Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. That means five ingredients or fewer — not including water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (like oil and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. Inspired by the column, the Big Little Recipes cookbook is available now.
I bought a deep freezer for soup. It is 66 pounds, 7 cubic feet, and too wide for me to hug. (I've tried.) To finagle it into our basement, it took three people, a borrowed car, and the removal of one door. Was that worth it? Don't ask my husband, ask me. The answer is yes.
Because when life happens, soup knows how to make it better. Chicken Noodle Soup can nurture you when you catch a cold. Miso Carrot Soup can warm you up on a cold day. Cheesy Broccoli Soup can help you file your taxes. Cream of Mushroom Soup can find your missing headphones.
And this roasted pepper soup can do — well, what do you want it to do? More vacation days? Less dust along those baseboards? A trip to outer space? Why not?
Bell peppers are obviously nonnegotiable, but the color is up to you. While red is classic, in a string of bad luck — which turned out to be good luck — I could only find orange for my early tests. And who knew? The resulting soup is even prettier, like pumpkin.
Red or orange — or even yellow, if you want to go rogue — there is no peeling involved. A lot of recipes ask you to char whole peppers, then steam them in a bag or bowl, then peel, and peel, and peel off the skin (fussy). Other recipes, in an effort to avoid this, call for jarred roasted bell peppers (not as flavorful). We're doing neither.
Instead, dice peppers, toss them on a sheet pan with onion hunks and olive oil, and hurl everyone into a hot oven. The charred and wrinkly skins will get puréed with everything else. And here's a secret — no one will know the difference. If anything, it tastes better.
Now I could tell you about the other ingredients, like the nuts (which get soaked and then turned into an effortless milk-slash-cream) or the feta (roasted until gooey, plus its salty-cheesy brine). But what I want to talk about is paprika.
Which is made from peppers! Which underlines, then circles, then draws stars around the pepperiness of our roasted pepper soup. Using a smoked variety channels the energy of sitting by a fireplace under a throw blanket while knitting another throw blanket.
Deliberately, crucially, this yields more than a meal. Two quarts means dinner tonight plus more to pack in pint containers. Tuck these in the freezer, for whenever a day doesn't go according to plan.
Recipe: Really Easy Roasted Pepper Soup
- 1 cup (4 ounces) chopped walnuts or cashews
- 6 medium (2 3/4 pounds) red or orange bell peppers
- 3 medium (1 1/2 pounds) yellow onions
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- 4 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 4 ounces feta, halved, 1/2 cup brine reserved
- Heat the oven to 425°F. While that's heating up, add the walnuts to a blender and cover with 1 cup of hot water.
- Remove the stems and seeds from the bell peppers, then roughly chop. Divide between 2 rimmed sheet pans. Halve and peel the onions, then roughly chop. Divide between the sheet pans.
- On each sheet pan: Generously drizzle with olive oil, lightly season with salt, and sprinkle with the paprika. Use your hands to toss the ingredients on each pan until coated, then evenly spread out.
- Roast for 25 minutes. Remove both sheet pans from the oven and use a spatula to shuffle everything around. On one sheet pan, scooch the vegetables to one side, leaving just enough space to add the feta pieces. Drizzle a little olive oil on the feta, flip it over, and then drizzle a little more.
- Return the sheet pans to the oven and keep roasting for another 20 to 25 minutes, until the peppers are starting to char, the onions are soft, and the feta is tender. Remove from the oven.
- Add 1/2 cup of feta brine to the blender with the walnuts and blend until smooth as possible, like store-bought nut milk. Add all the peppers and onions, plus whatever spiced oil is left on the pans, and the feta. Blend until smooth. Add 1 cup of water and blend again. Taste. More water for a looser soup? More salt or paprika? Adjust as needed.
- Heat up however much you want to eat now in the microwave or on the stove. Then divide up the rest into airtight containers to refrigerate or freeze until later.