The CSA produce is coming with a vengeance. This year seems to be bringing a bumper crop of sweet peppers. I’m more of a fan of peppers mixed with other flavors rather than on their own. So as long as I also had quite a few heirloom and cherry tomatoes, I decided to modify my favorite tomato soup recipe to include some of these peppers.
This is a rustic, warming soup. The original recipe makes a couscous dumpling, but I was out of couscous and decided to substitute an Appalachian cornmeal dumpling. The sweetness and texture of the cornmeal dumpling is a good addition to the soup.
Spicy Tomato Soup with Cornmeal Dumplings
1 large onion, diced
2 leeks, thinly sliced, white part only
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 red bell peppers, diced
3 Tbsp. olive oil
6 cups chopped fresh tomatoes; if you prefer, you can peel the tomatoes before chopping (or drained canned tomatoes)
2-3 tsp. hot chili powder
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
5 cups chicken stock, tomato juice, or water
Appalachian Cornmeal Dumplings
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. melted bacon fat or butter (Try the bacon fat. It adds a lot of flavor. And it is only 1 Tbsp.)
1/2 plus 1 Tbsp. boiling water
In a medium heavy-bottomed stock pot or Dutch oven, saute the onions, leeks, garlic, and peppers in the oil, stirring frequently, until the onions begin to soften. Add the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes are soft.
Mix together the chili powder, flour, salt and pepper and add it to the vegetables. Mix well to coat the vegetables evenly. Pour in the stock slowly while whisking diligently to completely dissolve the flour. Blend the soup with an immersion blender. Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes.
Prepare the dumplings while the soup is simmering. Stir the dumpling ingredients together in a bowl until the dough comes together. Work in a little more water if the dough seems too dry. Pinch off little marble size pieces. Roll them into a ball in your palm and then press your thumb into the middle to flatten them into a checker-size disc. Drop into the simmering soup, covering the pot, cooking for 7-10 minutes.
Serve topped with cheddar cheese, if desired.