This soup has been the only thing standing between me and my post-Thanksgiving fat pants. It isn’t even officially winter yet, and I’m already chilled to the bones just thinking about the impending months of cold ahead. And when I’m cold, I eat. (You know, in preparation for the coming months of hibernation. Err, something like that). But this soup feels like a little piece of summer amidst the cold and grey, warming me up from the inside out. With a bowl of this in my hands, I feel like I can take on whatever this season has to offer (without eating myself into a slumber).
After big bursts of holiday eating, I start to crave lighter, more nourishing meals. I’m not always good at acting upon those urges though, because, well… cookies. And pie. This soup came about as a bit of an accident, when we were about to leave town for a week and I realized I had an entire crisper drawer full of red bell peppers (how does that even happen?) some fennel, and a bunch of fresh herbs that needed to be used up before we left. I threw the peppers in the oven to roast, and started tossing things into a big pot, not even knowing if I was making a sauce, or a soup, or what. (What’s this? Some rosemary? Into the pot it goes!) Then I took a taste, and realized I was standing over a pot of liquid gold. (Okay, okay… I THOUGHT I was standing over a pot of liquid gold, but I wasn’t certain until The Husband tasted it, and told me that I had to write down exactly what I had done so I could make it again. His seal of approval was all I needed to know this recipe was worth sharing with you all.)
Generally speaking, I dream up a recipe (sometimes literally, they come to me in my sleep) and I think on it for days and days before carefully putting it together, measuring everything as I go so I can write the recipe later. Then there are times like these, when I’m just cooking — cooking for myself and my husband, cooking for friends, or just trying to clean out the fridge of whatever’s on hand — and so often those become my favorite recipes.
We ate our bowls of soup with sourdough grilled cheese sandwiches (completely optional, but highly recommended), and besides the crunching of bread and sipping of soup and the occasional utterance of delight, all was quiet. Normally our dinners are spent catching up on each other’s day, but this soup rendered us both silent. I take that as the sign of a very good meal, indeed.
- 8 red bell peppers
- 2 bulbs fennel
- 10-12 cloves garlic, peeled
- 4 TBSP + 1 TBSP olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 6 TBSP fresh chopped fennel fronds
- 6 TBSP fresh chopped parsley
- 1 TBSP fresh chopped rosemary
- 1 TBSP fresh thyme
- 1 TBSP balsamic vinegar
- 1 TBSP granulated sugar
- 3-4 cups water, as needed
- salt and pepper, to taste
- pinch of cayenne pepper, to taste*
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F., and line two baking sheets with foil or parchment.
- Cut the bell peppers in half, remove the stems and seeds, and press each half flat onto the baking sheets, skin-side up. Cut the fennel bulbs into quarters (set the fronds aside for later), remove the core, and cut away any gnarly looking spots on the outer leaves. Place on the baking sheets along with the peppers.
- Peel the garlic, and place in the center of a separate (smaller) sheet of aluminum foil. Pull the foil up around the garlic to create a bowl, and add 1 TBSP olive oil. Scrunch the foil tightly shut around the garlic to create a sealed pouch, and place on one of the baking sheets along with the peppers and fennel.
- Place both baking sheets into the oven on the middle and lower rack, and roast for 40-50 minutes, or until the fennel is tender and the skin of the bell peppers is wrinkled, rotating the trays once halfway through baking.
- Remove the baking sheets from the oven, and let rest for a couple of minutes, until the peppers are just cool enough to handle. Using your fingers, remove the papery skin from the bell peppers (the skin should separate fairly easily while the peppers are still hot. This is the hardest part of making this soup, but I promise you it is worth it. (For tips to make this step a little easier, see the recipe notes below.)
- In a large pot over medium-high heat, add the remaining 4 TBSP olive oil. Add the onion, and a big pinch of salt, and saute for 6-8 minutes, or until tender. Add the roasted fennel, bell peppers, garlic (and all of the oil from the foil pouch), and stir to combine. Then add the fresh herbs, balsamic vinegar, sugar, and 2-3 cups of water, and either transfer the mixture to a blender, or puree using an immersion blender, until completely smooth. Add more water as needed to reach desired consistency.
- Season well with salt and fresh cracked black pepper, and add a dash of cayenne, to taste. (See recipe notes.) Serve as is, or with grilled cheese sandwiches, or a hunk of crusty bread for dipping. Enjoy!
To make the peppers easier to peel, place them in a bowl right when they come out of the oven and cover tightly with plastic wrap or foil. Let sit for 15-20 minutes, or until cool enough to handle, and the steam will help loosen the skins. Sometimes I find it helpful to place the peppers skin-side up on a cutting board, and use the side of a spoon to gently rub the skin off. Try to remove as much of the skins as you easily can, but don't fuss over it too much. It doesn't have to be perfect.