soup season, one of our favorite “food seasons,” and we’re practically giddy with excitement about it.

And even though we may express our enthusiasm in different ways (Tony prefers to wear a shirt emblazoned with “Soup is Sexy” on the back, while my more northern European response tends to go something like, “Soup season? Oh, for fun!”), our passion for the wonders that soup can bring is equal.

We’re so excited for soup season this year that over on our blog at http://thelostitalian.areavoices.com, we’re hosting a contest and asking you to share your favorite recipes with us.

We’re asking you to submit the recipe for your favorite homemade soup by email or on our blog. You have until Oct. 15 to submit your soup recipes to us, and we encourage you to include a story and/or picture with your recipe.

Tony and I will then choose our favorite soups for further consideration, and will announce the finalists and their recipes Oct. 22 in our column and on our blog.

And here’s where things really get fun: We will host a “Soup-Off” featuring the finalists’ soups in the Sarello’s Wine Lounge on Oct. 28-29 for the public to taste and vote for the winner. Your recipe must be exact, as our chefs will want to make it just the way you do at home.

The winner and his or her recipe will be announced on Nov. 5, in both our column and on the blog. We already have some great prizes lined up for our winner(s):

  • A four-course dinner for two at our restaurant, Sarello’s.
  • A four-piece soup bowl set of original pottery from North Dakota potter Tama Smith, of Prairie Fire Pottery, Beach, N.D.
  • More prizes will be announced in the weeks leading up to Nov. 5.

Contest rules, eligibility requirements and more information is available on our blog at http://thelostitalian.areavoices.com. All submissions must be received by Oct. 15 to be eligible. Submit your recipes electronically via email to dine@sarellos.com or in the Comments section of our blog.

In the meantime, please enjoy this week’s recipe for Sarello’s Red Pepper Soup, which has become such a favorite of our guests that they’ll call ahead to request it. This recipe is really simple, and you can omit the roux for a gluten-free option. You can also roast the red peppers in advance for a more robust flavor, but we like to use them in their natural state.

Tony’s favorite kitchen tool, a handheld immersion blender, is ideal for soup-making, but you can also use a food processor or liquid blender. Make sure to pass the soup through a fine-mesh strainer before serving, to remove any seeds or peel from the pepper.

We use chicken stock as the base for this soup, which enhances the overall depth of flavor, but you could use vegetable stock instead. The soup has a very pretty red-orange color, which we like to accent with homemade croutons and a sprinkling of fresh parsley, but diced yellow peppers would also work well.

We hope that you’re ready to get your soup on this season and look forward to reading your recipes.

Red Pepper Soup

Makes: 6 servings

Ingredients

6 red bell peppers, seeds and veins removed, roughly chopped

1 teaspoon Sambal sauce or other hot sauce (Sriracha or Tabasco are also fine)

1 small onion, roughly chopped

2 cloves garlic, diced

½ celery stalk, diced

½ carrot, diced

¼ cup butter

1 quart chicken stock (or vegetable stock)

½ cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons roux

Seasoning to taste

Directions

In a stock pot, sauté the onion, celery, carrot, garlic and sambal in butter over medium heat for five minutes until soft. Add the red bell pepper and chicken stock, and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes. Add the roux and puree with an immersion blender (you may also use a blender or food processor).

Strain the soup through a fine-mesh strainer into another pot. Return to the stove and add the cream. Cook over low heat for five more minutes. Adjust seasoning to taste and serve.

Tony’s Tips

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  • Garnish this soup with something of a contrasting color – you may use chopped yellow peppers, minced parsley, croutons, etc. Be creative.
  • You may also choose to roast your red peppers beforehand for a more robust flavor.
  • Soup can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for one week or in the freezer for at least two months.

Roux

½ cup butter, shortening, lard or vegetable oil (the more flavorful the fat, the better the roux)

½ cup flour

Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan and stir in the flour. Cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly until a light straw color is achieved. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.