Whether or not you’re working in finance and even if you understand the stock market about as much as cats can read, you have probably (unless you were camping for two weeks in the mountains) been privy to what the markets have been doing recently on sub-prime news. The malaise has spilled from the US indices, which have been languishing and have nearly lost all their 2007 gains, into markets world-wide. So even if a “naked short” makes you think of an unclothed midget, and an “option” to you is whether to take a nap or go for a run, chances are, if you have any personal investments whatsoever, you have watched them lose their gains – and it’s been a bit depressing to say the least. I know I know, what goes up, must, eventually come down.
But I’ll spare you the market analysis because I don’t feel qualified to really comment further, however, despite the fact that I work in the field. Suffice to say, it’s been quite busy at work, longer days, working from home, and I’ve all but forgotten that shiny beacon of light – the gym. When I am stressed out, I turn to my kitchen, not so much to eat, but to cook. The chopping, the stirring, the clean-up in between, all soothe and comfort me. They allow me some control over the world which often feels uncontrollable. And I like to get me some of that control from time to time.
In times like these, stressful and worrying times, while most ply themselves with sweets and baked goods in times like these, I turn to the warm savories: soups, mashed potatoes, rice and endless cups of tea (not quite the savory, but warm!). As soon as this recipe flashed across my screen, it was pretty much all I could think about. Sure, I read words like “chilled” and “freeze”, but I knew this soup could be enjoyed warm as well as hot. I decided to cut the recipe in half from its original proportions, in case it turned into a soup for a small army and substitute sage for thyme. I’m rather indifferent to thyme as an herb and prefer the frosty-looking leaves of sage. But those are just the details. Oh and since there was no crème fraîche anywhere in our neighborhood (who knew, Tribeca?) we had to settle for sour cream. But in my Russian sour-cream adoring book, that’s hardly a tragedy.
I encourage you to try the soup first without the crème fraîche or sour cream and then add the dairy in – if your soup turns out anything like mine, you will notice how the dairy really accentuates and deepens the flavor. KS, of course, had to give his bowl a bit more kick with some home-made Trinidadian hot sauce, given to us by a friend. And the soup works both ways – warm and chilled – so if you make it and cannot wait to try a bowl that very same evening, go for it. Grab a light blanket, pop in a movie, eat this soup by spoonfuls. I was in such a state of bliss eating mine that I temporarily forgot about the Wall Street doldrums.
Red Pepper Soup
Adapted from the New York Times 9/21/05 & Deb @ SmittenKitchen
Total time: 45 minutes
2 tablespoons olive oil
3¼ cup sliced onions
3 large cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup dry white wine
12 large red bell peppers cut in 1-inch pieces
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock or broth
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
¼ to ½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
Salt and white pepper
Crème fraîche or sour cream for garnish
Sage leaves for garnish
Hot sauce (optional)
1. Put oil in large pot. Add onion when oil is hot. Cook onions until they begin to soften and take on color. Add garlic and cook another minute. Add wine and cook down quickly, until about 1 tablespoon is left.
2. Add peppers, stock, sage and red pepper flakes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer until peppers are tender, about 30 minutes.
3. In food processor or blender, purée mixture in batches until smooth and adjust seasonings to taste.
4. Cover and chill overnight or for as long as 2 days or freeze (whisk well before serving if thawed). If you cannot wait to try this soup, it’s a beauty warm!
5. Serve in demitasse cups or soup bowls, topped with a dab of crème fraîche or sour cream and a few sage leaves.
Yield: Makes six generous servings or twelve appetizer ones.