The days after a conference like IFBC are always busy. There are business cards to sort through, swag to put away, and endless pictures to laugh at as you reminisce about the fun weekend. It’s also the time to attempt catching up on sleep that was lost due to hanging out with some of the coolest people on the planet.
All of this sleep-deprived buzzing about can make cooking dinner seem like the most daunting task in the world. But since I didn’t want to ruin the memory of the exquisite dinner last Saturday night with just a plate of scrambled eggs, I hauled my tired arse into the kitchen to see if I could make something more exciting.
Somewhere between foraging through my cupboards and cleaning out my fridge, I got my second wind. I was suddenly consumed by an intense desire for roasted red pepper soup and nothing was going to stop me from having it!
Except for the fact that I had only two red peppers in the fridge. Meh.
This would only amount to a small cup of soup, and I’d had my heart set on saving some for the next day’s lunch. Fortunately, a can of whole tomatoes from the trusty old cupboard fixed this problem, and back into soup-making mode I went.
Roasting peppers is a lot easier than many people think. Your broiler will do most of the work for you, so as long as you heed your timer and remember to flip your peppers over a couple of times, you’re good to go. But if you’re really pressed for time and don’t mind shelling out a few bucks for the jarred kind, those will work in a pinch for this soup.
Since I’m a fan of different textures, I usually enjoy a slice of warm crusty bread with smooth soups like this one. Out of bread this time around, I decided to make little “croutons” out of a tube of prepared polenta I still hadn’t used. With their crispy exterior and slightly chewy interior, they’re a lot of fun just to snack on, but they work wonderfully as a soup or salad topper. You can bake them or pan fry them, but I think they taste a bit better baked.
Other than that, there’s not much to note on this one! Let’s check out the recipe.
Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup with Polenta Croutons (makes 4-6 servings; total cost per serving: $2.25)
For the soup:
2 large red bell peppers1 24 oz. can of whole, peeled tomatoes
2 T olive oil
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 c chicken or vegetable broth
1 c nonfat milk
Salt & pepper to taste
For the croutons:
1/2 8 oz. tube of prepared polenta, cut into 3/4″ cubes
1 T olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
1. Set your oven’s broiler to its lowest setting. Rinse the peppers well, making sure any labels have been removed. Place peppers on a cookie sheet lined with foil and broil for about 5-7 minutes on each side, until the pepper skin has turned dark brown and blistery.
2. Remove from oven and place peppers into an airtight container such as a bowl with a lid, or a plastic or paper bag. Let the peppers rest in the container for 10 to 15 minutes to build up steam so the peel can be removed easily. Carefully peel off the skin, then cut the pepper in half. Remove the core and seeds, then cut the pepper into 1″ cubes and set aside.
3. Reduce oven heat to 400º. Toss the polenta cubes with the remaining olive oil and a generous amount of salt & pepper. Bake for about 10 minutes, until golden brown and crisp on the outside. Drain on a plate lined with paper towels.
4. In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil then add the garlic. Cook over medium heat until fragrant but not browned. Add the roasted peppers and canned tomatoes and cook for about 7-8 minutes, until they start to stew down a bit.
5. Carefully transfer the sautéed veggies to a blender and add the broth & milk and a bit of salt & pepper. Puree until smooth. Check for flavoring and adjust accordingly with more salt or pepper. Return to the stove and cook on medium low heat for another 5 minutes or so. Remove from heat.
6. Serve generous amounts of soup in bowls or mugs and top with as many croutons as you like. Garnish with chopped chives or basil, and enjoy!