Thursday, January 15, 2015

Roasted red pepper soup

It seems to me that after posting the "it's January so here's a healthy smoothie" recipe, one must then prepare a steaming cup of homemade soup in an attempt to conquer the nasty winter weather that is plaguing most of the country (except for you, San Diego. Tell me all your secrets now!!!) And as it turns out, a batch of soup was exactly what I needed this week. Still full from too many holiday parties but chilled to the bone from running errands all over the city, I cooked up a giant batch of this roasted red pepper soup and was able to enjoy it for the next three days. This recipe is also completely customizable - the roasted cauliflower acts as a base from which you can create almost any flavor profile you wish. Don't like red peppers? Substitute broccoli. Not a fan of spicy? Cut out the cayenne flakes. Cutting down on dairy? Omit the cheese completely.

- 4 whole red bell peppers
- 1 full head of fresh cauliflower
- 3-4 cloves garlic
- 1 large onion
- 4 tbsp. olive oil
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- salt & pepper
- spices to taste: curry powder, red pepper flakes, cinnamon, parsley, Trader Joe's Everyday Seasoning
- 5 oz. feta cheese chunks

- 2 baking sheets
- Tin foil
- Knives - one large for chopping, one small for peeling
- Boiler/oven
- Ziplock bag
- Dutch oven (or other large stovetop pot)
- Immersion blender

How to
Wash and slice the red peppers in half. Gently score the outside of each pepper in anticipation of needing to later remove the skin. Remove any seeds from inside the peppers, and place face down on a baking sheet. Broil at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, or until tops are beginning to blacken.

Prep the cauliflower. Break off each floret into small pieces and place on a second baking sheet (cover your sheet with foil for easier clean up later).  Place each whole garlic clove on the sheet amongst the cauliflower. Toss the cauliflower and garlic with salt, pepper, and 1-2 tbsp. of olive oil.

When the peppers are roasted, remove them from the baking sheet and immediately place into a Ziplock bag; seal tightly. The idea here is to steam the peppers so that you will eventually be able to easily remove their skins.

Change your oven's setting from broil to bake, and preheat to 400 degrees. When the oven is heated, roast the cauliflower and garlic for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

When the peppers are cool to the touch, remove the skin. I found that some peppers were easier to skin than others, but using a small paring knife to peel each pepper eventually did the trick. Chop the peeled peppers into pieces approximately 1" in size.

Chop the onion. On the stovetop, heat the reaming olive oil (about 1-2 tbsp.) in the bottom of your dutch oven. Sauté the onion until golden brown.

Add the peppers, cauliflower, and garlic to the onions, and sauté for 1-2 more minutes. Add the vegetable broth and spices to the vegetables and bring to a boil. A quick note about the spices: I rarely measure when adding spices to my cooking, I simply add until I feel like I've achieved the desired taste. This is neither scientific nor consistent, and occasionally gets me in to trouble (case in point - I used way too much cayenne pepper for this particular batch of soup and had to tone it down with the feta cheese) but here's the thing - it's just soup. Try one spice blend this time around, and change it up next time!

Once the soup has come to a boil, turn the stove's flame down to it's lowest height (or just turn off the stove completely) and using your immersion blender, puree the vegetables until you've reached your desired soup consistency. Be careful because the contents of the pot will be very hot, and any splashes from the blender can be painful. If the soup is too thick, add more vegetable broth a 1/2 cup at a time to thin it out. Add the feta cheese and blend again until that too is fully incorporated.

Cover and simmer your now-pureed soup for 10-15 minutes. When ready, serve with a hearty chunk of fresh bread (I used this recipe for no-knead bread and was thrilled with the results).

Inspiration for this soup came from here!

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