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Roasted Yellow Pepper Soup
By Charlie Burke

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Yellow, red and orange peppers are now plentiful at farm stands and farmers
markets. We tend to forget that green peppers are not ripe and have become
accustomed to their sharp and somewhat harsh flavor. It takes many weeks for
peppers to reach maturity and full color, so most are picked green to meet
market demand, and, because of their long time in the field, ripe peppers are
more expensive to harvest, requiring growers to charge more for them. The
reward, however, is that fresh, locally grown ripe peppers have stored sugars
and complex flavors which intensify when they are cooked in contrast to green
peppers which can be bitter.

Similar to tomatoes, the difference between locally grown peppers and
supermarket varieties results from the farmers’ choosing taste over shelf life and
size, and a pepper you buy from your local farmer was probably in the field
yesterday. Their complex flavors are at their peak from now until the end of the
growing season.

My wife, Joanne, roasted six plump yellow peppers this week. They were done
in a glass baking dish, and the juice exuded was sweet and full of flavor, as
were the peppers, themselves. I often put a batch of roasted peppers in olive oil
and use them in salads or as sides with grilled fish or meat, but decided to
make a simple soup with these.

I pureed them with their juice in a blender and decided after tasting them that
little needed be added, so intense was the flavor. When making soup from
really fresh vegetables such as these peppers, I’ve found that using chicken
broth or stock results in dulling the flavor so I use water for thinning.

The sweetness of sautéed shallots complemented that of the peppers, as did a
small chopped carrot and a single clove of our garlic. A pinch of ground cumin,
added to the olive oil in the sauté, was the only spice, other than ground pepper
and a little cayenne, so this soup is all about the sweet, rich flavor of the pepper.
I infused a small volume of canola oil with some homemade curry powder and
drizzled a few drops over the surface. If you enjoy curry, give it a try, otherwise
it certainly can be omitted. This soup can be served either warm or cold.

Four cups:

6 yellow peppers
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 small carrot thinly sliced
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for baking dish
1 pinch ground cumin
1 pinch cayenne
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
Approximately1 ½ cups water
2 teaspoons lemon juice or wine vinegar

Curry oil (optional):

1 ½ tablespoons curry powder
¼ cup canola oil

Lightly oil a shallow baking dish large enough to hold peppers without
crowding. Roast in a preheated 400 degree oven until the skins are lightly
charred and the peppers are soft, approximately 1 hour. Cover the baking dish
with foil and let the peppers cool. Remove the skins, seeds and white parts of
the peppers. Place the peppers and juice into a blender and process until
smooth.

In a sauté pan, heat the ¼ cup of olive oil over low to medium heat and add the
shallots, carrot and garlic, along with the cumin and cayenne. Sprinkle a
teaspoon of salt over the vegetables and cook, stirring until they are soft but not
browned. Scrape the oil and vegetables into the blender, processing for 1
minute. Pour the mixture into a bowl and thin with water to desired consistency
– it should be quite thick.  Mix in several grinds of pepper and add salt to taste.
Add lemon juice or vinegar in small increments, tasting, until the flavor
“brightens” and there is slight acidity. Refrigerate the soup and serve in chilled
bowls or gently heat to serving temperature if serving warm.

If serving with the oil, heat ¼ cup of canola oil over low heat in a small sauce
pan. Add the curry powder and “steep” the powder for 10 minutes over very
low heat. Strain the oil through a paper towel lined strainer. Drizzle the oil
lightly over the surface when serving

This soup is a perfect light first course or, in larger portions, a healthy lunch. We
happened to have yellow peppers, but the same recipe will work for orange or
red peppers, with the red peppers having a slightly more intense flavor. Do try
to find high quality fresh, locally grown peppers and see the difference they
make in this and any recipe.

About the author: An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the vice
president of the
New Hampshire Farmer's Market Association, president of the NH Farm
to Restaurant Connection and helps run the Sanbornton (NH) Farmers' Market.  Along
with his wife, Joanne, Charlie grows certified organic herbs, greens and berries at Weather
Hill Farm in Sanbornton, NH.
 
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