This idea for this recipe came from a fantastic yellow bell pepper soup I enjoyed at Cibreo’s in Florence. An interesting description of the restaurant and a link to the recipe for Cibreo’s Passato di Peperoni Gialli, can be found at the Divina Cucina blog.
4 yellow bell peppers, cleaned and cut in 1/2, cored and seeded
1 medium yellow or red onion, sliced, about 1/2 cup
4 leeks, cleaned and roughly chopped, about 1 1/2 to 2 cups
2 celery stalks, cleaned, roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled, cleaned, and roughly chopped
stems from a bunch of flat leaf Italian parsley, cleaned and diced
2 medium yukon gold or white potatoes, (if you have a food mill, at this stage just clean and slice, otherwise, peel and slice), cover in cold water until ready to use
leaves from 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh thyme, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
4 cups of chicken stock
1 cup of whole milk
2 bay leaves and several additional sprigs of fresh thyme
extra virgin olive oil
creme fraiche or cream (several tablespoons for garnish)
chives or green onions, finely diced
Preheat broiler. Rub oil on 4 of the yellow bell pepper halves, place on a baking sheet, cut side down, and broil until the skin is blackened, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove and place in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let the peppers steam for about 10 minutes. Cool and remove as much of the blackened skin as you can from the peppers. Roughly chop the peppers and place in a bowl. Roughly chop the remaining uncooked peppers and place in a separate bowl.
Preheat a large sauce pan, add a few tablespoons of olive oil and then add the onions, celery, carrots and parsley stems, with a pinch of salt. Saute for several minutes until the vegetables start to turn translucent, then add the uncooked peppers, leeks and garlic. Saute over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and starting to color, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.
Drain and add the sliced potatoes, cooked yellow peppers, chopped fresh thyme, with a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir and continue to cook for several more minutes. Add enough chicken stock to cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, skim the top of the soup and gently simmer, uncovered, until the potatoes are soft. Start checking the potatoes after 15 minutes.
While the vegetables are cooking, heat the milk with 2 bay leaves and several sprigs of fresh thyme over medium heat for several minutes, but do not let the milk boil. Remove the milk from the heat. Let it sit and become infused with the flavors of thyme and bay.
When the potatoes are soft, remove the soup from the heat and pass the stock and vegetables through a food mill (this will remove any remaining skin and seeds from the peppers, as well as the potato skins, and start to blend the ingredients. If a food mill is not available, you can just omit this step and the soup will still be fine).
If you have an immersion blender, return the soup to the pot and blend the soup until you have a very fine consistency (or what ever consistency you like). If you prefer, you can use a food processor or a blender. Since the soup is quite hot, only partially fill the blender or food processor and make sure the top is on tight. It is a good idea to hold the blender top with a towel. Always be careful when blending hot liquids. Return the soup to the pot when fully blended.
Remove the bay and thyme from the milk (strain if using dry thyme) and add to the soup. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. You can also add some additional chicken stock if the soup is too thick. Heat the soup over medium heat until ready to serve. Finally, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
If you are not ready to serve the soup, you can cover the pot and let simmer for 30 or 40 minutes until you are ready. You can also let the soup cool and refrigerate it over night. The next day let the soup come to room temperature, taste, adjust the seasoning, and reheat over medium heat until it is ready to serve, about 10 minutes. Taste again and adjust seasoning if necessary.
Garnish each bowl with some creme fraiche or cream and some chives or green onions. You can also garnish with some small croutons, a bit of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and a drizzle of good olive oil, or what ever you prefer.