In my opinion, it is really easy to “over do” vegetarian food. That may sound strange to someone who is not familiar with it – someone who thinks that vegetarians only eat salads and a variety of sprouts. But the truth is, there is often this implied need to compensate for lack of meat. Whether it is conscious or sub-conscious, it is something I notice in the vegetarian dishes of many restaurants and in a lot of my cookbooks. I even notice it in the recipes I am drawn to. I tend to see something simple and pass it by for something more complicated with twice the number of ingredients.
There are certain cookbook authors who have helped me correct this tendency – at least part of the time. One of them is Patricia Wells. When I was looking for something to serve with a Baked Arugula Omelet and the lentils I made last week, I stumbled upon this Roasted Orange Pepper Soup. I scanned the list of ingredients and, although my first instinct was to make something more involved, I ultimately decided it would match the rest of my meal perfectly.
The beauty of this soup is that it is a perfect first course for almost any meal. It is light but with pronounced flavors, thanks to the roasting of the peppers. It has that dreamy creamy texture but without any cream. Like most soups, this one can be made a day or two in advance, and you can even roast the peppers a day or two before you make the actual soup. I had leftovers so I reheated it last night for guests and added about 1/2 cup of cooked rice to each bowl to make it more of a main course. Incredibly versatile and yet oh so simple.
Recipe Note: To roast peppers, preheat an oven to 450 degrees. Place peppers on a baking sheet and bake in the oven, turning occasionally, until skin is quite black in places, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and place a long sheet of foil over the baking sheet. Wait 10 minutes, then remove foil. Allow peppers to cool enough to handle, then peel the skin away. Do this over a bowl so you catch all the delicious juices. Discard the seeds and inner membranes.
Roasted Orange Pepper Soup
Adapted from Vegetable Harvest
Wells suggests serving each bowl with a drizzle of pistachio, walnut, or olive oil as a garnish. I skipped that step.
1 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 lbs. orange peppers, roasted, peeled, and sliced
2 quarts vegetable stock
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
Freshly ground pepper
1. Heat a stock pot over low heat and add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Add the onions and a healthy pinch of salt and sweat – cook, covered, over low heat until soft – for 4-5 minutes. Add the sliced peppers and cook for 4-5 minutes more. Add the stock and the potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook, covered, until the potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes.
2. In a food processor or with a blender, or an immersion blender, puree in batches. Taste for seasoning and serve.