If there’s a vegetable I’m not such a fan of, I’m afraid it’d have to be the bell pepper. It usually does nothing for me. I don’t really like the taste and it’s not like it adds any heat like its friend higher up on the Scoville scale. I really think that their only reason for evolutionary survival is the color that they add to dishes and that’s about it.
So now that I’ve probably bored you with that intro, sounding like a certain grumpy old man’s hilariously arbitrary prejudice towards fruit, I have to confess that I was recently inspired to make a soup that would showcase this vegetable enemy, maybe considering it a personal challenge. After a really great email conversation brainstorming foodie dreams with some friends recently, I thought I’d try developing one of the ideas mentioned– a yellow pepper soup. Although admittedly, I think I wanted to do this more for what I hoped would be a pretty and colorful sight and a medium for some creme fraiche. Oh look– once again, bell pepper used primarily because of its color!
My goal was to play off of the brightness of a yellow pepper and how that vegetable is both sweet yet spicy (not hot mind you, but you know– that pepper flavor.) I decided to roast the peppers to yield more of its flavor and to use cumin as the main spice since it adds an earthy, complex element without adding heat. Carrots, leeks and sweet onion enhanced the sweet side of the pepper while giving this soup more body. A taste of the soup once pureed was good, but something was slightly off. A last minute couple of dashes of Asian five spice did the trick making this soup taste faintly like a curry but the bell pepper flavor is really distinct and is the main flavor that shines through in the end. Keep this vegan or top it with a spoonful of creme fraiche and the texture of the soup becomes luxurious. The bright color, sunny flavor and slightly cool but creamy feel after adding the creme fraiche made this an amazing summer meal.
4 yellow bell peppers
1 Walla Walla sweet onion
1 large clove of fresh garlic, 1 small clove of regular garlic (~ 1 tbsp minced)
6 small carrots
1 tbsp olive oil
1 quart vegetable broth
2 tsp cumin
2 dashes Asian five spice
salt and pepper to taste
creme fraiche, fresh basil and chives (optional)
Roast the yellow peppers either by broiling close to your broiler’s heating element, forking them and holding them over your gas stove flame, or on a grill– anything to char the skins black. When blackened on all sides, place peppers in a large bowl and seal with plastic wrap, letting sit while you prep and cook your other vegetables.
In the meantime, chop the dark green ends off of the leeks and get rid of them. Slice the remaining stem lengthwise and separate the layers in a large bowl of cold water. Stir around to get the dirt out. Take out the layers, restack them, and slice into thin half moons. Chop the onion and the carrots. Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and onions and cook until softened, keeping an eye on the heat because you just want these to sweat, not brown. Add the garlic, carrots and stock.
By now the peppers should have cooled enough that the skins have cracked. Peel off the charred skins then seed and chop the peppers. Add these to the soup pot and bring to a boil then let simmer for 20 minutes. If you’re lucky enough to have an immersion blender, blend in the pot until a slightly chunky puree. But if you’re like me, add a couple of ladle fulls to your blender and use a towel to hold the top down while you puree. Be careful to do this in small batches as this is hot and can splash! Repeat in batches, pouring your pureed soup into a bowl to keep separate from the unpureed and do a better job than I did about not leaving too much broth in the end otherwise, you’ll end up splattering on the wall even though you were careful to not put too much soup in the blender. Once everything is pureed, pour all contents back into the pot to reheat through. Ladle into bowls and if you want, add a dollop of creme fraiche and top with a chiffonade of basil and some chopped chives.
CSA Count: 3
fresh garlic, carrots, chives