Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Taste of Florence: Yellow Pepper Soup

When Lee and I were in Florence, Italy we ate at the Cibreo cafe. It is connected to the main Cibreo restaurant and serves some of the same food but is less expensive. A local gave us the tip to go there instead of the restaurant. She told us just to be there right when it opened because the cafe didn't take reservations. Fortunately eating somewhere in Italy right when they open for dinner isn't like rushing to a restaurant here right when it opens and having to eat at 4:30 PM. Cibreo cafe didn't open for dinner until 7:30 PM.

It was one of the best meals, if not the best, we ate during our two-week stay in Italy. I wanted to eat at Cibreo after reading great reviews in travel books and online. One thing it is known for is yellow bell pepper soup. I was really looking forward to trying it but it wasn't on the cafe's menu. I did have their tomato-bread soup and it was divine. It was a very thick pureed soup with loads of flavor. When I came back from Italy I did an online search for yellow pepper soup and found one that is supposed to be like Cibreo's. You can find it here.

I altered the recipe (I usually do alter recipes) a bit including omitting the spinach. It was delicious. It had a thick, creamy consistency like the tomato-bread soup I had at Cibreo and was filled with flavor. Because I omitted the spinach it was a beautiful yellow color. As you can see from the picture above, this time when I made it I added the spinach. It was not as visually appealing as my first batch, but man was it good! I also used one red bell pepper in addition to the yellow one because that is all I had on hand.

There are two ingredients in this soup that may sound a bit strange: nutmeg and lemon juice. Don't even think about omitting these! You will be amazed at what a difference just a touch of both makes to this soup. I add them both at the end after all the other ingredients are pureed and heated again. I also use white onion instead of red and red potatoes instead of yukon gold simply because that is what I usually have in the kitchen.

Looking at the recipe I used as a guideline, I noticed they call for 6 cups of veggie broth. Don't use this much. I used just enough broth (this time I actually used vegetable stock) to reach the top of the vegetables.

The second time I made this soup (this was my third attempt) it was a massive fail. I had taken it to a dinner party too. I think where I went wrong was adding too much broth. It just diluted the flavor of the vegetables. I'm glad I've redeemed myself with this soup tonight. As you can see from the picture I had more tomato bruschetta. The basil had gone bad, but it didn't need it. The tomato was so delicious.

If I ever make it back to Florence, and I sure plan on it one day, I am definitely going to try to taste the yellow pepper soup at Cibreo. Until then, I'll keep making it at home. It will be a great soup to feed to the baby when he starts eating solid foods since it is not too spicy or hot and packed full of veggies.

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