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Article posted: 12/22/2013 8:11 AM

Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Broccoli Pesto Christmas Tree Croutons

Broccoli pesto Christmas tree croutons make roasted red pepper soup extra festive.

Broccoli pesto Christmas tree croutons make roasted red pepper soup extra festive.


Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

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¼ cup blanched almonds


Kosher salt

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

Kosher salt

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.

Serves six.

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

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