Nothing escapes the red and greening of the holidays in my house … including soup!
And roasted red pepper soup with Christmas tree-shaped pesto croutons is about as festive as you can get in the soup world. While soup may not be on your typical holiday menu, this velvety red potage from the Food Network is perfect for a cozy meal after a hard day of shopping at the mall or even better after an afternoon of shoveling the snow.
Best of all, it can be as easy or difficult as you want to make it. The recipe itself calls for roasting the red peppers, but I actually made it with jarred peppers to speed up the process. (No time for roasting when there are presents to be wrapped!)
Instead of roasting the peppers, simply add three fire roasted peppers from the jar, which is about two 12-ounce jars, give or take. I'm partial to the Trader Joe's brand, but use what you like.
The killer app here, of course, is the Christmas tree croutons, which, surprisingly, is the easiest part of the entire endeavor. All you need is a tree-shaped cookie cutter, slices of bread and some pesto -- either homemade or store bought. You toast the "trees" in the oven and when you are ready to serve the soup, spread the pesto on them and float them in the soup.
While the croutons are certainly decorative, they also add a nice note of complexity to the soup, which has a very strong peppery flavor. This particular pesto is made with broccoli, a great way to sneak vegetables into your children. But if you prefer to use your standard pesto with basil, pine nuts, parmesan and garlic, it would work just fine.
If you really want to take the easy way out, pull out the boxed (or canned) version of red pepper or even tomato soup and add the Christmas tree croutons with pre-made pesto -- and voila! -- everyone is instantly cheered and impressed!
• M. Eileen Brown is the Daily Herald's director of strategic marketing and innovation, and an incurable soup-a-holic. She specializes in vegetarian soups and blogs at soupalooza.com.