Makes 6 first-course servings
In this soup, the sometimes domineering flavor of cooked bell peppers is balanced with that of roasted onions and garlic. Bell peppers also develop a more complex flavor when they are roasted rather than stewed or sweated. I like to garnish this soup with a sauce made with creme fraîche or sour cream, and roasted and peeled poblano chilies, but if you like, just use a dollop of sour cream or creme fraîche.
4 large red bell peppers (2 pounds)
1 head of garlic, broken into cloves, cloves left unpeeled
2 medium red onions, peeled and
cut into 6 wedges each (1 pound total)
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 medium-size tomatoes, stemmed and
coarsely chopped (don't bother seeding or peeling)
1 quart chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
2 fresh poblano chilies (optional)
1 cup sour cream or creme fraîche
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Cut the stems out of the bell peppers and discard. Cut the peppers in half lengthwise and swat them together to get rid of their seeds. Cut out any strips of white pulp. Chop the pepper halves coarsely and toss them with the garlic, onions, and olive oil in a roasting pan or sheet pan just large enough to hold them in a single layer. Slide the pan into the oven and bake the mixture, stirring every 15 minutes, for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the peppers are browned on the edges, the onions have browned and come apart, and the bottom of the pan is covered with a light caramelized glaze.
Take the pan out of the oven and transfer the peppers, garlic, and onions to a heavy bottomed pot. Add the tomatoes, half the broth, and oregano to the pot, and bring to the simmer. Add the remaining broth to the roasting pan and scrape the bottom of the pan for a couple of minutes with a wooden spoon so the caramelized glaze dissolves into the broth. Add this liquid to the pot. Simmer for 20 minutes more, until the tomatoes are falling apart. purée the mixture in a blender and then strain it, pushing it through the strainer with a ladle, or work it through a food mill.
If you're using the poblanos, char the skin on top of the stove by turning the chilies around in the flame until they are thoroughly charred—if you see white ash, however, you're overdoing it. (If you have an electric stove, see the book.) Put the hot poblanos in a plastic bag for 10 minutes so the steam loosens the blackened skin, (I don't bother with this when peeling bell peppers, but the skin on poblanos is a little more stubborn.) Scrape the blackened skin off the chilies with a small knife and quickly rinse them under cold water. Cut out the stems and cut the chilies in half lengthwise. Rinse out the seeds, cut out any white pulp, and chop the chilies fine.
Stir the chopped chilies with the sour cream or creme fraîche and season the mixture to taste with salt.
Season the red pepper soup to taste with salt and pepper and ladle it into heated bowls. Swirl the top of each serving with the poblano mixture or the plain sour cream or creme fraîche.
By James Peterson
John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 2001
Hardback, $ 45.00
Recipe reprinted by permission.
This page created October 2001
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