¼ cup blanched almonds
1½ cups small broccoli florets
1 cup packed fresh basil
2 cloves garlic, smashed
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 jars (12 ounces each) roasted red bell peppers, drained and chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 rib celery, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 large leek (white and light green parts only), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 quart low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 small russet potato, peeled and diced
8 slices white bread
Make the pesto: Toast the almonds in a skillet over medium heat, tossing, until lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a food processor.
Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Add the broccoli to the boiling water and cook until bright green, about 2 minutes. Drain and transfer to the ice water to cool, then drain and pat dry. Add the broccoli to the food processor with the almonds; add the basil, garlic and ½ teaspoon salt and pulse to make a chunky paste. With the motor running, gradually add the olive oil. Add the parmesan and pulse to combine. Transfer the pesto to a bowl and press plastic wrap directly onto the surface; set aside until ready to use.
Make the soup: Heat the olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the celery, carrot, leek and ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, about 7 minutes. Stir in the thyme and roasted red peppers. Push the vegetables to one side of the pot; add the tomato paste to the other side and cook, stirring, 2 minutes, then stir into the vegetables. Increase the heat to high; add the broth and 2 cups water and bring to a simmer. Add the potato and simmer until soft, about 30 minutes. Purée with an immersion blender or in a regular blender in batches; keep warm.
Toast the bread until golden and with a cookie cutter or knife, cut into tree shapes. Ladle the soup into bowls. Spread the pesto on the toast and float in the soup. Serve immediately.
Cook's note: To roast your own peppers, put them on a baking sheet and broil, turning, until charred, 7-10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and set aside 5 minutes. Peel the peppers with your fingers under running water; discard the stems and seeds.
Adapted from Food Network Magazine