Note: When puréeing your soup, you can use a food processor, blender, or hand blender. Regardless, make sure to wait until it's cooled a bit to prevent a messy explosion. I tend to divide my soups into halves or thirds to make sure it doesn't overwhelm the appliance.
Although the lemon juice may seem like a negligible amount and you therefore may be tempted to skip it, a dash of lemon juice can bring a vibrancy of flavor to many soups and really helps this one pop.
To make this soup vegetarian, use vegetable broth in place of chicken broth, and eliminate the pancetta in the garnish.
- Yield:Serves 4 to 6
- Active time: 30 minutes
- Total time:1 hour
- 4 large sweet red bell peppers, cored, stemmed, seeded, and pressed flat
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 small onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
- 2 medium garlic cloves, chopped (about 2 teaspoons)
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
- 1 quart homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock (see note)
- 1 medium russet potato, peeled and chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 head of cauliflower, core removed, cut into florets
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed juice from 1 lemon
- 1/3 cup pancetta, finely chopped (see note)
- 1/2 medium apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2 inch dice (about 1/2 cup)
- 2 slices of crusty Italian bread cut into 1/2 inch dice (about 1 cup)
Preheat the broiler to high. Place the peppers on a foil lined baking sheet. Place the peppers on a shelf about 4 inches below the heating element and broil until blistered and blackened, then place in a plastic bag and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, use a knife and peel the blackened skin off the pepper under running water. Coarsely chop the peppers and set aside.
In a heavy saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-low heat until shimmering, then add the onions and cook until tender, stirring often, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute longer. Add 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, red pepper flakes, thyme, paprika, and chicken or vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, then add the potato and cauliflower and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes, then purée in batches along with the roasted peppers, until very smooth (see note). Stir in the lemon juice, season to taste with more salt and pepper, and keep warm on low heat until ready to serve.
To Serve: Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a medium skillet over medium heat until lightly smoking, then add the pancetta and apples and cook, stirring and tossing frequently, until the apples are tender and the pancetta is beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the diced bread, and cook, carefully stirring to prevent burning, until the bread has crisped and begun to brown, about 4 minutes longer. Season with the black pepper. Ladle the soup into individual bowls, then garnish with a scoop of the pancetta flavored croutons. Serve immediately.