Roasted Red Pepper & Goat Cheese Soup with Garlic Croutons

The smokey flavor of roasted red peppers mixes nicely with the subtle creaminess of the goat cheese and the hot kick of the habanero is a reminder of the powerful spice of even the smallest ingredient. The richness is tempered by the vegetable broth and the color gets a bright punch from fresh carrots. It’s a lovely, velvety soup that goes perfectly with crispy, garlic croutons and will please many on a chilly night.

Roasted Red Pepper & Goat Cheese Soup (serves 6-8)

8 large red peppers
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
2 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped
3 small carrots, roughly chopped
1 (very) small habanero, chopped
5 basil leaves
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup dry sherry
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups half & half
1 cup goat cheese
8 oz goat cheese
1/4 tsp paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

Halve and core the peppers removing all seeds and pulp. Place them cut side down on a baking sheet and broil them on high until the skins are blackened, about 20 minutes. Immediately remove the peppers from the baking sheet and place in a large paper bag. Close the bag and allow the peppers to steam for about 15 minutes.

Remove the peppers from the bag and carefully, so as not to burn your fingers, peel the skins from the flesh, discarding the skins and setting the peppers aside.

In an 8 quart stock pot saute the onion, carrots and garlic until soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in basil leaves, bay leaf and sherry and allow the alcohol to cook off, about 3 minutes. Add the peppers and stir until thoroughly combines. Remove the bay leaf and transfer the mixture to a Cuisinart.  Puree until thin. Return the mixture to the pot and add vegetable broth, half and half, goat cheese and paprika. Bring to a low simmer. Salt and pepper to taste and serve with croutons and julienned basil.

Garlic & Basil Croutons

1/2 baguette, cubed
1/3 cup EVOO
3 cloves garlic, diced.
1 tbsp dried basil leaves

In a frying pan heat the olive oil and cook the garlic until soft.  Pour the garlic and oil over the cubed bread and sprinkle with dried basil. Mix until all ingredients are combined. Spread the croutons onto a baking sheet and bake at 350F until crispy and golden, about 10 minutes.