Roasted Tomato and Beet Bisque

Check out that gorgeous pink, creamy soup!

Check out that gorgeous pink, creamy soup!

It’s starting to feel like Autumn here in Montreal and the end of summer harvest is in full swing. Tomatoes are selling off at the market for a fraction of what they normally cost, and bright bushels of beets are stacked row on row in front of fruiteries at every corner, tempting passersby with thoughts of warm borchts and savoury-sweet grilled beet salads. This recipe brings together the two in an unusual pairing that I am sure you will find as addictive as we do. It might seem odd, and I get it- beets and tomatoes, why would you do that? But trust me when I tell you, this recipe is so easy, healthy, cheap, and look at that colour! You are going to fall in love.

Bisque is traditionally thickened with a starch, such as rice or potatoes, before being strained and enriched with cream. In this case, I used raw sunflower seeds. They add the perfect creaminess and their subtle flavour is ideal for light vegetable purees such as this. We can thank the sunflower seeds for the pink colour, too! You could omit them, or substitute a starch as with a traditional bisque, or any unsweetened, neutral flavour plant cream will do. You can change the colour of the bisque to a lovely golden orange by using golden beets and tomatoes instead. This recipe requires no pot, just a slow roast in the oven and a trip through the blender. Go ahead and bake yourself some bread or pumpkin muffins while the oven is hot and the veggies are roasting. It’s that time of year!

It's also good straight out of the jar, just saying.

It’s also good straight out of the jar, just saying.

Roasted Tomato and Beet Bisque

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and sliced
3 large, flavourful tomatoes, cored
2 medium beets, peeled and sliced fine
2 small cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, raw
4 cups good vegetable stock, home made leek stock if possible
1 tbsp neutral oil
1 tsp salt
Pink or white pepper, or plain black pepper if that’s all you have

1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking tray with a sheet of tinfoil

2) Arrange vegetables in the foil, drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with half the salt. Cover with another sheet of foil, folding the edges together carefully to seal. Place in oven and bake approximately one hour, until beets are tender.

3) Meanwhile, puree the sunflower seeds in one cup of the broth until perfectly smooth and not at all gritty. This may take several minutes, just give your blender breaks as needed.

4) When cooked, add the vegetables from the foil pouch to the sunflower puree with all their juices. Puree until completely smooth, slowly adding the water and scraping the sides as needed. Add remaining salt and pepper to taste. Bon appetit!

Waxing poetic about Autumn

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In Montreal, we have a flair for the dramatic.

I have mixed feelings about autumn right now. I love the season, as a season… but it’s creeping up on me much too fast, and I am just not ready for it. Summer started late, and these 5 °C nights foretell its summation. I crave a long, slow, hot afternoon with an icy drink and a book on the terrace. Or a midnight stroll down the hushed streets and alleys of the Plateau, scotch and clove cigarette in hand, tempting the cats and raccoons into impromptu petting-dates with bags of treats. Instead, I am huddled indoors sipping hot chocolate in my guy’s warmest socks and sweater, barring the blustering leaves and gray skies outside through the lace-covered patio door. Two weeks ago I spent days in nothing but bathing suit bottoms and hiking boots, soaking up the sun and holding it deep in my bones to keep me warm well into the night. This has all happened too quickly. Change is difficult, but that difficulty is a powerful source of energy. Or so I tell myself.

I hate autumn in the city. The cool days and clear nights stir up a deep longing for the crisp, biting sting of frost in the morning cut with steam from a mug of something bittersweet. I want to run away to the woods to bathe in smoke and fire, and hide in the lengthening shadows cast by increasingly bare trees. But instead I am stuck in the humdrum routine of life as a cook, waking early and going to bed late, living in an apron, creating ephemera. I have a vacation booked for the end of October that will take me to the woods…. I am counting the days.

Oh, the humanity.

Oh, the humanity.

I am torn. Pumpkins are right around the corner, but the baskets at the market are overflowing with aubergines and tomatoes and zucchinis now. At the catering company it’s all Jewish holiday food right now- heavy, well-cooked stuff. Warming and comforting. In the homes of families, I have been grilling and baking. Peaches baked til they’re dripping with their own syrup, charred on the outside and meltingly tender on the inside. Easy, kid-friendly week-night stirfries with peanut sauce. Thai eggplant curries with piercingly hot bird chilis tempered by lime and coconut. Tarte tatin and roasted red pepper polenta. Platters of grilled vegetables to pile on fresh-baked olive bread smeared liberally with lemony cilantro cashew cheese.

I have worked so much over the past ten days, I am dead-tired. Fall-asleep-in-my-tarts tired. I have so much to say, because I have been working too hard to speak. My mind has been left to its own devices for too long as I’ve stood over my cutting board aggravating my tendonitis one kilo of potatoes at a time. I want to share with you my thoughts on how to cook in large quantities, and what it’s like being a vegan woman in a male- and meat-dominated industry. I want to give you my recipe for vietnamese crepes. I will take time to write it all out, but first I will rest. I hope the change of the seasons is treating you well, or at least that it is too far off yet to worry about.