Chilled Red Pepper Soup w/Basil

4 large red bell peppers (about 2¼ pounds total)
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, cut into ¾-inch pieces
3 cups (or more) chicken stock or canned broth
1/8 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
Salt and Fresh ground pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice (optional)
Croutons: 1½ cups ½inch French bread cubes
Fresh basil leaves, slivered

Char peppers over gas flame or in broiler until blackened on all sides. Wrap in paper bag and let stand 10 minutes. Peel and seed. Cut into ½-inch pieces.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until brown on edges, about 6 minutes. Add bell peppers and 3 cups stock. Simmer until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer peppers and onion to processor; puree. With machine running, add stock from saucepan 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.) Heat 2 tablespoons oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add bread; stir until brown. Whisk cold soup to blend; thin with more stock if necessary. Tast and season if necessary. Spoon into bowls. Top with bread and basil.

Serves 4.