This soup’s bold color is matched by bold flavor—smoked paprika reinforces the freshly roasted peppers and cumin takes it up a notch.
Makes: 9-10 cups
7 medium to large Red Bell Peppers, halved and seeded
6 cloves Garlic, in peel
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 large Yellow Onion, chopped
3 Tbsp Tomato Paste
2 1/2 tsp Ground Cumin
1 1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika
1 1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Cayenne pepper, optional
4 cups Vegetable Stock with Peppers
1/2 cup Water, optional
1 Tbsp Arrowroot Starch or Cornstarch
3 Corn Tortillas, sliced into thin long strips
1 Avocado, pitted and diced
Cilantro Leaves, chopped
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Roast the peppers: Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit with racks in the upper third and lower third of the oven. Arrange your halved peppers, cut side down, in a single layer on a large, rimmed baking sheet (use two sheets if necessary). Place the whole cloves of garlic in between the peppers. Roast on the upper rack (and lower rack, if you're using two baking sheets) until peppers are blackened across the top, around 20 minutes.
Steam and peel the peppers: Once the peppers are deeply blackened, remove them from the oven and use kitchen tongs to transfer the peppers to a medium-sized bowl and cover (or transfer them to a plastic bag and seal). Let the peppers steam for at least 10 minutes. Remove the cover and let them cool until they are manageable. Use your fingers to peel off the charred top layer of skin and discard (you may want to wear kitchen gloves for this). Peel the skin off the garlic, too.
In a 3½ quart or larger Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then add the chopped onion, peeled whole garlic cloves and a sprinkle of salt. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened and turning translucent, about 5 to 8 minutes.
Cook the soup: Add the tomato paste, cumin, paprika, salt and optional cayenne pepper and cook for one minute, while stirring constantly. Add the peeled red peppers and vegetable stock and stir. Bring the soup to a gentle boil, then reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, make your crispy tortilla strips: Warm 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Once warmed, add the tortilla strips and a dash of salt. Stir to coat the strips, then arrange them in roughly an even layer in the pan and let them cook, stirring occasionally, until both sides are golden and crispy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate linked with a paper towel to cool.
Optional but recommended step (yields super creamy soup): Whisk together ½ cup water with arrowroot or cornstarch until thoroughly blended. During the last minute of soup cooking time, pour the water/starch mixture into the soup and stir to blend. Once your soup is done cooking, remove it from heat and allow it to cool for 5 minutes.
Blend the soup (two options): For the creamiest soup, transfer soup to a stand blender in batches (do NOT fill your blender over halfway, soup will go everywhere!) and cover the top of the blender with a thick layer of kitchen towel (so the steam doesn't burn your hands). Transfer puréed soup to another pot or a bowl and continue until all of the soup is blended. Or, use an immersion blender to blend the soup in the pot. Blend until the mixture is smooth and creamy. If you did not add the ½ cup water and starch mixture earlier, taste your soup and decide if you want to stretch out the soup with ½ cup water (in which case, stir it in now) or leave it as is.
If necessary, transfer soup back to your cooking pot and rewarm gently on the stove. Divide soup into individual bowls. Top with crispy tortilla strips, diced avocado, chopped cilantro, optional crumbled feta and a light sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper. Serve!