Chilled Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Croutons

Our birthdays should actually be called "get pampered by food days." We use them as an opportunity to go crazy at restaurants and in our own kitchens, not restricting ourselves by anything but the size of our stomaches (and sometimes not even that.) For my birthday yesterday, I put in a tall order: I wanted Alex to cook me dinner. Although my expectations were high, I was really blown away by some amazing dishes that I'd like to share. He photographed them as always, but insists that I write so that I can "talk about how delicious they were." They were very delicious.

Take, for example, this lovely chilled roasted red pepper soup with croutons. I'd been yapping about making this soup for ages since I love the Trader Joe's version, and Alex made a delicious recipe from Epicurious. It had a sweet, smoky flavor, and arrived topped with his signature crunchy, homemade croutons. The soup was simple, pretty, smooth and refreshing. Yesterday was abnormally chilly for late April, and I imagine it would be especially welcome on a warm summer day.

Ingredients (serves 4):
4 large red bell peppers
2 tbs olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cups chicken stock
1/8 tsp dried crushed red pepper

1 1/2 cups of 1/2-inch French bread cubes (stale bread works great!)
2 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper

To make the soup, roast peppers under the broiler until blackened on all sides. Wrap peppers in a paper bag and let stand 10 minutes. Peel and seed, then cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Heat 2 tbsp oil in large saucepan, add onion and sauté until brown on edges, about 6 minutes. Add peppers and 3 cups stock. Simmer until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer peppers, onions and stock to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Mix in dried red pepper. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill until cold. (Can be made 1 day ahead.) For croutons, toss bread, olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl until well coated. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 min until bread achieves the desired crunch. Spoon cooled soup into bowls. Top with bread and thin slices of basil if you desire.