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Entries in soup (3)

Saturday
Feb122011

For the Love of Soup

If I had to pick a favorite food group, it would have to be soup. From bisques to bouillabaisses, I love them all. So when it's cold outside, soup is often my go-to meal.

Matching the boundlessness of my love for soup is the boundlessness of the quantities of soup I tend to make. So I often have leftovers. Soup freezes well, but unfreezing a huge block of soup can take longer than simply whipping up a new batch. So, more often than I'd like to admit, I have found myself with three or four giant vats of soup in the refrigerator in various stages of petri dish.

Last year I volunteered to make cupcakes for my son's Valentine's Day party at school. Naturally, I wanted them to be heart-shaped. Naturally. I found a remaindered batch of silicone heart molds and had just enough to make 24 chocolate hearts. Awesome. But there was just one problem. Now I had 24 heart-shaped silicone molds.

But then I discovered that just as baked goods sprung magically from the molds, so, too, do frozen ones as well. Now, whenever I make enough soup to serve an army, I just put the molds on a sheet tray, ladle them full of soupy goodness, and pop them in the freezer to firm up. Then I can pop them out of the molds and into a freezer bag. When it's time to pack my lunch, I just pop a few soup hearts into a container--portion control is easy, and I don't have to worry that somewhere between my house and my office I'll end up coated in the leaked contents of last night's split pea soup. Score!

White Bean Soup with Kale and Sausage

This isn't so much a recipe as a formula for soup. Use what you have and what you like.

32 oz cooked white beans (navy or cannellini work well)
1 large head kale or mustard greens
1/2 lb Italian sausage (hot or mild), casings removed
1 shallot, finely chopped 1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 T olive oil (or bacon grease, if you have that lying around)
Water or stock

1. In a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, brown the sausage in the oil. When the sausage is nearly cooked through, add the celery and shallot, stirring to coat with the oil. Add a pinch of salt and sweat the vegetables until they are crisp-tender.

2. Add beans, kale, and water (if you reserve the cooking liquid from your beans, through that in, too) to cover, about 2 quarts.

3. Simmer over medium-low heat for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

That's it! Hearty and healthy soup that is ready to serve or freeze.

Saturday
Oct162010

Accepting Reality: Fall Pumpkin Soup


© 2010 Cameron Blazer // Cottage Industrialist
I make no secret of my dislike for winter. I dislike cold weather. I dislike short days. And while October's arrival signals the coming cold and darkness, it is one of the most beautiful times of year in Charleston. The tide is never higher than in the first few weeks of fall, and the slanted light bounces amidst the marshes and the swollen creeks in a way that summer's saturated sunshine simply can't match. 

This week, while my students enjoyed fall break, and while I basked in a rare moment of autumnal positivity, I took advantage of the extra evening at home by inviting my in-laws over and making dinner. (Yes. If relaxation had been a subject in college, I would surely have failed. So be it.)

As is typical, my initial impulse—honey, invite your parents over...don't worry, i'll keep it simple...pasta and a salad—gave way to more elaborate plans.* I was overcome by an urge to overcome my hostility to fall, to honor October's bounty, to embrace the season. The menu came together organically. But it was anchored in the first course: pumpkin soup. (Oh, you can call it a bisque if you need that level of fanciness. But everybody knows it's soup.) Not too sweet. Rich, but not ridiculous.

This soup is dead easy. It could be a weeknight main course if you served it in nice, heavy mugs. I chose, instead, to gussy it up with some simple-but-seemingly-fancy-garnishes that made it feel very luxurious as a first course.

I am still nonplussed, at best, by the changing angle of the sun and the evershortening days. But if I can remember to keep this recipe at the ready, I should be able to make it through October and November none the worse for wear. I hope you will, too.

Clean Plate Club © 2010 Cameron Blazer // Cottage IndustrialistFall Pumpkin Soup

(serves 4-6)

Ingredients

28 oz. pumpkin purée**
1 medium shallot, finely grated***
2-3 c. vegetable broth****
2 T honey
1 T ginger
1 t cinnamon
1 t cardamom
1/2 t nutmeg
salt and pepper
1/2 pt heavy cream 

Garnish:
crème fraîche, to taste
pumpkin oil, to taste
roasted pumpkin seeds, finely chopped 

Preparation:

  1. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, combine pumpkin, grated shallot, and broth over medium heat, whisking to thoroughly blend.
  2. Add spices, honey, and salt and pepper; stir to blend, continuing to cook until mixture begins to simmer.
  3. Reduce heat to low, and add cream.
  4. Serve in warm bowls, garnishing with a dollop of crème fraîche and a very small amount of pumpkin oil and pumpkin seeds.

Alternate preparation: Replace spices listed above with 2T curry powder. Replace cream with coconut milk. Garnish with fresh chopped coriander or thai basil.

* Let us not speak of the three flavors of gelato. Nor of the sorbet. Each of which was consumed. (I am ashamed.) LET US NOT SPEAK OF THEM. (Except to say this: vanilla gelato + blood orange sorbet = the sexiest take on a creamsicle ever. EVER.)

** I used an organic, canned variety (not pumpkin pie filling!), but if you have fresh roasted pumpkin, by all means, use it.

*** I use my microplane grater to grate the shallot directly into the pot. It saves time and keeps the shallot flavor bright without being overpowering.

**** You can use water, but, in that case, you should also grate a small carrot and a stalk of celery into the purée for sweetness and depth.

 

Wednesday
May202009

Stupidly Easy Soup

Cream of Cauliflower Soup © 2009 Cameron Blazer
The weather has been weird here for the last week. May in South Carolina is usually reliably hot. But we've had days of blustery rain and cold nights. As if I needed an excuse to indulge in my favorite food group: soup.

Oh how I do love soup! Chunky chowders, cold gazpachos, creamy bisques--they're like the little black dress of foodstuffs--a little accessorizing and you have a whole meal.

My CSA has a bumper crop of cauliflower right now, and though it's apparently a spring crop, cauliflower just feels warm and autumnal to me, so it fit this weird fall-like weather perfectly. If you think you don't like cauliflower, I hope you'll give it another look--I don't know anyone who has given roasted cauliflower or cauliflower soup a fair chance who has not been completely won over by its charms.

Now, I must confess I am having to reconstruct this recipe in an odd way--this cauliflower soup began its life as cauliflower puree that accompanied our roast chicken last week. We had tons left over (the kiddo was not fooled that these were not mashed potatoes), so after a particularly bone-chilling May day, I turned those leftovers into a smooth, creamy soup that far exceeded its humble beginnings. Still, I am pretty sure I've got the proportions right--it's pretty much all cauliflower all the time. Some soup theorists may scoff, as my version includes no onion, carrots, or celery. Well, I vote for practice over theory every day--you can surely add those, but I just love the unadulterated nutty flavor of the cauliflower.

Creamy Cauliflower Soup (serves 4)

1 medium head (or 1 lb frozen) cauliflower, cut into 1-inch pieces

4 T butter (live a little!)

1/4 c cream or half-and-half (live a little more!)

2 oz goat cheese

3 c water (more or less--let your texture preference be your guide)

salt and pepper

optional: truffle salt / bacon and basil / olive oil / oven-dried tomatoes / creme fraiche

  1. Bring a pot of well-salted water to boil. Add cauliflower and cook until just tender (the cauliflower should turn translucent all the way through--if it's still bright white, let it cook a bit longer).
  2. Drain the cauliflower, reserving 2 cups of the cooking water.
  3. Puree the cauliflower (using a stick blender or in batches in a stand blender), cream, and goat cheese with enough cooking water to result in a completely smooth puree.
  4. Return the puree to the pot over medium heat. Thin, as necessary, with the reserved cooking water.

See? Stupidly easy!

The first night I made this, I served it with a sprinkle of truffle salt*--the earthy richness of the truffles ratcheted up the cozy factor on this soup to the perfect level. When we ate the soup tonight, the dreary sky had lifted and the temperatures were creeping back toward normal, so the combination of bacon and basil enriched and brightened it perfectly.

*Ok, I know. At about $20 for a teeny-tiny jar of salt, truffle salt is just about too cute by half. But I've had the same jar for over a year, and it's more than 3/4 full. So, I certainly wouldn't buy it just for this soup, but I wasn't sorry I had it lying around, either. If you have truffle oil lying around, you could use that, too, but I have rarely tasted a truffle oil that didn't taste like transmission fluid, so I don't buy the stuff any more. Whatever works, eh?