a cup of cream (more later if you’d like).  You can also add more stock if it’s too thick.  Season with salt.  We’ll now shift to the garnishes.

8) Taste the ginger.  If it’s mellowed out and isn’t too crunchy, it’s good to go!  Set aside and rinse your pot out.  Heat it on high again and then place your blood oranges in with the sugar and about 1/2 c. water.  Reduce to medium and watch as they soften up and caramelize (make sure the sugar doesn’t burn).  Once the sugar’s melted into a syrupy consistency (about 15 minutes) set aside.

8) Lightly coat your okra in flour.  If you’d like, you can set up an egg wash and even bread it with panko for extra crunch but it’s totally optional.  Fry the okra in batches on high until golden brown (test one to make sure the flour’s not starchy anymore…raw flour don’t taste good).  Set aside and sprinkle some salt and pepper on ’em.

9) To assemble, place a few pieces of the orange at the bottom of a bowl and ladle some soup on top. Place a good scoop of the fried okra near one of the edges along with a teaspoon of the ginger confit.  Lastly, drizzle with some of the ginger oil and sprinkle some finishing salt (or go HAM and use some fancy Flor de Sal d’Es Trenc Olivas Negras like we did!).

Sniff, slurp…suspiras.

IMG_0803

 

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