How to make healthy choices every day

Bell Pepper Bisque with Giant Croutons

Hey friends! I’m coming in hot, to drop this stellar soup recipe on you, while the weather is still fine and early fall produce is at its peak. The bell peppers in my region are bountiful and beautiful, and because I am the biggest sucker for roasted pepper anything, I came up with this dish to celebrate a seasonal favourite.

But first, can we take a moment and please talk about how I just invented giant croutons? I think it might be my personal opportunity to break the internet. How is this not a thing yet?! Sure, I guess you could look at the cheese toast on French onion soup and say that is a giant crouton, but in my opinion, it’s merely an open-faced grilled cheese sandwich. Pfff. Not even close to this. My crouton is a cube of sourdough (important shape-distinction), kissed with garlicky oil and seared to toasty, golden perfection. The outsides are caramelized and crisp, while the center is fluffy, creamy and studded with nooks and crannies for the soup to slide in to. Guh. Too good to be true! Honestly guys, I’m pretty proud of this.

But I also need you to know that this soup is darn good too, even without the crouton. The recipe is loosely based on the North African Sun-dried Tomato Soup in my second cookbook, except I left out many of the warming spices, which felt prematurely winter-y. It’s still t-shirt weather here, so the ginger and cinnamon had to go. Plus, I doubled the pepper count, added a teeny splash of balsamic (to round out the flavor), and made it bisque-y without the cream. Guess what I used?! Lentils!! Mic drop. But instead of bulking it up and putting the soup on legume-overload, I was conservative in my approach and just used half a cup. This made the soup rich and creamy without the cream, but in a very hush, hush way, so that you literally have no idea that they’re there. But their presence can be felt, because this soup is the real meal deal, not just a bowl of blended up veggies that will leave you hungry again in 20 minutes. With the bonus lentils, you’re getting way more protein and fiber that you’d normally expect from a pepper soup, and they will fill you up, and keep you energized for hours. This suddenly feels very infomercial-y. Did I mention there is a giant crouton?

Moving on! Let’s talk about peppers because they are in the nightshade family and that is a hot topic, if I ever heard one.

Nightshade vegetables are a part of the Solanaceae family, and include tomatoes, peppers (and chilies), eggplant / aubergine, and all potatoes except for sweet potatoes and yams. Originally cultivated in South America, nightshade vegetables were brought to Europe and Asia by Spanish explorers. Their name supposedly comes from the fact that they grow at night (as opposed to mushrooms, which grow in the shade).

You may have heard rumors that Nightshade vegetables are toxic, that they can cause inflammation or that they’re linked to autoimmune disorders. While it is true that edible nightshades contain high levels of glycoalkaloids, specifically solanine, which at very high levels is toxic, it only seems to trigger reactions in individuals who are sensitive to it. Those with pre-existing inflammatory conditions may experience worsening of their symptoms when they consume these foods, but an elimination diet would be the only way to determine if nightshades are in fact, causing the issues. For people who do not suffer from chronic inflammatory ailments, enjoying ratatouille, a pizza, or a baked potato is likely just fine, and certainly not going to cause you to get these conditions.

As far as autoimmunity is concerned, alkaloids from edible nightshades have been shown to irritate the gut, since solanine is effectively natural insecticide produced by this plant family. Gut irritation can contribute to intestinal permeability, which can set off an autoimmune reaction when proteins that should remain in the digestive tract leak into the bloodstream. The level of irritation depends on the amount consumed, and how sensitive the individual is. The highest amounts of solanine are found in green potatoes, and sprouted potatoes, but we should avoid eating those anyway.  

Let’s review: if you have an autoimmune disorder, leaky gut, or you exhibit symptoms of discomfort (digestive or otherwise) after consuming nightshades, try eliminating them from your diet for at least 6 weeks and see if you notice a difference. Then, re-introduce them one at a time and be aware of how you feel within a 24-hour period after eating them.

If you don’t have these issues, don’t worry about it! There is absolutely no reason to limit your intake of these highly nutritious vegetables if they seem to do your body good. Bell peppers contain an astounding amount of vitamin C, high levels of A, and B6, with very good levels of folate, fiber, and vitamin E. They also provide flavonoids, and carotenoids. Remember to buy bell peppers that have fully ripened – anything other than the greens ones, which are typically unripe red, orange, yellow, or purple peppers. Their nutrient profile will be at its peak, and the natural sugars will be fully developed, easing their digestion.

Let’s get to the recipe!

If you’re really pressed for time, skip roasting the peppers in the oven, and just dice them up, and add them to the pot along with the garlic in step 3. The overall flavour will be less rich, but still incredibly delicious. When I’m in a crunch, I’ll pull this move and have dinner on the table in 30 minutes. If you want to change things up, try orange or yellow peppers instead of the red ones.

As far as sun-dried tomatoes go, I like organic, dried ones, instead of the oil-packed ones, but either would work here. With the canned tomatoes, go for whole, since they tend to be of higher quality than the diced ones.

Let’s talk bread. If you have access to a bakery where they make the real thing (sourdough), please use that. If you don’t, find an unsliced loaf at your supermarket; bonus points if it’s made with wholegrain flour, organic, yeast-free, or all of the above. The bread should be cut into cubes with the serving bowl size in mind (you’ll want to see some of the soup around it), but if you have a huge bowl, go crazy and make that crouton as gargantuan as you want! And don’t throw the offcuts away – I put them in the toaster and slathered them with hummus for my son. He was stoked about the oddly-shaped chunks.  

I hope that wherever you are on this earth, you’re enjoying the seasons shifting and embracing the changes that come with that. When I started writing this post, it was a very hot day, and now, just 48 hours later, I can feel a significant shift in temperature and weather. Here we go, fall! I’m happy you’re here.

Big thanks to my friends at Foragers Farms for letting me crash the greenhouse at the crack of dawn to get these pics.

Love to all, happy fall!
Sarah B

13 thoughts on “Bell Pepper Bisque with Giant Croutons”

  • Holy crap, Sarah! Bless you for these giant croutons. I am always on board for new ways to eat more sourdough and this looks diviiine! And thanks for that breakdown on nightshades. There’s so much confusing advice out there about them…

    • Hello Alex!

      Hahaa, you’re welcome…I feel that the creation of them was rather selfish though 😉
      And yes, lots of confusing health “info” out there. I actually went back and corrected a couple of old posts…I’m still learning too! I hope to never stop.

      xo, Sarah B

  • Hello Sarah,
    I am currently enjoying the leftovers of this really delicious soup. I have been an avid reader of your blog and your two cookbooks and just wanted to say thanks for all the great recipes. So many of them have become staples in our household because they are so delicious and easy to make. Keep up the good work and I hope I will be able to join one of your retreats one day.
    All the best to you

    • Hello Mara,

      Wow! What a heart-warming comment. Thank you! I’m so touched by your words, and thrilled to hear that my recipes are in rotation over there! That’s amazing. I hope you can join one of my retreats one day too. They are pretty incredible (if I can say that myself, haha!). See you then, can’t wait.

      Love, Sarah B

    • Hello Joshua,

      Yes, you can absolutely use water instead of veggie broth. I would suggest adding a little more salt than the recipe calls for, in that case. I hope you enjoy!

      Sarah B

  • I made this soup over the weekend and it was sooo delicious. I didn’t have sundried tomatoes so roasted a few ripe tomatoes along with the peppers and reduced canned tomatoes by half. It was very good, I’ll try it next time with the sundried tomatoes when fresh are no longer available. I love your giant croutons, but I did indulge by eating this creamy soup with a grilled cheese :0

    • Hi Anita!

      No judgment here…a grilled cheese sounds like a pretty perfect accompaniment! Drool.
      I’m sure even without the sun-dried tomatoes, it was great! Thanks for your comment!

      xo, Sarah B

  • Hi Sarah! This recipe looks and sounds so good! But about this thing on autoimmunity and nightshade plants I hope you could help me clarify something. First of all my husband was diagnosed with diabetes type 1 this February 😢 So sad! Diabetes 1 is an autoimmune disease, so do you think it could have been triggered by nightshade plants? And should he avoid them now (this might be stupid, sorry, but it’s a chronic disease and I’m just trying to understand it🤔). Also, after giving birth I developed a tiny bit of psoriasis on my right knee and elbow. It’s so tiny that I’m not doing anything about it really (I already eat quite healthy and anti inflammatory), but do you think it could help avoiding nightshades? I’ve always thought of this ‘avoiding nightshade-thing’ as being rather extreme and I thought it was just for general health and so considering all the good things they contribute with as well I’ve been consuming plenty of them. Also in Denmark as you very well know potatoes are pretty hard to avoid (and also I love them so much, and don’t think I could live without…). Hope you could help me out, and sorry for this novel.. Love your world. Mathilde

    • Hej Mathilde,

      To answer your questions:
      1. the diabetes was definitely NOT triggered by nightshades. He could try avoiding them now, but only do so if he’s having digestive issues with them.
      2. You also can try avoiding them for yourself – take them away for six weeks or so, then slowly re-introduce them. Start by trying them cooked, then raw. Monitor your symptoms.

      I hope that helps! So sorry to hear about your husband. I hope you have good team of healthcare professionals helping you both.

      Much love!
      Sarah B

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