I have noticed that there has been some common subject matter on various social media in the past week or so. One is either commenting about the weather (yes, we are back in the single digits-- #whydoilivehere #imdonewithwinter) or sharing that someone in the family is down and out with fever and flu. Well, I can't do much about the weather other than shovel snow, salt the walkways, and complain about how dang cold it is (!), but I can try to prevent that flu bug from crossing my thresholds.
Years ago my children opted out of getting the flu shot (I can't say that I blame them), but only in agreement that they 1. wash well, 2. sleep well, and 3. eat well. That means eating foods that aren't high on their yum list. Red bell peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C, high in antioxidants, loaded with lots of other good stuff, and... definitely not on the yum list for the kiddos. Don't get me wrong, they do like them. But if you were to ask them "what is your favorite thing that mom makes", I guarantee it won't have red peppers in it.
Not only is this soup chock full of roasted red bell peppers, there are onions, garlic, carrots, and fennel-- all of which are good for keeping the system in good health. For a little smokiness, I throw in a dash of smoked paprika. And for a triple pepper play, I hit the finished product with some crushed red pepper flakes. This soup is sweet, smoky, a little spicy, and the texture is as smooth as velvet (no chunky stuff for the kids). The smooth texture does not come from any cream or thickeners. Just three tablespoons of Arborio rice are simmered with the other ingredients before being puréed. It can be served warm, room temperature, or even cold (that is when it's not sub-zero outside). And to really make the kids go back for seconds, serve it with some artisanal bread and aged prosciutto that you picked up from a recent food field trip. (You Facebook followers know the place I am talking about☺.)
Roasted Red Pepper Soup
makes about 8 cups
6 large red bell peppers, halved, cored, and seeded
5 Tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus extra for drizzle
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
2 medium garlic cloves
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 medium fennel bulb, fronds reserved and chopped
5 cups chicken stock
1 cup dry white wine
3 Tablespoons Arborio rice
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
Preheat the oven to 450º F. Toss the peppers with 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Place the peppers cut side down on a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast until they have blistered and browned, about 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cover the sheet with a sheet of aluminum foil to steam the peppers and loosen their skin. When cool enough to handle, peel the peppers, discarding the skins, and cut into long strips.
Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add the onions, garlic, carrots, and fennel and sauté until tender, but not browned, about 15-20 minutes. Stir in the stock, wine, rice, herbs, and peppers and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the peppers and rice are very tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat. Using a hand-held immersion blender or upright blender (allow steam to escape when blending hot liquids to avoid burns and/or a kitchen disaster), purée the soup until smooth and thick. Return the soup to the pot and season generously with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the vinegar and smoked paprika and taste again for seasoning. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Enjoy!
Source: Adapted from The Joy of Cooking, 1997