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posted: 12/22/2013 8:11 AM

Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Broccoli Pesto Christmas Tree Croutons

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  • 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

 

Pesto

¼ cup blanched almonds

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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

Soup

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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