red pepper soup

3-4 red or yellow peppers, washed
1 (14.5oz) can diced Italian tomatoes (or you can try fire-roasted)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large sweet onion, diced
3c chicken broth (if you can possibly use homemade, it makes a huge difference here)
1/4c carrot, finely diced (optional)
1/4-1/2tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4c fresh basil, chopped or cut into a chiffonade
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Roast peppers on a baking sheet at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes, rotating every few minutes to blacken the outer layer. (This helps loosen the skin later) Remove from oven and place in a zip-top bag for 8-10 minutes (again, more with the helping). Remove from bag and peel off as much skin as you can with a paring knife--a scraping motion worked well for me. Dice pepper, removing stem and membrane inside.

In your largest saucepan, saute onion, carrot, and pepper in olive oil and butter with a pinch of salt and pepper for 10-12 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Stir in garlic and red pepper flakes and cook an additional 1-2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes (with their juice) and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10-15 minutes or till all veggies are soft. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary (i.e. more salt, pepper, or red pepper flakes)

Blend using an immersion blender if you have one, or blend in batches in a traditional stand blender (I did mine in 2 batches). Return to saucepan. If you're not happy with the red color of the soup, you can punch it up with a drop or two of red food coloring if you want. Top with basil and serve with toast, panini, warm rolls, or salad.

Makes 4-6 servings.