Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Balancing Act

Roasted red peppers and garlic. A perfect balance of sweetness and pungency. Made better in the Provence region of France by the conversion of the garlic to Aioli.

The roasted red peppers were going to become soup. That was decided almost as I saw the ripe peppers in the market. The aioli a dot of intense flavor on top.

As I was thinking just how to make the roasted red pepper soup with the aioli, I began obsessing on aioli. Why are we not making this everyday? So simple! So delicious! It goes with soup, toast, chicken, fish, for dinner, lunch – hell, I’d eat it for breakfast (as I did with the crostini I photographed this morning!). What’s not to like? Garlic! Olive Oil! Eggs! All good things!

But my mood soured a bit as I considered how to sell it. A balancing act between outright lies and good marketing.

Garlic flavored mayonnaise? That won’t work. We haven’t bought mayonnaise since 1965.

Or salmonella-laced raw egg mixture? No, no, no. Not ready for prime time.

Artery clogging butter-like goo to ruin a perfectly light vegetable soup? Better keep that to myself. Why is it that everything really good has to be bad for you when consumed in exceess?

But a dab of delicately flavored garlic sauce to highlight the exquisite roasted red pepper flavor of the soup? All marketing lies of the worst sort, but I think I can sell it. The focus is on the dab.

Of course, making both the soup and the aioli involve even more balancing - a lot of delicate balancing of flavors. Accomplished by a lot of intermediate tasting.

I had to taste the olive oil – make sure it would not overpower the final sauce. Hey – someone had to do it!

I had to taste the roasted peppers – for some reason, hmm – oh yeah! – to make sure they were roasted enough? That must be it.

I had to constantly taste the sauce during addition of the olive oil to ensure a proper balance of lemon and garlic and olive oil components. Critical! Again – the artist sacrificing for his art!

By the time the soup was served, I remembered why we don’t make aioli every day. It’s sort of heavy. Like "whew – the wine is not going to cut through all this" heavy. Like keeping you awake because you’re trying to sleep on a brick heavy.

Maybe 'tasting' the better part of a cup of aioli is a bit obsessive.

So just a dab – an exquisite, powerful taste. With a good wine to balance it out!

Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Aioli
Recipe by surfindaave

Note – the soup itself is not heavily flavored other then the mirepoix and the roasted peppers, as the aioli is the major flavor enhancement. If you choose to leave out the aioli, some additional herbs could be added.

4 red peppers
olive oil
1 onion, chopped fine
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
4-5 cups chicken stock
Salt, pepper

Cut peppers in half. Remove all seeds and membranes. Rub with olive oil. Place cut side down on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Roast under broiler for 15 to 20 minutes, until well blackened (don’t worry – only the skin blackens, and we are peeling that off). Place in a paper bag for 10 minutes, until cooled slightly and skin is loose. Remove as much skin as possible. Cut into rough dice. Reserve.

Sautee onion, celery and carrot in olive oil over moderate heat until softened. Add red pepper. Add chicken broth. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Puree soup. Reheat. Server with a small scoop of aioli. Enjoy!

Recipe by surfindaave

4-5 cloves garlic (avoid any that have green shoots)
juice from ½ lemon
2 egg yolks (fresh!)
1 cup olive oil (approx)

Place all ingredients except olive oil in blender or food processor. Puree until smooth, scraping down sides. With blender or food processor on high, SLOWLY drizzle in olive oil, pausing frequently to allow oil to be fully incorporated. Reseason if necessary, and check for consistency. I often finish the aioli in a bowl with a hand whisk so I can ensure the right texture has been achieved. Keep refrigerated.

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Blogger ilva said...

I'm bookmarking this! mmm And the photos are GREAT!!

10:34 PM  
Blogger surfindaave said...

Thanks, Ilva! I got some tips from a great photographer and teacher!

10:05 AM  
Anonymous Home chef said...

Thanks for great post and for images.
I'll try with the olive oil - I use to buy googd olive oil in the village near my home. I'll tell you later

8:46 AM  

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