The first time I tasted roasted red pepper soup was in the company of Degas, Rembrandt, Caravaggio, and Cézanne. I sat at a black metal bistro table and stared at it for the longest time before taking that first hesitant sip.
An old cooking instructor used to say, “if it’s mid-western cuisine, it’s pan fried and drowned in white gravy.” And this, my friends was neither.
Up until that moment, my only experience with bell peppers consisted of green peppers stuffed with ground turkey and sliced green peppers with ranch dressing. There were no yellow bell peppers and no red bell peppers in my childhood that I can remember. However, as a picky-eating child, I doubt I’d have eaten them anyway. Truth be told, I remember mostly eating, and enjoying, the stuffing in those stuffed peppers, not the peppers themselves – that came later, as an adult.
I’ve been thinking of this soup since that day. I used to venture back to the Nelson-Atkins about once a month. I told myself it was just for the art. I used to sit in front of Monet for hours just looking, contemplating, studying. I wandered the halls and galleries without thinking of where I was stepping; I had memorized the route weeks before.
I told myself it was just for the art, but really, I think I was hoping that mystical roasted red pepper soup would make another appearance.
Finally, it has.
Roasted Red Pepper Soup
2 large red bell peppers
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and halved
3 cloves garlic
1 medium tomato, halved
1 Tablespoon fresh chopped thyme
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1/2 cup skim milk
1/3 cup half and half
1 to 2 Tablespoons sugar
1 to 2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon
salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat your oven to 450 F with the rack in the middle.
Line a baking tray with aluminum foil and arrange the peppers, onion, and garlic in one layer. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven 30 – 40 minutes, turning halfway, until the peppers have browned and are soft.
Remove the onion and garlic to a blender* and wrap the roasted peppers in the aluminum foil. Place in a sealed Ziploc bag for 15 minutes. This will allow the peppers to steam and the skins will be easy to remove.
After 15 minutes, unwrap the peppers and carefully (they will be hot!!) remove the skins and seeds. Add the red peppers and the tomato to the onion and garlic in the blender.
Puree the onion, garlic, and roasted peppers together until smooth.
Pour the red pepper puree into a medium saucepan and add the thyme, red pepper flakes, skim milk, half and half, sugar, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Simmer until it thickened to your desired consistency. I simmered mine for 30 minutes.
*for a chunkier soup, you can use a food processor.