Surprise Red Pepper Soup
This intense soup combines your local harvest with Eastern seasonings and a touch of butter to round it all out. It’s terrific eaten immediately with crusty bread—I couldn’t help myself—but radically better the next day. Serve for lunch or as a first course, rather than as a soup entree. Triple the recipe to thaw when the ground is rock hard and the world is white. See variations below, including a cold version which is excellent Indian summer fare, and the one pictured here with cooked corn shaved right off the cob into the soup. (You’ll love how the kernels break apart in your mouth.) Serves 4.—Amy Cotler, author of The Locavore Way: Discover and Enjoy the Pleasures of Locally Grown Food.
2 red bell peppers
1 cup peeled and chopped ripe tomatoes (1 huge, 2 medium)
1-1/2 tablespoons unsweetened butter
1 small diced onion
1/4 of a seeded and minced jalapeño
1-1/2 teaspoons coarsely grated fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons fermented black beans, unwashed
2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon sugar
Chopped cilantro and/or sliced scallion
1. Roast the peppers on the stovetop, a grill, or under a broiler. Cook them whole, over high heat, turning them as needed until they are completely blackened, 3-7 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and let stand, well covered, until cool enough to handle. Remove the tops, the peel, and the seeds. Chop and set aside.
2. Drop the tomatoes into a pot of boiling water for about 5-10 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon. When cool enough to handle, slip off the skins. Slice in half and discard seeds. Chop.
3. Heat butter in a medium pot over low heat. Add the onion, jalapeño, ginger, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is aromatic but not browned, 2-3 minutes.
4. Add the fermented black beans, peppers, tomatoes and 1 cup of the chicken broth. Simmer for 10 minutes and then puree in the food processor or with an immersion blender. Add the remaining 1 cup stock and simmer for an additional 10 minutes to marry the flavors. Add the sugar and taste. If you used homemade chicken broth, you may need salt.
5. Serve warm, sprinkled with cilantro and/or scallion greens, or see the variations below.
Garnish with corn: Shave the kernels off 2 ears of cooked corn right into the soup.
Serve cold, using a flavorless oil instead of butter.
Add 2 - 3 tablespoons of warm orzo to the center of each bowl before sprinkling with herbs.