Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Roasted Red Pepper & Mushroom Soup

The recent spell of cool, wet weather along the east coast was nothing but pleasant for me. Fall foods are some of my favorite, full of hearty warmth. The passing storms sought to bring out the culinary colors of the season and my own penchant for soups.

In gloomy weather, reds are a bright choice for foods. Red makes us think of warmth, be it the heat of a hot pepper or an August sunset. The color brings us memories of the summer; think warm vine ripe tomatoes, raspberries or strawberries. When the dreary grey days of fall and winter have us down, there is nothing like a bright bowl of soup to cheer us up.

In the past, I have made brilliantly hued and high flavored roasted red pepper and tomato soup, as well as roasted tomato soup. Both delicious: the sweetness of pepper and tomato are enhanced in the roasting process; adding a pleasant finish to any soup.

In addition to the glorious red bell pepper, I adore mushrooms. Their earthy aroma and buttery flavor can compete with most anything delectable. So how to combine the sweetness of a pepper and the robustness of the mushroom? A soup of course-- Full of sweetness and heavy undertones. Perfect for these the days when fall looms ahead, yet light and colorful enough to remind us that summer still holds.

I topped this soup off with some heavy cream and homemade croutes (as Julia Child would say)—- or croutons. (These croutes were made weeks ago from stale bread, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen. Once the soup was ready, the croutes were drizzled with 1 Tbl olive oil, fresh ground pepper, salt, a pinch of garlic powder and placed in a toaster oven until browned.)

Serving Size= 6-8 persons. Active time= about 30 minutes. Inactive time= about 30 minutes.
* 2 red bell peppers, whole
* 1 large onion, chopped loose
* 4 cloves garlic, chopped
* 2 stalks celery, chopped loose
* 1 quart button mushrooms (or two large handfuls), chopped loose
* 2 Tbl non-salted butter (or olive oil)
* 6 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth (boxed or homemade)
* 1 small bunch parsley, washed well
* salt/ pepper to taste

1) The easiest way to roast a red pepper is in the broiler by following step one of this previous soup post. Alternatively, I prefer to use the “baba ganoush method:” rotate over an open flame (using tongs) until the pepper turns black, throw it into a paper bag for 15-20 minutes, peel off black char, discard innards, add to soup just before broth.
2) Place onion, garlic, celery and mushrooms into a large stock pot with 2 Tbl butter or olive oil. Sauté for about 10 minutes; until onions turn translucent and limp and mushrooms begin to brown and release juices.
3) Add roasted red peppers.
4) Add chicken broth and parsley. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.
5) Using a handheld blender or carefully in batches with a regular blender, puree the contents until smooth and even. If thicker than desired, cut soup with a little water. Taste for flavor, add salt/ pepper to taste.
6) Garnish with cream and parsley and serve with grilled cheese, peanut butter and jelly, cucumber onion (or any other preferred sandwich), a hunk of crusty bread, croutes, good cheese, a salad, or on its own.

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