We live on the shore of a good-sized pond and last weekend, spring exploded on that pond! Almost overnight, even though it was still nearly half-covered with ice, the creatures that had been absent all winter were here in abundance. Geese, mallards, mergansers, muskrats, red-wing black birds, and the beautiful buffleheads that kind of remind me of loons as they abruptly vanish and resurface a distance away when they feed, have arrived.
Otis is crazy excited by all the sudden backyard activity—especially when there’s a goose or duck kerfuffle—they happen often in spring! When outside, he vigilantly watches and listens, absorbing every sight, sound, and of course, in true dog fashion, smell. Inside, he positions himself with chin firmly planted on dining room windowsill where the view is best. It was truly starting to feel like spring.
Then on Tuesday, winter returned. All the wildlife is still here, but they seem as frustrated as we’ve finally become by the winter that stubbornly won’t let spring take its place. We’ve had freezing rain, sleet, and snow every day since. Right now, we have about 4 inches of heavy, wet snow on the ground. Perfect for making snow people (of course, clad in spring accessories—it is April after all!). I can’t remember an April where I’ve needed yak trax on my running shoes 3 days in a row. Enough already! This lover of snow and cold says, “Winter be gone!”
Last week I read about food writer and cookbook author Louisa Shafia’s favorite cookbooks, one of which is Verdura, Vegetables Italian Style by Viana La Place. After doing a little research, I found it’s become a much-loved classic by many home cooks. Amazon got my new “must-have” to me amazingly fast and I’ve already made several recipes, all of which have been delicious. This Yellow Pepper Soup recipe struck me as a little unusual and perfect to make because I just happened to have the needed peppers on hand.
The cookbook was published in London and oven temps are given in Celsius, so I’ve turned to Siri often for conversions (my, that girl is smart and oh so quick!). And while I knew that aubergine was the British term for eggplant, I’ve had to look up a few others; courgette is zucchini, small crostini are croutons, rocket is arugula, etc. There are no photos in the cookbook, but La Place includes a narrative before each recipe and her prose is so beautifully and colorfully descriptive, pictures aren’t needed.
Conventionally grown peppers contain some of the highest amounts of pesticide residue of all produce, so I always buy organic. You can even taste the difference—to me conventional peppers have a chemical taste that organically-grown peppers, thankfully, don’t.
As with most soups, this one is even better the next day. And don’t skip the “small crostini” (croutons). It’s so easy to make homemade croutons by cutting up some good quality whole grain bread, tossing with a little olive oil and salt, and baking at 375 degrees F. for about a half hour (toss once or twice during baking for even browning).
Yellow Pepper Soup (Zuppa di Peperoni Gialli)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 celery stalk, strings removed, finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional for drizzling
4 yellow peppers (or a combo of yellow and orange), seeded and cut into large sections
1 lb. potatoes, peeled and cut into thin slices
2 cups veggie broth
3 cups water
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Heat oil in a large stock pot and add onion, carrot, and celery. Cook over medium heat until the vegetables soften, about 8 minutes. Add the peppers, potatoes, broth, and water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 30 minutes or until vegetables are very soft. Puree in the pot with a hand blender until smooth or in a regular blender (in batches, if necessary) and then return to pot. Reheat and add salt and pepper.
To serve, ladle into soup bowls. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with croutons and Parmesan cheese. To serve it Tuscan-style, let it cool to room temperature before adding the olive oil, croutons and cheese. Soup the color of sunshine—Perfecto!