Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Roasted Pepper and Orzo Soup

LESLIE BUDEWITZ: As I write this, in the first week of February, we are deep into Soup Weather. The forecast is for Continued Soup Weather, maybe for the rest of the month. Happily, we love soup, and I bet you do, too.

Some soups take all day, perfuming the house with the scents of bay leaf and broth. Others, happily, can be made in half an hour or less, and this is one. The original, which I’ve adapted almost beyond recognition, called for adding a few ounces of seasoned ground lamb. We love lamb, but if we’d got a few ounces hanging around, it’s probably in the form of left-overs that Mr. Right is looking forward to enjoying just as they are. If your fridge offers up a bit, though, give it a pinch of sumac or za’atar and toss it in.

Don’t know sumac or za’atar? You should. Both are Middle Eastern spices, sumac a dark red with a hint of lemon. Za’atar is a blend; we like both the dark red Syrian version and the greenish Israeli blend.

We served this with salad and Parmesan-topped toasts. Brush a few slices of baguette with olive oil, top with grated Parmesan, and broil 2-3 minutes.

Roasted Pepper and Orzo Soup

2 tablespoons pine nuts or cashews, for garnish
1 medium shallot
1 clove garlic
One 12-ounce jar water-packed roasted red peppers (sliced or whole)
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan or pecorino-Romano cheese
1/3 cup dried orzo
Kosher salt
½ teaspoon za'atar or ground sumac
1 cup baby spinach
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, cut chiffonade
additional cheese, for garnish

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Toast pine nuts or cashews about 10 minutes. Remember that nuts will continue to brown after you remove them from the oven.

Coarsely chop the shallot and garlic. Drain the red peppers.

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, stir in the shallot and garlic. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes, until just softened, then transfer to a blender.

In the blender jar, add the drained peppers and ½ cup broth; puree until smooth, 2-3 minutes. Return to saucepan. Add the remaining 2 cups of broth and the cheese; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then stir in the orzo and sumac or za’atar. Cook until orzo is tender, about 9-10 minutes, stirring regularly to keep it from sticking. Taste, and add salt as needed.

Just before serving, add the spinach and basil into soup; reduce heat to low and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.

Divide among individual bowls. Top with nuts and additional cheese, and serve with the toasts.

Serves 4.  

"Budewitz's finely drawn characters, sharp ear for dialogue, and well-paced puzzle make Jewel Bay a destination for every cozy fan." --- Kirkus Reviews

From the cover of AS THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE CRUMBLES, Food Lovers' Village Mystery #5 (Midnight Ink,  available in trade paper, e-book, and audio):  

In Jewel Bay---Montana's Christmas Village---all is merry and bright. At Murphy’s Mercantile, AKA the Merc, manager Erin Murphy is ringing in the holiday season with food, drink, and a new friend: Merrily Thornton. A local girl gone wrong, Merrily’s turned her life around. But her parents have publicly shunned her, and they nurse a bitterness that chills Erin.

When Merrily goes missing and her boss discovers he’s been robbed, fingers point to Merrily—until she’s found dead, a string of lights around her neck. The clues and danger snowball from there. Can Erin nab the killer—and keep herself in one piece—in time for a special Christmas Eve?

Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. A past president of Sisters in Crime, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat, an avid bird-watcher.

Swing by my website and join the mailing list for my seasonal newsletter. And join me on Facebook where I announce lots of giveaways from my cozy writer friends.


  1. Wonderful colors! It makes you warm just looking at it.

  2. You are so right about it being soup weather. Am currently simmering up some chicken stock to put aside for various future endeavors. This sounds like a wonderful such project and would bring a bit of sunshine to the palate.

  3. It occurs to me to mention that if you don't have sumac or za'atar, try a little paprika, sweet or smoked.

  4. Love your new portrait shot.
    This really is pretty to look at, so it should be lovely to eat.

    1. Thanks! I wish I could tweak the crooked neckline, but I'm probably the only person who notices! And it crops nicely!

  5. Sounds delicious! Thanks for the recipe and the tips