Allow me to offer you a comforting, soul-warming bowl of Healing Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup.
While you settle in and warm up with your bowl of yummy soup I want to tell you about how crazy last week was for me. About a week ago it was predicted that the river running through Cedar Rapids (where I live) would flood within a few days. NO! Not again! Cedar Rapids just flooded 8 years ago! Do you remember watching it on the news from wherever you live? It was the worst flood the city had ever seen. The river crested at 31 feet (beginning flood stage is at 12 feet)! Thousands of houses and many businesses were badly affected! In 2008 I had just finished my junior year of college. I remember watching the news from my parents’ house that summer. My only connection to Cedar Rapids in 2008 was that I was attending Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, one hour away from Cedar Rapids. (4 minute video showing the flood in 2008.)
The Cedar River is only supposed to flood every 100 years, so the idea that it would flood again after only 8 years seemed impossible! The crazy thing is that it wasn’t raining here at all last week! The flood was caused by rains north of us. The rivers flooded there and they all run into the Cedar River. Honestly, I don’t know if I am explaining this right. All you need to know is that downtown Cedar Rapids was predicted to flood and that the city had just gotten back on its feet from major flood damage a few years ago – it was scary, tragic news.
Oh, I should probably tell you that our house is far away from the flood zone, so we weren’t affected. And in fact none of my friends or our family live in the flood zone – we are very grateful! BUT that theater where Paul and I went to see Spamlot for his birthday, and that cool brewery that we go to with friends, and that fun indoor marketplace that we visit when my parents come would all flood. Businesses would be evacuated for at least one week and then probably closed longer to repair the damages. Plus about 5,000 residential homes were predicted to be affected, and everyone was asked to evacuate. My heart hurt for these people, these places, this city.
You know, it’s so much different when you hear about a place on the news that has a disaster, weather, crime, or whatever it is and you feel sad for them. You send positive healing thoughts their way for a moment. When that disaster happens to your city or to a city where a loved ones lives it’s so much harder to deal with. But I guess that if we felt that way about all of the places that have bad things happen to them then we would never feel happiness.
Then something amazing happened. The community of Cedar Rapids rallied, we got to work, we came together. We took advantage of the time we had and prepared for the worst. A Facebook group was created so that we could communicate. The city set up sandbagging stations and strangers came together to fill thousands of sandbags. People who had pickup trucks would come and get the sandbags and help place sandbags for people who were in need. Paul, his cousin, and I helped some other strangers to place sandbags around two different elderly women’s houses. We found out about these ladies in need of help through that Facebook group. It was wonderful to see: people would post their addresses on the page asking for sandbagging help and then the people with the pickup trucks would pick up the sandbags and deliver them and help the people place the sandbags around their houses. Yes, that sandbag chain that people create really helps to get a job done faster! Paul and I also spent hours filling sandbags. It was something that I never imagined I would do. It was an exhausting experience that made me feel like I really belong to this city. It felt good to help. And somehow during the scariness of it all – of wondering exactly what’s going to happen – we found a little humor, a little brightness with these strangers as we worked to prepare our city for the unthinkable.
Engineers and city workers also got to work. They built these really awesome temporary flood walls in hopes that they could prevent the flood from damaging the entire city. The river crested at 21.9 feet on Tuesday morning (9/27/16). It felt as if we were all holding our breath waiting. The temporary flood walls were a success! They held the floodwater away from most of the city! As I write this post a lot of residents are returning to their homes, and businesses are reopening. The areas that were affected mostly just got some water in their basements. I mean, talk about the rewards of hard work, right?! What a relief, what a wonderful thing that the flood of 2016 was not as devastating as 2008 or even as originally predicted. Good work, people of Cedar Rapids. I am truly proud to call myself an Iowan! (3 minute news video of the 2016 flood)
If I could, I would offer some of this Healing Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup to all who had to leave their homes for a few days, for those who awaited the flood nervously, who suffered any damage to their homes, and who worked hard to outsmart Mother Nature. Soup may not solve all the problems of the world, but it can be comforting and energizing. It can give strength and hope.
I am so, so in love with this Healing Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup! It is officially my go-to hot tomato soup for the rest of my days (or at least until I make some kind of new tomato soup). You know those watery, flavorless cans of tomato soup they served for lunch in high school?! Well this tomato soup is everything I had always wished that high school soup would be. It’s thick and creamy. It’s bursting with sweet roasted tomatoes, roasted onion, roasted garlic, and roasted red peppers! It’s subtly sweet with a hint of tang and smokiness from the charred/roasted red peppers. Those roasted red peppers really are the star of the show. They take this tomato soup to a whole new level of flavor.
Healing Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup is meant for a crisp, cozy fall day. For rainy, cloudy days that need a little extra soothing. For unwinding after a hard day at work. It’s meant to be dipped by some gluten free bread, or a melty grilled cheese sandwich, or some crunchy croutons. This soup is here for you in your time of need.
- 6 cups tomatoes (I used a combo of cherry and vine-ripened, but any kind will do)
- 1 white onion, sliced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 to 7 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 large red bell peppers
- Red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
- Salt to taste
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
- If using larger tomatoes, cut them into fourths.
- Place the tomatoes and onion on a large rimmed baking sheet (or divide into two smaller baking sheets if too close together). Toss with the olive oil and the salt and spread out evenly.
- Place the garlic cloves on a large piece of tin foil and drizzle with a little oil. Wrap the garlic up tightly so that the cloves are all laying flat. Place the garlic on the baking sheet.
- Roast everything for 20 to 22 minutes, flipping halfway through. Everything should be tender and the tomatoes will have released their juices.
- RED PEPPERS:
- While the tomatoes are roasting start roasting the peppers.
- Gas Stove method: Turn two gas burners on high. Place a red pepper on each gas burner and allow the skin to char, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Use tongs to rotate the pepper so each side is really black and blistered (see picture). You may see the skin catch on fire every once in awhile.That's okay, it usually goes out quickly. Don't walk away from the peppers.
- Broiler Method: Turn on your broiler. If you don 't have a broiler that is separate from your oven then you will need to wait until the tomatoes are done roasting. Place the peppers on a rimmed baking sheet and place them as close to the broiler as you can. Broil for 3 to 5 minutes per side, or until all the sides are well charred.
- Once the peppers are charred place them in a large mixing bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Allow the steam to help loosen the skin, about 5 minutes.
- Use a paper towel to peel off most of the blackened skin from the red pepper. Make sure to leave behind some char as it adds that smoky flavor. I actually like to leave a lot of the char on the pepper.
- Cut the bell pepper, removing the core and seeds.
- Allow the roasted tomatoes to cool slightly. Add all ingredients to your blender, including the red wine vinegar, red pepper flakes, and olive oil, working in batches so that the blender is only halfway full at a time. Blend until smooth.
- Taste and adjust seasoning as needed: more salt to bring out the flavor, or a little red wine vinegar for more tang, or red pepper flakes for a little more heat.
- If the soup has cooled too much you may need to reheat it before serving.
- Serve with gluten free stove top croutons, other gluten free bread, or gluten free grilled cheese sandwich, if desired. Also delicious on its own. Enjoy and be healed my friends!