Pears and sweet red peppers might seem like an odd combination for a soup, but it works surprisingly well. The sweetness of the pears seems to balance the acid of the peppers. Times Test Kitchen assistant Mayi Brady thought up the soup a few years ago when she was working at the old Mario Cooking for Friends. One of her jobs was to come up with the daily soup specials, and one day she got desperate. The red pepper soup she'd made had an unpleasant edge. Instead of cutting the bitterness with sugar, she threw in a pear instead. The soup ended up being one of their best-sellers. One of ours too.
3 large red bell peppers 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 large leek, white part only, chopped 3 cloves garlic, chopped 1 pear, peeled, cored and chopped 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme 2 (14-ounce) cans vegetable broth Salt, pepper
Roast red bell peppers over open flame or under broiler until charred black. Allow to cool several minutes inside paper bag or under covered bowl. Rub off charred skin, remove core and seeds and chop.
Heat oil in 2-quart pot, add leek and garlic and saute over medium-low heat about 5 minutes. Add pear and cook another 5 minutes. Add roasted peppers and thyme. Cook until vegetables are very tender, another 10 to 15 minutes. Add vegetable broth and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer another 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer soup to blender and puree until very smooth. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Makes 2 servings.