Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Recipe: Roasted Red Pepper, Fennel, and Lentil Soup (Κόκκινες Πιπεριές, Μάραθο, και Φακές)

Roasted red peppers are a staple in my kitchen.

When simply dressed with olive oil and a splash of good quality balsamic vinegar, roasted peppers make an easy, flavorful appetizer. As a side dish, they perk up even the most pedestrian meal.

My favorite way to roast peppers is over a wood fire. In summer, we often cook over an outdoor grill. The best time to roast peppers is shortly after starting the fire, when the flames are still too high for grilling. With an active flame, pepper skins char quickly, leaving the flesh perfectly cooked.

In summer, peppers are in season and I buy them in quantity. We roast and peel all the peppers at one time, and freeze them in individual plastic sandwich bags. I use frozen roasted red peppers all winter to add an extra layer of flavor to soups and sauces.

When it’s too cold to cook outside, the easiest way to roast one or two peppers is directly over a gas burner. This is what I did last week when I wanted to enhance lentil soup with roasted red peppers, but had used up my entire frozen supply.

The rich, smoky taste of peppers dramatically improves an otherwise straightforward lentil soup. Because I pureed the peppers, their flavor permeated every bite without overpowering the fennel and lentils.

Since only two of us were eating, I had enough soup to freeze for another day. I’m looking forward to it.

Roasted Red Pepper, Fennel, and Lentil SoupRoasted Red Pepper, Fennel, and Lentil Soup (Κόκκινες Πιπεριές, Μάραθο, και Φακές)
Serves 4 - 6
Some jalapeño peppers are spicy, while others are quite mild. Taste the jalapeños before adding them to the soup, and adjust the amount accordingly.

3 cups diced onions, 1/2” dice
1 cup diced carrots, 1/2” dice
1 cup diced celery, 1/2” dice
1 cup diced fennel bulb, 1/2” dice
1/4 cup olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. Aleppo pepper or 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 Tbsp. fennel seeds, crushed
1 cup lentils, any kind (picked over to remove detritus and rinsed)
8 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 red bell peppers, roasted and peeled (see NOTE below)
1 – 2 jalapeño or other spicy pepper, roasted and peeled (optional) (see NOTE below)

Sauté the onions, carrots, celery, and fennel bulb, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, in olive oil until the onions soften and begin to turn golden. Stir in the garlic, Aleppo pepper, and fennel seeds and cook for 1 minute. Add the lentils and stir until they are coated with oil. Stir in the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 – 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender, but not mushy.

While the soup is simmering, puree the roasted peppers and jalapeños in a blender or food processor. When the lentils are tender, stir the pureed peppers into the soup. Serve immediately.

NOTE on Roasting Peppers: The traditional method of roasting peppers is over a hot wood fire, but you can also roast them on a gas grill, directly on a gas burner, under the broiler, or by baking in a 450° oven for 30 minutes. Unless you are baking them, turn the peppers frequently to ensure the skins char evenly and the flesh beneath doesn’t overcook. When the skin is completely blackened, place the peppers in a brown paper bag or plastic wrap covered bowl. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, poke a hole in each pepper’s bottom and reserve any liquid inside for adding to the soup. Peel away the peppers’ burnt skin, gently scraping away any stuck bits with a knife. Don’t rinse the peppers in water, as doing so washes away too much flavor. Remove and discard the stem, seeds, and any white pulp inside the pepper.

NOTE on Storing Roasted Peppers: Roasted peppers can be refrigerated and stored in a glass jar, topped with olive oil, for about a week. They also freeze well sealed in portion-sized sandwich bags.

This is my entry for No Croutons Required hosted by Lisa's Kitchen and Tinned Tomatoes.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the freezing tip Laurie about the peppers. Another delightful recipe. I wish it was cooler so I can go ahead and cook all these great soups...great flavours with an otherwise "straightforward" soup.

Maria Verivaki said...

the best tinned tomatos i ever had was recently - bought from the supermarket from the organic products shelf. they smelt and tasted of fresh tomato. they cost twice the price of a normal can of tinned tomatos.

Núria said...

I love roasted peppers too, Laurie! I love to eat them during the summer, once they are cold with some olive oil on top and a good slice of bread rubbed with tomatoe (you know about that one) and grilled sardines!!! It's one of life's pleasures :D

Your dishes are so different and yet with some similar flavours... I want to try this soup. I've all ingredients but fennel.

Gretchen Noelle said...

I just realized recently what a terrific taste roasted red peppers can add. Thanks for the roasting & storing tips. Now maybe I will make a bit bigger batch to plan ahead.

Peter M said...

Laurie, with my parents being from Florina, you can guess how much we love peppers at large.

We've been freezing them for years but we DO leave the charred skins on...a protective from freezer burn.

Lisa Turner said...

Gorgeous! Thanks so much for participating in our event Laurie.

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

Wow, I bet that's absolutely delicious. What fantastic ingredients!

Mike of Mike's Table said...

I love roasted peppers. Somehow, they just become something entirely new. I'd never done them over a wood fire and I imagine that would add even greater complexity. That soup must be really tasty.

Katie Zeller said...

Thanks for the tip on roasting peppers - mon mari can have more fun with fire while he waits for the flames to die down. Perfect job for him - and great addition to me vegetable freezer!
Oh, and the soup looks good, too!

Anonymous said...

It looks like the peppers really give your soup some depth, even in its color so I can imagine what it does for the flavor! No croutons may be required, but those kale crostinis look like a great first course with this soup, too.

LisaRene said...

Very appealing soup, I love that it contains fennel. With the spicy peppers and nice charred flavor from the bell peppers this soup sounds like a winner!

Cakelaw said...

Mmmm, roasted peppers - it must taste good with those in it.

Núria said...

Hola Laurie!

I'm afraid I tagged you!!! Please follow the link.

Shayne said...

one of my favorites is roasted peppers and I bet smoke from an open fire is the best. I will have to try when the weather gets warm enough to go out, who am I kidding your in Alaska.

I have just started reading your blog but I love it so much that I wanted to mention you on mine so I added you to my 7 for this tag.

you have been tagged! Here's the rules:
1. Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.


Anonymous said...

I love roasting peppers - and eggplants - over the gas fire as well. It gives them a real smoky flavour.

Sam Sotiropoulos said...

Laurie, I guess we were on the same wavelength... I just posted a feta and roasted red pepper piquante dip on my own blog:

We've been roasting and freezing peppers for as long as I can remember. Like Peter (Kalofagas) we leave the skins on when freezing to protect against freezer burn.

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

Roasting the peppers would add that extra flavour dimension that we love. I could even break out my immersion blender:D

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Might be fun to try roasting the fennel bulb, too. I love the combination of flavors in this soup.

Sandi @the WhistleStop Cafe said...

Thanks for the tips about the roasted peppers. I will grill them the next time I've got the grill fired up.

Gretchen Noelle said...

Hey Laurie...I tagged you for a meme!

Nina Timm said...

I love your blog so much that I have send you a little award - hope you're pleased.

Cris said...

What a wonderful hearty soup... I also roast peppers on a gas burner.

¿Gusta Usted? said...

Wonderful page! this recipe seems to me like my mother's lentils recipe, I m going to make it like you. I LIVE in MEXICO (Tampico port) and Im glad to meet your page! Mine is about mexican food made at home. Have you been in México? Tested the antojitos mexicanos?
I speak read and write little English, so excuse any mistake.


Dazy said...

Can I seriously come over for dinner soon? ...... your recipe sounds so yummy.....