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Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Sherry and Toasted Almonds

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Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Sherry and Toasted Almonds

Sometimes, a recipe jumps off the page and practically begs you to make it. Such was the case with celebrity chef Jeffrey Saad's soup that matches the winning flavors of red bell pepper, sherry and almonds. "Sherry and almonds are a classic wine and food pairing," the chef writes in "Jeffrey Saad's Global Kitchen: Recipes Without Borders" (Ballantine Books, $22). "By reducing the sherry down with the toasted almonds, the flavor in this soup becomes intriguingly complex. The sherry adds a unique  woody, aged flavor that balances brilliantly with the almonds, while the paprika accentuates the bell pepper flavor, creating a velvety puréed delight." But I also wanted to tweak the recipe slightly. I knew I could make it vegan simply by substituting vegetable stock for the chicken stock he called for, which makes it great for a Meatless Monday, an appetizer or even a main course with a salad. He also called for Marcona almonds, but skinned, slivered versions aren't readily available  in San Antonio. You could pulse Marcona almonds in a food processor to break them down slightly, if you can only find them whole. As for the texture, I found myself doing a mixture of the techniques he mentions. I put two-thirds of the soup in the blender and processed it down, while leaving just enough alone to give it a rustic crunch. Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Sherry and Toasted Almonds 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil 1 1/2 cups finely chopped red bell pepper 1 cup chopped shallots 1/2 cup skinless slivered almonds, Marcona preferred 1 cup dry sherry 1 cup tomato purée or chopped canned tomatoes 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock 1 tablespoon smoked paprika 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Let the pepper, shallots and almonds turn golden.

In a medium pot over medium-high heat, add the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the red bell pepper, shallots and almonds. Keep an eye on the heat and stir frequently to get a golden color without burning. Sauté until evenly golden, about 5  minutes. Add the sherry and simmer until fully absorbed. Add the tomato purée, stock, paprika and salt.  Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool. Transfer the mixture to a blender and purée until smooth, or keep the soup chunky if you like the texture. Strain the puréed soup if you want  it silky smooth. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the parsley. Makes 4 servings. Adapted from "Jeffrey Saad's Global Kitchen: Recipes Without Borders"
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