Or, what to make when you want to feel like the world is just a bit less cold.
I have a feeling that I’m going to need a lot of comfort food during the next… four years or so. Whatever your political leanings, you cannot escape the fact that the United States is a strange and tempestuous place to be right now. Nobody really seems to know what is happening, or why – even (or perhaps especially) if you are one of those people upon whom our new government has had an immediate effect. There is a lot of anxiety and anger in the air. (As well as a lot of love and hope – lots of emotional energy jangling about the place.)
Lots of things are happening, all over the country. Many of the things I’m doing right now are normal, and that helps keep me grounded. But some things are not business as usual, and the ground can feel a bit rocky beneath our uncertain feet. Because of this, my stock of comfort foods looks like it will be expanding. We all need energy, and comfort, and fortification. The American experiment needs fuel, people! And at the moment, this means I’m making a lot of soup.
This recipe is inspired by a tortilla soup flavor profile, but I was cooking for someone who does not eat tomatoes, so I subbed in some roasted red peppers and a squeeze of lemon. Cumin, coriander, and some roasted cloves of garlic contributed to the smokiness of the roasted peppers, and the result was very warm and comfort-inducing indeed.
Once everything was blended into a smooth and smoky purée, I topped the soup with crumbled feta for some added sharpness and a good sprinkling of cilantro. I ate this sitting in the sun on my patio, soaking up all the warmth I could possibly muster.
- 5 bell peppers - I used red, orange, and yellow (avoid green)
- a handful of garlic cloves, skin on
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 1 teaspoon each ground cumin & coriander
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 4-6 cups of veggie or chicken stock
- squeeze of lemon
- olive oil
- to serve: feta and cilantro
- Preheat the oven to 450 F.
- Slice peppers in half and remove stems, seeds, and membranes. Place peppers cut side down on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Nestle garlic cloves between peppers. Lightly coat everything in oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Roast for about 20 minutes, until pepper skins are black and blistered.
- While the peppers roast, dice the onion and prepare the spices.
- Heat a tablespoon of oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Add diced onion and cook for 3-5 minutes, until softened and translucent. Add cumin and coriander and stir, coating onion. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat to wait for peppers, if necessary.
- When peppers are done, slide them (and the garlic) into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let everything steam for a while - at least 10 mins or so - until skins come away from peppers easily. (I used a knife to help with this, as I was impatient and wanted to get moving before the peppers were cool enough to handle.) The skins should slide off easily with little resistance.
- Skin the garlic by squeezing each clove to release the flesh within. This should also happen easily, with little resistance.
- Add peppers, garlic, and thyme to pot with onions, and stir to mix. Add stock, starting with smaller amounts. Simmer for 10 minutes.
- Blend everything until smooth with an immersion blender.
- Stir and test thickness at this point; add more stock if desired (I did).
- Taste, add a squeeze of lemon to brighten, and adjust seasoning.
- To serve, top bowls with crumbled feta cheese and a handful of cilantro leaves.