Saffron Yellow Pepper Soup

Saffron yellow (and red) pepper soupWe’re off and running here with Friday night meals, and our first week featured Heidi Swanson‘s Saffron and Yellow Pepper Soup. We were looking for something simple but worthy of a first Friday night meal, and this was it.

Among the many things there are to love about Heidi’s recipes is that she always challenges me to consider what a large effect small additions can make. I tend to prefer meals that can be brought together quickly, and I don’t tend to give myself the time to pull the recipe forward with additional flourishes at the end. Heidi’s recipes work so closely with each flavor, however, that the inclusion of a crumble of cheese or handful of nuts or sprinkling of fresh herbs bring an ordinary dish into a memorable one. What drew me to this soup was that the recipe itself was so simple that there was plenty of time to gather together and prep the toppings, and I knew it would be worth the effort.

We were right. What stood out about this soup was how the salty, coolness of the feta – as it melted slowly into each bowl – worked with the bright, freshness of the dill, alongside the crunch of the pistachios. The soup itself became a comforting background to these flavors and a welcome centerpiece to the meal.

This recipe calls for saffron threads, which we happened to have, and if you are going to use saffron, it is worth having the best you can find. However, I suspect this soup works just as well without them if you don’t have any on hand, but please don’t skip the turmeric if possible. You’ll notice our soup is much more orange than Heidi’s yellow – we substituted some red peppers because that was what was available. Any red, orange or yellow peppers will work here. Next time, I may leave the pistachios as larger pieces, because by the time the dill and feta are taking the show, I was looking for these to add a bit more crunch.

Saffron Yellow Pepper Soup
Adapted from 101cookbooks.com

Serves 4-6 as a main with salad and bread

Ingredients
8-10 saffron threads
Sea salt
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5-6 yellow peppers, sliced (we used a mixture of red and yellow, which resulted in the orange soup above)
1 large onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 large potato, cubed (we peeled ours, but you don’t need to)
5 cups water (original recipe called for 6 cups, but this was enough for us)

Toppings
Fresh dill, chopped
Feta cheese, crumbled or in small cubes
Roasted pistachios, roughly chopped

First, prepare the saffron salt by crushing the saffron threads into a few pinches of sea salt in a mortar and pestle. Sauté sliced peppers, onion and garlic in olive oil, along with saffron salt and turmeric, until all are softened but not browning (about 5-10 minutes).

Once the peppers and onion are softened, add the cubed potato along with the water (we used just-boiled water to speed the cooking time, but if you use cold water, just add more time to the overall simmering). Simmer until the potato is soft enough to pierce easily with a fork (about 20 minutes), and remove from heat. Either use an immersion blender or carefully transfer to a blender (but never more than 1/3 full at a time) to purée the soup until smooth.

Serve immediately with dill, feta and pistachios in each bowl or for guests to add to their own bowl at the table.

Prep time: 15 minutes Cook time: 25-30 minutes Total time: 45-50 minutes

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