I feel a bit as though bell peppers are raining down on my head. Tumble, plump, bumble, plop, boing… And then scattering across the floor. Thankfully they aren’t actually, though I imagine it wouldn’t be entirely unpleasant. But, it would make a lot of peppers to clean up – and they’d require extra scrubbing after being on the floor and all.
Anyhow, we do have bell peppers in abundance. More than can be reasonably used, even through a well strategized line up of stir fries with peppers, pasta with peppers, salad with peppers, and sauteed melanges of who knows what but it definitely includes peppers…with peppers.
I thought about pickling them and packing them by the peck (into pints, of course), and it may yet come to that. But, in the meantime, the clever, immediate, and entirely delectable solution was soup. Roasted pepper soup.
I find red velvet cakes confusing on the whole (no, you’re not suddenly reading a different blog post that I accidentally spliced in or something, I did just make the leap to cake from bell peppers. I’m going somewhere with it though, and soon. Just trust me.). They’re supposed to be red – which they usually are – and velvety, which in my experience they usually aren’t. And their taste is just confusing. I know there’s cocoa in there somewhere, but they don’t taste chocolatey. And, they look like they should taste of berries, but they don’t. Now, red bell pepper soup, there is some real red velvet.
From the taught skins and membranous flesh of raw peppers, there arises a silken smooth, luscious soup. As velvety as the deep red curtains you might stroke as you steal out onto an empty stage to belt out lines from Hamlet to an abandoned theatre.
Many bell pepper soups call for sauteeing the pepper and onion first, then blending it. This will produce a perfectly nice soup, guaranteed. But, if you really want a voluptuous soup experience – and believe me, you absolutely do, you shouldn’t even hesitate – roast them instead. Actually, roast the onions (or shallots, in this case), and garlic, and some tomatoes there too.
The distinct burnished caramel flavors and delicate smoke from the charred skins that washes through into the meat of the vegetables blooms within the sweet, creamy red base. You will have to remove the skins after you roast the vegetables, which is a slightly trying process that gets your nails all full of grunge, but also an immensely satisfying process, as you feel the slippery flesh, and the papery flakey skins under your fingertips and know that you are really making something. You’re immersed in a process of creating, and dirty nails are a sign of work well done.
The basics of this recipe are from my friend Steven of OuiChef. He is a (very awesome) trained chef, and as such, some of his recipes cross the border into the land of ‘I would like to eat that, but I absolutely do not have time or energy to make that today.’ But, this one manages to stay just north (that’s my side!) of said border. In part because I skipped the colorful, fancy array of garnishes.
You certainly can (perhaps should) add a sprinkling of sherry-vinegar enrobed sauteed corn and cilantro oil and feta. Or perhaps swirl in a spoonful of pesto, or grate some Parmesan on top. Or even – stop me, I may be getting a little crazy here! – sprinkle on some sauteed pancetta bits and chives. But, as soon as I brought a spoonful of the freshly blended soup to my lips and took a sip, I was so thrilled by its complex, full, yet gentle flavor from the vegetables, I just wanted to eat it by itself. With no extras.
Except grilled cheese. My soups seem to be attached at the hip to grilled cheese.
Roasted Bell Pepper Soup (serves about 3) (adapted from Oui Chef)
- 5-6 large bell peppers, red, orange, or yellow (don’t use green though, they’ll result in a taste that is a bit too thin and echoey for this soup), cut in half, and cored, seeds, and stems removed
- 4-5 medium-large tomatoes, cut in half
- 4 large garlic cloves, still in their skins
- 3 large shallots, peeled and cut in half
- olive oil
- 2 1/2-3 cups good chicken or vegetable stock
- salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- Heat your oven to 425F. Put all the vegetables into a large roasting pan. Pour several generous splashes of olive oil over them, and toss them to coat.
- Turn all the peppers and tomatoes so that their cut sides are down. Stick the pan in the oven and roast for 50-60 minutes, until the pepper and tomato skins are blistered and charred and the garlic and shallots are soft.
- Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool until the vegetables are cool enough to handle gently. Then, use your fingers to remove the skins from the peppers and tomatoes. Cut the very ends off of the garlic cloves and squeeze the roasted garlic out. Put all the vegetables – peppers, tomatoes, shallots, and garlic – into a soup pot. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for about 15 minutes (uncovered).
- Now, working in batches, puree the soup in a blender (be careful! Use hotpads! Don’t overfill the blender because you don’t want tidal waves of hot soup spewing forth!). Pour it through a strainer into a large bowl or another pot. Then, return all the soup to the pot, and reheat gently if needed. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve! Accompany with a hearty bread and some good cheese. Or grilled cheese. Or maybe some good sausage. Or you can garnish the soup with feta, sauteed corn kernels, and some cilantro oil, and pesto. It will be tasty no matter which way you try it.