- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Friends from New York state recently drove to Massachusetts and pulled into our driveway at about 1 p.m. I knew there would be plenty of catching up to do during the first hours of their visit, so I planned a lunch that was ready and waiting to be served.

We don’t often entertain at lunch, the exception being when we have weekend company and guests arrive on Saturday in time for a midday meal.

Soups are my No. 1 choice for such menus, since they can be prepared in advance and require little last-minute work. For this luncheon, I chose a roasted yellow pepper potage seasoned with rosemary and garnished with a touch of creme fraiche. The soup, made the day before, was simmering on the stove when our guests arrived.

Roasting the peppers gives this dish an extra dimension of flavor and is worth the few extra minutes of time required. I’ve found that the easiest way to roast peppers is to quarter them lengthwise and remove the seeds and membranes. Next, the peppers are brushed with oil, then broiled until the skins are charred.

The secret to removing the slightly burned skins is to wrap the peppers in dampened paper towels as soon as they are removed from the oven and to enclose them tightly in plastic bags. After a few minutes, the skins loosen and can be scraped off easily.

I combined the roasted peppers with sauteed onions, carrots and celery and simmered this melange in chicken broth along with a generous seasoning of rosemary.

After the soup was pureed, a dash of balsamic vinegar brightened the flavors and offset the sweetness of the vegetables. To finish the soup I whisked in some creme fraiche and garnished each serving with dollops of the thick cream.

An arugula salad dressed with a vinaigrette and a crusty peasant loaf made fine partners to this soup. Dessert included a bowl of oranges and Florentine cookies purchased at a local bakery.

Although I loved using this delicious soup to anchor a lunch, you could offer smaller portions to begin a spring dinner party, followed by grilled lamb chops, roast chicken or sauteed veal scallops.

Roasted yellow pepper soup with rosemary

This soup can be prepared a day ahead. Cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat over medium heat stirring.

3 pounds (6 large) yellow bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and quartered lengthwise

1/4 cup olive oil, divided

3/4 cup chopped onion

3/4 cup diced carrot

3/4 cup diced celery

2 medium garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon crushed dried rosemary

4 cups chicken broth, preferably reduced-sodium


1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons creme fraiche (see note)

4 rosemary sprigs for garnish, optional

Arrange a rack about 6 inches from broiler and preheat broiler.

Place bell peppers, flesh sides down, on a foil-lined baking sheet and brush with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Roast peppers until charred, moving pieces with tongs occasionally so that they roast evenly, 20 minutes or longer.

Remove peppers from oven and, using tongs to handle if peppers are too hot to touch, wrap 4 quarters in a sheet of moistened paper towel. Repeat with remaining peppers.

Place wrapped peppers into two large, self-sealing plastic bags and let them steam in bags 10 to 15 minutes to loosen skins. Remove peppers from bags and, using a sharp paring knife, scrape off and discard the black, charred outside skins from peppers. Then coarsely chop peppers.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large, deep-sided pot over medium heat. When hot, add onion, carrot and celery, and saute, stirring, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and dried rosemary. Stir and cook 1 minute more. Add bell peppers, broth and 1½ teaspoons salt. Simmer 30 minutes, or until vegetables are softened.

Puree mixture in a food processor or blender until smooth, then return to the pot in which it was cooked. Stir in the vinegar. Season soup to taste with more salt, if desired.

Whisk 1/4 cup creme fraiche into soup. Then ladle soup into 4 soup bowls. Garnish each serving with a dollop of the remaining creme fraiche and, if desired, a sprig of rosemary. Makes 4 large servings or 6 smaller 1-cup servings.

Note: Creme fraiche is available in many groceries, or it can be easily made at home using the following recipe.


1 cup whipping or heavy cream

1/3 cup sour cream

Whisk whipping cream and sour cream together in a medium nonreactive bowl. Let stand at room temperature until thickened, 6 hours or longer. Cover and refrigerate. Creme fraiche can be stored up to 1 week covered in refrigerator.


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