I have a shopping addiction, and it involves my CSA. While some women pine for new bags and shoes (who am I kidding; I’ve been there, too), I generally sate the shopping bug with weekly add-ons from our CSA’s web store. The web store, a members-only online catalogue of artisanal foods, bulk produce, locally-roasted coffee, and other goodies (Monterey Bay sea salt with kelp? Yes, I needed that), is available for three days each week. Shopping these limited-time offerings is as exciting for me as it is for a normal person to score a great deal via Groupon or Gilt.
In recent weeks, summer’s bounty has made the offerings in the web store unbearably attractive. I have no self-control with pints of organic blueberries, hearth-baked breads, and, my newest addiction, grab bags of mixed sweet peppers. The sweet peppers, which range from the size of my pinkie to the size of my whole hand, come in a kaleidoscope of colors. Although I’ll crunch on one like an apple, I prefer them grilled or roasted.
Despite my desire to eat them all whole, I convinced myself that I could spare one of the two bags of peppers I bought last week for a recipe in which their sweet flavor would really shine. I thought soup would be nice, but the reality of slaving over a hot stove in a hot house is always unappealing. Instead, I sent my favorite grill master out to the Weber with said peppers, an equal amount of dry-farmed CSA tomatoes, sliced sweet onions, and a handful of unpeeled garlic cloves wrapped in foil. Coated in olive oil and smoky spices, the grilled vegetables form the base of a soup that requires very little subsequent time on the stove.
Topped with sliced radishes and a cold and creamy avocado pesto, this soup – served hot – still fit the bill for a warm summer night’s meal. I lamented the disappearance of yet another bag of peppers, but the good news is that I only have to wait two more days to re-up my horde.
grilled sweet pepper and tomato soup with avocado pesto
1.5 lbs tomatoes
1.5 lbs mixed sweet peppers (bell peppers will work, too)
2 medium onions, peeled and sliced into thick rings
6 cloves garlic, wrapped in a ball of foil
extra-virgin olive oil
1.5 tsp each ground cumin and paprika
sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
1-2 cups chicken or vegetable stock, depending on desired thickness (and the strength of your blender!)
juice of ½ lime
1 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
1 ripe avocado, pitted
1 cup cilantro leaves
2 cups basil leaves
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas), toasted
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ tsp each sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, plus more to taste
juice of one lime
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
5 radishes, thinly sliced
Heat grill over high. Slice tomatoes in half width-wise and squeeze seeds and pulp out into a large pot. Core peppers and discard stems and seeds. In a large bowl, toss tomatoes, peppers, and onion slices with olive oil, spices, and salt and pepper.
When grill is hot, add vegetables and foil-wrapped garlic. Grill, turning vegetables occasionally, until vegetables are softened and charred on both sides (about 15 minutes total). Add grilled vegetables to pot with reserved tomato seeds and pulp. Add chicken stock and bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Unwrap garlic and squeeze cooked garlic out of skins into the pot.
Remove soup from heat, and carefully transfer contents to a blender or blend with a stick blender. Process until soup is smooth. If using a blender, leave some space for hot air to escape. This may require you to use a towel over the little opening on the top instead of the plastic stopper.
Return blended soup to pot, and bring back to a boil over high (this shouldn’t take long). Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes, to allow flavors to blend. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper. Remove from heat, and stir in lime juice and cilantro. Transfer soup to bowls, top with radishes and pesto (recipe below), and serve.
For avocado pesto, combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until fairly smooth (see photo for an idea of a good texture). Taste and adjust seasoning with additional sea salt and pepper, if needed.