So many of my recipes involve my sister, Linda, that I should set aside one day a week for Linda Recipes. I’ll have to work that into a schedule soon. For now I’m going to talk about this wonderful soup that Linda and I are both hooked on. Roasted sweet red pepper soup has become our favorite soup of all time. We crave this soup! Since we’re both in the middle of another blizzard that is sweeping a wide path up the state here in the North, soup seems like a good topic for a blustery day.
For Easter several years ago my P.S. and I drove the hour to where our D’ Emily and her hubby, S’Nick, live. We had made reservations for brunch at a local upscale hotel and were pleased at the vast array of choices in their buffet. With breakfast and lunch dishes of all kinds, we only wished we had been able to sample more of them. The restaurant specializes in using local products that I hadn’t realized we even produced in our state. So many new dishes or dishes prepared in ways I’d never thought to try!
I tried little servings of so many things I can’t even remember all I tasted. But I remember one thing very well. So well that I just had to find a recipe and replicate it. They had a roasted red pepper soup that was SO amazing that D’Emily and I agreed we must have it again. And again. Back home a few days later, armed with my laptop, I set out in search of a recipe.
Luckily I found the recipe for Sweet Red Bell Pepper Soup with Sambuca Cream on the Gatehouse Gourmet website.
My P.S. was sure the touch of alcohol in the soup was probably Sambuca. I went along with his analysis as he knows his alcohol flavors. (We drink occasionally but not usually an alcohol like Sambuca). But if Sambuca was what was in the heavenly soup, I would buy a bottle!
I was surprised at actually liking something made with bell peppers. I love most vegetables but have never been fond of green peppers. Raw green peppers are a guaranteed heartburn for me. I don’t mind them chopped and cooked in things, but not as the main flavor. The soup was a learning experience… I learned that red bell peppers were sweeter and tasted totally amazing when roasted. I was a convert.
I followed the Gatehouse’s recipe with minor changes. It was fun to roast the red peppers on the grill and my P.S. was cheerfully willing to do that for me. Later batches I used the broiler to roast the peppers as winter in the Midwest puts an end to using the outdoor grill. I didn’t find any difference in the taste of the soups made with either grilled or broiled peppers.
My P.S. throws the washed, whole peppers straight on the grill and turns them until they are very dark brown all around. When broiling peppers I cut them in fourths, remove the stem and seeds, and place them skin side up on foil on a baking sheet. I place the pan on the top rack setting and watch until they are darkened in most places.
When done, I put the peppers in a plastic zip bag and let them cool. I sometimes buy colored peppers on sale and do this and freeze them, 6 in a bag for each recipe, until I make another batch of soup. I do know you can buy peppers already roasted in jars in the grocery store but that’s nothing I’d use. I want to know they were fresh and prepared by me and no preservatives or weird things were added to them. And a further note: you can use yellow or orange peppers for this recipe also. Using red gives a more vibrant color, but yellow and orange are also nice colors for this soup!
If you’d like further tutoring on how to roast peppers, check out a post by Erin at The Daily Morsel website. Drool over a few recipes while you are there. I had to pin the recipe for Roasted Beet and Sweet Potato Rounds with Rosemary Sea Salt because I definitely want to try that!
Canned, chopped jalapenos are a staple in my pantry and I use those in place of the fresh jalapenos the recipe calls for. There are so many layers of flavor in this soup there wasn’t a noticeable difference. I used fresh jalapenos once and decided it was just easier to open a small can and use half. Plus I burned my fingers chopping them and don’t want to live through that again! I use about half the little can, then put the rest in a small plastic container and freeze for the next recipe I may use them in. I remind myself to label the container since I also freeze portions of chopped green chilies the same way.
The original sweet red pepper soup recipe calls for a Sambuca cream as well as a splash of it in the soup. Sambuca is a lovely licorice flavored liquor and a small glug (teaspoon or so) of it in each bowl or cup of soup really is enough. I didn’t find it necessary to make the cream. Let’s say it’s optional if you’d like to try it. You can find it on the website link I listed above. Honestly, the soup is lovely without any Sambuca if you prefer to avoid alcohol.
Once I’d established a recipe and a system of making it, I had to visit my sister Linda and bring along a sample. She LOVED it! The next time I drove down to visit I made the soup with her and helped her freeze it in bottles as I was doing. We decided of all the soups we’ve pureed since, we still love this one best. She’s the creative one who came up with the idea to make a chicken and pasta dish using the red pepper soup as a sauce. Her hubby and boys just loved it used that way.
This is the soup where my P.S. suggested I use our immersion blender that I hadn’t known we possessed. It was my first pureed soup, ever, and also the first in a long line of new pureed soup recipes I’ve been trying since then. I’m always on the search for a nice pureed soup with any kind of vegetable and spices. I’ll probably post many more soups but this soup recipe is the stand-out of all time. Once you try it you will want it more, and more, and more. And remember that it is also lovely used as a sauce over pasta or rice, with grilled chicken or other meats. Don’t grab that bottled sauce off the shelf, have your own sauce frozen and ready! All with fresh ingredients!
I eventually had to create a way to store my pureed soups in my freezer. I wanted them serving sized and I wanted a variety on hand. I like to make a batch of soup on the weekend and save it in portions so that I have a frozen selection to choose from for my weekday lunches. I had at first decided to try using bottled water empties, and bought a case of water on sale for $2.99 and emptied them out. It seemed like an inexpensive way to get empty bottles! But the bottles were 16 ounces which was alot of soup for one lunch and they were so flimsy they crackled and made me crazy. I found it was easiest to collect juice bottles and soda bottles that each hold about 12 ounces. They are stronger, just the right size, and reuseable.
Cleaned and rinsed, I fill them with soup with a funnel, label and date them each using freezer tape and a Sharpee across the front, and freeze standing upright in my freezer. When frozen I lay them sideways and they stack quite well! At times my freezer is very full of my variety of soups. My P.S. is sometimes annoyed with me as he often has to put new frozen foods in the basement freezer.
I usually take a bottle or two of soup out of the freezer the previous day or two before I plan on having them for lunch. Then they are melted or mostly melted and easy to pour into a cup and microwave them until hot. I’ve also found it’s fairly easy to thaw a bottle by laying it in a container filled with hot water in the kitchen sink. This works well for every soup except ones with cheese in it. Then it tends to melt the cheese all over inside the bottle and it is almost impossible to get it out cleanly. I end up throwing away the bottle afterwards. So if I have cheese in a bottled soup, I thaw it in the fridge, empty it into a cup, then heat it up.
I have a tall hamper in an out of the way corner off of my kitchen where I store my empty bottles, waiting for another batch of delicious soup. I was looking for a tall and narrow hamper to hold my kitchen and mud room dirty linens and found a handy Rubbermaid one while shopping with my P.S. I bought two; they stand side by side, one for linens and one for my bottles, so very neatly in the corner.
The plastic bottles were easy to collect because I’m a huge juice fan and most of the individual serving bottles are a perfect 12 ounces. I purposely purchased and drank a lot of juice in those sized bottles for a few months when I began making pureed soups. Now that I have a large collection of bottles I’ve gone back to buying my juice in larger bottles.
Sweet Red Pepper Soup w/Sambucca
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup onion; chopped
tablespoon dried fennel seed
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/2 bay leaf; crumbled
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
2 tablespoon jalapeno peppers; minced (I use canned)
1/4 cup flour
5 cup chicken stock
28 ounces diced tomatoes; canned
1 teaspoon tomato paste (I buy it in tubes in the produce section)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
6 large red bell peppers; roasted on a grill or under a broiler
1 cup heavy cream
1 pinch sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
salt and pepper; to taste
Sambucca; generous splash
In a 4-quart heavy saucepan, heat the 1/2 oil over medium heat. Add the onion, fennel seed, thyme, bay leaf, garlic, basil and jalapeno pepper. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the onion is translucent, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes.
In a separate pot, bring the stock to a boil. Carefully pour the stock over the vegetables, stirring to incorporate. Add the tomato and tomato paste.
Meanwhile, chop the roasted peppers into larger chunks and add the peppers to the soup. Simmer, stirring occasionally, to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot, for about 20 minutes.
Remove the soup from the heat and puree in small batches in a blender or using an immersion blender. Strain.
Return the soup to the saucepan, bring to a simmer and add the cream and the sugar. Season with salt and pepper. If the soup is too spicy, add more cream. Add the vinegar and serve hot.
Add the Sambuca just before serving.
Note: straining the soup is very important; the fennel just never purees smooth enough and is an annoying feel if left in the soup. Or a good way to handle the spices is to put the fennel and the bay leaves into a metal tea ball and dangle it into the soup as it simmers. Remove the ball before using a blender! If using a tea ball, I’d still suggest you strain it as the peelings on the peppers also prevent the soup from being creamy and smooth.