Since we arrived in Paris, my husband Lulu and I have taken the opportunity to have romantic getaways in Europe and leave baby Aria with my parents. My parents are thrilled to get to have time alone with their granddaughter, and thankfully, so is Aria. As the crazy mom that I am, I've left a long list of instructions for my mom to ensure the happy well-being of my baby girl, and that includes what she eats. Ever since Aria started eating solid food, I've managed to feed her only homemade baby food. I use the term baby food loosely, since I only feed Aria food that I would also eat.
I've taught Maman one of Aria's favorite soups: roasted bell pepper soup. It's a healthy blend of lentils, brown rice and roasted bell peppers. When Lulu and I came home, there was still some soup left, so we all ate it as a first course. I garnished it with sweet basil and a drizzle of balsamic reduction. It's fantastic!
Servings: 6 servings
3 small red bell peppers
2 teaspoons canola oil
¼ cup brown rice
2 tablespoons green lentils (or any lentils)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white pepper, freshly ground
3 tablespoons sweet basil leaves
1 sprig tarragon
⅓ cup balsamic vinegar
Cooking lentils and rice:
Wash and rinse the rice and lentils thoroughly in several water baths (about three times). Discard any floating or odd-shaped lentils or grains of rice. Drain the lentils, removing as much water as possible.
In a small saucepan, place the rice and lentil mixture and cover with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a bubbly simmer. Cook for about 20-30 minutes; stir occasionally until the grains of rice burst and the liquid thickens. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool. Depending on the temperature on the stove, you might want to add up to ½ cup water for a thicker consistency.
Roasting red bell peppers in the oven: Preheat your oven to 450°F. Cut the bell peppers in half lengthwise. Seed them and spread the peppers evenly on a cookie sheet brushed with oil, in a single layer. Roast the peppers for about 4-5 minutes until the skins blister and darken. Watch carefully so they don't burn. Wrap each pepper in aluminum foil. Let cool for about 5-10 minutes until you can handle them without discomfort. Clean and remove the skin from the peppers using a knife (or under running water); the skin will come right off. Coarsely chop the flesh.
For the balsamic syrup: In a small saucepan, add the balsamic vinegar and tarragon. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 3-4 minutes. Remove and discard the tarragon.
In a blender, combine the coarsely chopped roasted bell peppers, 2 tablespoons basil and rice mixture. Mix until the machine flows smoothly. Adjust seasoning with salt and black pepper. When you’re ready to serve, reheat the soup for 5 minutes.
Ladle the soup into individual serving bowls. Drizzle with balsamic syrup. Using a toothpick, swirl and create pretty designs between the syrup and red soup. Decorate with basil leaves.
Serve with garlic bread or cheese twists.
I used đậu xanh, "green lentils" in Vietnamese. You can find them in any Asian specialty market. They're perfect for added protein.
I gave the balsamic syrup a pleasant licorice scent by adding tarragon.