Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Sea Scallops

(**You can easily omit the scallops)
From Food & Wine, September 2006
Serves 6

4 large red bell peppers (2 1/4 pounds), stems removed
3 tbsp.extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 tsp. grated orange zest
2 tsp. chopped cilantro
Salt and freshly ground pepper
**6 sea scallops

Preheat the oven to 425°. Put the peppers on a cookie sheet, stemmed side down, and bake for 45 minutes, or until the skins are black. When they’re cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skins, cores and seeds. Finely dice 2 of the peppers.

In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the garlic, onion, cumin and crushed red pepper and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 10 minutes. Add the whole roasted peppers and the chicken broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the orange juice, orange zest and cilantro.

In a blender, puree the soup in batches. Return the soup to the saucepan and season with salt and pepper; keep hot.

**In a medium skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil until shimmering. Season the scallops with salt and pepper. Add the scallops to the skillet and cook over high heat until richly browned on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Turn the scallops and cook on the second side for 1 minute. Ladle the soup into bowls, garnish with the scallops and diced peppers and serve.


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