Roasted Red Pepper Soup

This creamy, zesty soup is a great way to use up those bell peppers in the garden and is such a welcome dinner as the evenings begin to cool down. Do take the time to make your own croutons; it's not difficult and they taste so much better than store-bought. This recipe makes 4 servings.

PREP TIME: 30 minutes
COOK TIME: 45 minutes

For the soup:
5 large red bell peppers, washed and dried
1/2 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
1/2 of a large carrot, chopped into 1/4" dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons cognac or dry sherry
3.5 cups vegetable stock (we like Kitchen Basics brand for this recipe)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Sour cream or crème fraîche, for garnish

For the croutons:
1 small loaf good-quality sourdough bread, cut into cubes
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper

Roast the peppers: Preheat your oven to 400 F. Put the peppers on a baking dish and roast for 30 minutes, until the peppers have softened and the skins are charred. Remove peppers from oven, put them in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Turn the oven down to 375 F. Let the peppers cool for about 30 minutes while you prepare the rest of your ingredients. Once the peppers are cool enough to handle, pull off the charred skins and discard. Core and seed the peppers and give them a rough chop. Set peppers aside.

Make the croutons: Place bread cubes on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Using your (clean) hands, toss gently to combine. Cook in a 375 F oven until the bread begins to toast, about 5-7 minutes. Remove croutons from oven and set aside.

Make the soup: Heat a large skillet to medium-high. Add olive oil, onions and carrot. Sauté until onions become fragrant and slightly brown at the edges. Add garlic and sauté for two more minutes. Deglaze the pan with cognac or sherry, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to remove all of the brown bits. Cook mixture for 3-4 minutes, until the alcohol is reduced by half. Turn off heat and add about two cups of stock. Once cool enough to handle, place the mixture and the roasted peppers in your blender or food processor and pulse until smooth. You may have to do this in batches.

Once the pepper and onion mixture is blended, add to a stockpot and pour in remaining stock along with heavy cream. Heat mixture through and season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, ladle a serving of soup into a bowl. Add a few croutons and a dollop of sour cream or crème fraîche.

*Cook's note: if you are using cognac to deglaze your pan and are also using a gas flame, it's best to turn off the flame while you add the alcohol, as the cognac is extremely flammable. Once the alcohol has been added to the pan, you can turn the flame back on a resume cooking.