During the past couple of years there has been a quiet infiltration of
hothouse vegetables from Holland, specifically those packaged,
vine-ripened tomatoes still on the vine (apparently we need proof), and
brightly-colored bell peppers. Like good cosmetic surgeons, the Dutch farm
engineers have become adept at taking a vapid, tasteless object and
giving it an attractive, inviting exterior with taut skin and a perfectly
symmetrical shape. But even the best scalpel-wielding Beverly Hills
sculptors can't improve what's on the inside. Sadly, the peppers are
watery and flavorless. Because of the air freight, they can
cost as much as $6 per pound, which is fine if you only need a few slices to top
off a salad. Anything more requires an installment plan.
Fortunately, good ol' American bell peppers are currently at the peak of
their season. At $1 to $2 per pound (even less if you shop at
farmers' markets or roadside stands), these babies are a bargain. And naturally grown U.S. peppers have all the flavor and taste their clone cousins lack. Leave the green peppers for the colorblind and buy up as many red and yellow peppers as you can carry home. Then roast them over a grill and skin them. Once that's done, the following recipe is a cinch.
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ROASTED RED BELL PEPPER SOUP
6 red bell peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 leek, white and pale green part only, diced and
2 shallots, diced
1 poblano chili
3 1/2 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 medium tomato, quartered
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, (remove stems before
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream (optional)
1. Roast the red peppers and poblano chili whole over a charcoal flame, over the stove's flame or under a
broiler, turning until entirely blackened (see explanation below). Remove
from the grill and immediately place in a paper bag. Seal and let sit for five
2. Remove peppers from bag, peel off the charred skin and discard. Slice the peeled peppers open and discard the membranes
and seeds (each and every seed, or they will end up stuck between your
guests' teeth). Quarter the peppers.
3. In a large soup pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil and add the leek(s) and shallots. Cook for about 6 minutes, or until the shallots are translucent, stirring frequently.
4. Add half of the red peppers and all of the poblano chili. Cook and stir for 2 more minutes.
5. Add the broth or stock, tomato and thyme. Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes. (Adjust heat as required to simmer.)
6. Remove from heat, add the remaining red peppers (these are added at the end to "goose" the distinctive roasted flavor, which gets washed out by the stock), the lemon juice, salt and pepper.
7. Let the soup cool, then blend in a blender or food processor until smooth.
8. To serve, reheat and serve in warmed soup bowls. If desired, top each bowl with 1 to 2 tablespoons of heavy cream per serving, dribbled over the surface in a creative pattern.
Le Secret: For the ultimate roasted flavor, grill peppers over real hardwood charcoal.
The Adventure Club: Make the soup from yellow or orange peppers. (If available, replace the tomato with a yellow tomato or a handful of yellow cherry tomatoes.)
Garnish: A sprig of thyme
Suggested Accompaniment: Crusty bread
Notes: You can store the leftover peppers in olive oil with some fresh thyme or rosemary and enjoy them on salads, foccacia, homemade pizzas and pastas.
- The soup may be served chilled.
- The poblano chili may be replaced with 2 jalapeño chilies.
Music to Simmer By: "Homogenic," Bjork's new album
Roasting bell peppers
- Grill method: Place whole peppers on a grill over hot coals. Allow the skin closest to the grill to blacken entirely and puff, then rotate one quarter turn (approximately 2 minutes per turn, depending on heat source). After grilling all the sides, stand each pepper on both ends until they are
- Stovetop method: Same as above, only place pepper directly over flame.
- Oven broiling method: Place whole peppers under a preheated broiler as close as possible to the heat without actually touching the heating element. Follow the grill method described above.