Habaneros are hot yellow peppers whose capsaicin content can make your mouth sting, your hands turn into poisonous spice conveyers, and your eyes buzz with pain and tears.
So, I added it to my soup.
At a recent project kickoff, which I’ll tell you about soon, a brave chef added a timid portion of minced habanero to a creamy, smoky tomato sauce that coated some Mexican meatballs. In spite of its not inconsequential heat, I wanted to drink this sauce. And so, I decided to make such a creamy, smoky, spicy tomato concoction drinkable–that is, make it into soup.
In the past, I’ve minced poblanos, jaleñpeos, and serranos. No big deal. But over the weekend, for the sake of this dream, I took on the habanero.
Tomato soup is an amazing gateway recipes for reluctant cooks. Canned tomatoes, herbs and garlic and onion, and some time on the stove create a homemade dish with no side of stress. Thinking I could tweak this formula with some new flavors and the same easy method, I went to work on my hot pepper.
I donned my glasses and my hot pink dish-washing gloves and approached the tiny yellow pepper that packs this giant heat. I cut into it, expecting an eruption of spice particles to travel through the air and, at the very least, make me sneeze like a madwoman.
But nothing happened. Nervous, I discarded the seeds and minced only about a third of the pepper–a decision I would have to reconsider later in the cooking process when I tasted the soup and it was not spicy enough. Of course the pepper adds more than spice. The habanero’s yellow flesh has a fruity flavor that tastes great with tomato. Anyway, after I had talked sense into my fear of the pepper–eyes safe, hands clean–I followed a pretty proven protocol for tomato-soup making, except for the addition of a hint of chipotle in adobo, which adds a balancing smokiness to the soup. Drink with beer, in case you turn out not to be as fearless as I.
Here are 12 more fantastic soups.
Creamy Habanero and Tomato Soup
Serves 2 to 3
This soup – with its Mexican twist – would be great with cheddar or jack or avocado quesadillas served beside it, instead of tomato soup’s traditional grilled cheese accompaniment.
I keep chipotle in adobo around at all times to use in little bits. Once you’ve opened the can, transfer it to a glass or plastic container and store in the fridge. This will keep for months.
When you cut the habanero, I recommend wearing gloves. Otherwise the capsaicin will really stick to your hands and spice up whatever you touch…
3 tablespoons safflower oil (or olive oil)
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 of a habenero pepper, seeds discarded unless you’re a masochist, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons adobo from a can of chipotle in adobo sauce (fine to use a little chopped up chile too)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
1 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons light brown sugar
1/4 cup cream
Pour the oil into a lidded heavy-bottomed stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook the onion and habanero until the onion is translucent, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste, stir, and cook for 1 minute. Add the salt, adobo, tomatoes, water, and sugar. Break up the whole tomatoes slightly with your cooking spoon.
Bring to a boil. Then cover the soup and lower the heat so the liquid simmers. Cook for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, remove from the heat and cool slightly. Purée, using an immersion blender or carefully transferring the contents of the pot to a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour in the cream and stir. Taste for salt – you’ll likely want a pinch more to make the flavors pop. Return the soup to medium-low heat and reheat the soup til hot. Serve with warmed tortillas or simple quesadillas.