The Monday morning weather curse is still upon Eastern North Carolina. Our Plein Air class met inside again. The weather was only a threat -- no rain actually fell. It's ok with me; I actually prefer painting inside. The front that passed over brought some cooler weather, and soup was a perfect first course for dinner. I actually made this red pepper soup last week and had fire-roasted tomato soup tonight, but that post will come later. The May issue of Southern Living had this roasted red pepper soup recipe. I made the croutons, which turned out very well, then forgot to put them in the soup. They were great in the tomato soup though. This soup makes up quickly and is really good.
Roasted Red Pepper Soup With Pesto Croutons
1/4 cup refrigerated pesto, at room temperature
6 sourdough (or French) bread slices
2 Tbsp. Smart Balance buttery spread
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 (15-oz.) jar roasted red bell pepers, rinsed and drained
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup Land o' Lakes fat-free half and half
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
Sea Salt and black pepper to taste
Garnishes: chopped parsley; shaved Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350F. Spread pesto on 1 side of each bread slice. Cut each bread slice into 1/2 - to 1-inch cubes. Place bread cubes in a single layer on a lightly greased aluminum foil-lined jelly-roll pan. Bake 16-20 minutes or until golden, turning once after 10 mnutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
Melt Smart Balance in a 3-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic and shallot and cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Stir in bell peppers and chicken broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Remove from heat; let cool 10 minutes. Process red pepper mixture, in batches, in a blender 8-10 seconds until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides. Return red pepper mixture to pot; stir in half and half and parsley and cook over medium heat 5 minutes, or until thoroughly heated. Do not boil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle soup into 6 bowls; top with parsley, Parmesan cheese and croutons. (Recipe states 6 servings, but it was more like 4, unless you like a tiny little bowl of soup. The croutons can be used for salads and other soups, so go ahead and make them all. I made half pesto and half garlic. They were both good.)