Got Vegetables? Make Soup

It can be a challenge cooking for two. When I made a big batch of Baked Garden Vegetable Stack the other day, I had a lot of tender vegetables left over. I turned them into creamy soup in 30 minutes.

The thin slices of potatoes and tender ribbons of cabbage seemed to demand caraway, that distinctly flavored seed typically found in rye bread. I used to love ladling my mom’s sauerkraut dotted with caraway seeds over creamy chunks of boiled potatoes.

I started the soup by sauteing chopped onions and caraway seeds in hot oil. I tried a bit of the Butter Olive Oil I bought at Oh! Olive, a cute little shop in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. The oil is organic with natural butter flavor, but is dairy-free and contains no animal products. I’ve discovered it’s perfect for popping corn, or drizzling over a bowl of hot popped corn. Anyway, when the onions began to turn golden brown, I dumped in all my leftover vegetables (I had quite a bit — only two of us ate a meal from that big pan of veggies), poured in a few cups of vegetable broth and let it all simmer together for about 20 minutes.

The potato slices were falling apart at that point and the green beans and carrots were very tender.

I used my immersion blender to puree the soup right in the pot. Of course you could use your blender or food processor for the job. I wanted to have control over how chunky the final product would be. And then, I just stirred in about a cup of milk and seasoned to taste. A sprinkle of minced fresh parsley over the top gave it the final touch.

The soup was so satisfying. The dark caraway seeds softened during the saute and simmer and added that German-style flavor I remember from years of eating the sauerkraut and dumplings my mom used to make whenever she wanted to make my dad’s day.

Either use up some vegetables you’ve already cooked or follow the recipe below.

Turn leftover Baked Garden Vegetable Stack into Creamy Caraway Vegetable Soup.

I plan to bake another big batch of Baked Garden Vegetable Stack, just so I can have more of those vegetables to turn into soup.

Creamy Caraway Vegetable Soup

First, cook the vegetables. Serve some up as part of a meal, then use the rest for soup. Here’s how to bake the vegetables:

  • Olive oil, for preparing pans
  • Yukon Gold potatoes, about 2 to 2½ pounds, peeled
  • Carrots, about 1 pound, peeled
  • Onion, 1 medium, sliced thin
  • Green Beans, 5 to 6 ounces, topped and tailed (trimmed), cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
  • Cabbage, about 4 ounces, sliced thin

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Prepare 2 shallow baking pans or baking dishes that are the same size. Two jelly roll pans (11- x 15-inch) if you are feeding a family or 2 to 4 gratin dishes if you are cooking for one or two. Lightly coat the inside of each baking pan or dish with olive oil. Set aside.

Use a sharp knife or a mandolin to slice Yukon Gold potatoes and carrots 1/8-inch thick, keeping them in separate piles.

Salt and pepper the inside bottom of one pan. Arrange about half of the Yukon Gold potato slices, shingle style, in the prepared pan, covering the bottom completely. Make another layer with all of the carrots, arranging them the same way. Sprinkle the onion slices, green beans and cabbage over the potatoes. End the stack with a layer of the remaining Yukon Golds, arranging them shingle style. Push the mixture down with your hands to pack it in to the pan tightly.

Brush olive oil over the top layer and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Set the other prepared pan upside down over the pan of vegetables. Wrap the pans up tight with heavy-duty aluminum foil to hold them securely together.

Bake in 400-degree preheated oven for 30 minutes. Carefully flip the pans over (be sure to use oven mitts) and bake for another 30 minutes.

Remove from oven. Allow the baked stack to rest for 5 minutes, then very carefully remove aluminum foil.

Lift off the top baking pan. Lay a large cutting board over the top of the baked stack and flip the stack over onto the cutting board. Carefully remove the baking pan. Slice the hot stack into squares or rectangles and serve. Refrigerate leftovers to save for soup.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
  • 3 (approximately) cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup dairy or non-dairy milk
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Minced fresh parsley, for serving

In a large soup pot, heat the oil. Add the chopped onion and caraway seeds. Saute until onions just begin to turn golden brown. Add all of the leftover vegetables to the pot. Add enough broth to just cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil. Turn down heat, cover pot and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until potatoes are falling apart and cabbage and green beans are tender.

Add milk.

Puree to desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle some fresh parsley on each serving. Makes about 6 servings, depending on how many vegetables you started with.

 

 

Sweet Potato and Pear Soup

Not too many years ago I was standing in the produce department at a grocery store, gazing at a variety of pears. I was planning to make a special dessert that involved poaching pears. I’d never poached pears. I had no idea what kind of pear to use.

Lucky for me, the produce manager recommended Bosc pears for poaching. He explained that their flesh is firmer than most pears, so they tend to hold their shape well during the poaching process. His voice took on a note of passion as he described their wonderful flavor, “Like the best white wine you could ever taste,” he said. “That is what a ripe Bosc pear tastes like.”

The cinnamon-colored skin of the Bosc makes them stand out in a crowd of Anjou and Bartletts. Their elongated neck flowing down to a rounded bottom gives them a look of regal elegance. The produce manager helped me choose Bosc pears that were ripe, but still firm. I tasted one as soon as I got home. That man was absolutely right. The juicy pear was divine. That was the day I fell in love with the Bosc pear.

The pears looked perfect after poaching and tasted divine.

When I brought a bunch of Bosc pears home from the store the other day, I had no plans for poaching. I made a batch of Honey-Glazed Roasted Pears and served them for dessert with a generous dollop of coconut milk yogurt. I made enough so that some of the roasted pears could go into the refrigerator to be used another day in my breakfast bowl of hot oatmeal.

The rest of the Bosc pears got peeled and cored and cooked into soup. Bosc pears marry perfectly with Garnet sweet potatoes. Garnet sweet potatoes are moist with dark orange flesh. I didn’t even peel the sweet potatoes before chopping them and cooking them in water with a cinnamon stick. While the sweet potatoes simmer to softness in cinnamon-spiked water, the pears simmer in white wine to reach tenderness. Then everything gets pureed together in a blender or food processor. I like to use my blender for this soup. It gives a velvety texture to the soup that the food processor doesn’t offer.

I made the soup dairy-free by replacing butter with the organic coconut spread I had in my refrigerator. Rather than using half-and-half to add a touch of richness to the soup, I used coconut milk creamer. These substitutions actually make the soup perfect for vegans.

I served the the thick, creamy soup with flaky turnovers filled with spinach, sundried tomatoes, onions and tofu. The turnover recipe came from “Moosewood Restaurant New Classics.” I’ve got four of the Moosewood cookbooks and use them often. I’ve never been disappointed with any of the recipes I’ve tried from the books.

It’s also a nice soup to start your special Valentine’s meal. Velvety, rich, creamy, not sweet with a hint of cinnamon hiding in the background while the pears and sweet potatoes marry and become one. Perfect!

Enjoy!

Sweet Potato and Pear Soup

  • 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, cut into small pieces
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter or organic coconut spread
  • 3 Bosc pears, peeled, cored and chopped into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup white wine or apple or pear juice
  • 1/3 cup half-and-half or coconut milk creamer
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

Combine sweet potatoes, water, cinnamon stick and salt in a Dutch oven. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender. Remove cover and simmer an additional 5 minutes. Discard cinnamon stick and set sweet potato mixture aside.

Melt butter or organic coconut spread in a large skillet over medium heat. Add pear pieces and saute 5 minutes. Add wine. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until pear pieces are tender.

In food processor or blender, puree sweet potato mixture and pear mixture in batches. Return pureed soup to Dutch oven. Add half-and-half or coconut milk creamer and pepper. Stir well to combine. Heat through and serve. Makes about 8 cups.

Recipe adapted from Perennial Palette, by Southborough Gardeners in Southborough, Massachusetts. 2001.

 

A creamy soup that will help add fruits and vegetables to your New (healthy) Year

As the New Year begins, it only seems right to offer a recipe for a soup that is chock full of vegetables and even a little bit of fruit. The creamy soup will incorporate nicely into a regime of healthful menus.

I’ve been making this soup for years. A long time ago, much longer than I’d like to admit, I joined a group of women once a month for a Sunday afternoon meal. We called it our Recipe Exchange Group. We would each prepare a part of the meal and bring along the recipe to share. Elsa, our friend from Argentina, brought this soup to one of those long-ago meals where we’d not only eat, but also chat about our kids, our husbands, and food. It was an appreciated outlet for all of us in this small group of moms who liked to cook.

If you have made a resolution to eat more fruits and vegetables each day, this soup will make it easy. There is a fair amount of chopping involved, but once that task has been accomplished, the soup will be ready to eat in no time.

Chopped leeks, onion and celery saute in butter until tender. Be sure the butter is nice and hot when you add the vegetables. You should be able to hear them sizzle in the hot butter. I typically use butternut squash in the soup. This time, though, I had some other kind of winter squash on hand — a big green one that I picked up at the farmers market in the Fall. Use your favorite winter squash. A small turnip adds a very mild cabbage-like flavor, but it’s hardly detectable after it cooks with all the other fruit and vegetables. Apples and carrots add sweetness, along with a little apple juice. I use local orchard-fresh apple cider when I make this soup in the Fall.  The secret ingredient is added just at the end. Shredded Gruyere. Just 2 ounces melts into the soup and offers an amazing flavor that no one can figure out. Taste the soup before adding the cheese and once again after the cheese has incorporated into the soup. You’ll never want to make the soup without Gruyere. If you’ve never eaten Gruyere cheese, it’s a semi-soft Swiss cheese with a nutty, slightly sweet and salty flavor. It’s a good melting cheese and is often used in fondue.

You decide whether or not to add 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream before serving the soup. I usually leave it out, unless I’m planning to serve the soup at a dinner party. The cream adds rich, silky texture to the soup, but it also adds fat and calories.

I am one who will be focusing on daily doses of more friuts and vegetables than I have consumed in 2011. I’ll continue my daily walks with Gracie, my golden retriever. I promise to go to yoga classes more consistently. I’m going to eat little meat and when I do I will prefer organic or locally-produced meat. I’m going to start the year being vegan one day a week, consuming no food that comes from animals. I’ll see how that goes. And, I’m going to eat more greens, a wide variety of greens. And, I’m going to try to always have some of this soup in the freezer.

Happy New Year. May it be a healthy one for you and all those you love.

Apple-Butternut Squash Soup

  • 2 medium-sized leeks
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound butternut or your favorite winter squash, peeled, seeds removed, and chopped
  • 1 small turnip, peeled and chopped
  • 2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrot
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup apple cider or organic apple juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried whole rosemary, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried whole sage, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Gruyere cheese
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • Croutons, optional

Remove root, tough outer leaves, and tops from leeks, leaving 2 inches of dark leaves. Wash leeks, and chop.

Saute leeks, onion, and celery in 3 tablespoons butter in a large Dutch oven until vegetables are tender.  Add squash, apples, turnip, carrots, and chicken broth, stirring to combine.  Bring mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Puree soup mixture in blender to make it smooth.  It will take a few batches in the blender.  Add apple cider, salt, pepper, nutmeg, rosemary and sage to one of the batches of soup in the blender to puree.  Put pureed soup back into pot.  Stir well.  Simmer soup, uncovered, 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated.  Add shredded cheese and whipping cream, stirring until cheese melts.  Ladle soup into individual serving bowls.  Garnish with croutons, if desired.  Yield: 12 cups.

Tip from the cook

If you think of it when you are cleaning the leeks, save some of the thin, slender pieces from the middle of the leek to use as garnish on the soup.

 

 

 

Hungarian Mushroom Soup

The first time I saw the word Hungarian describing mushroom soup, I was perplexed. I am a descendent of grandparents who came to the United States from Hungary when they were young adults. My mother was 100% Hungarian. I don’t remember ever seeing mushroom soup on the dinner table. No, I’m sure if I’d grown up eating Hungarian Mushroom Soup, I would have always enjoyed eating the earthy fungi.

The truth is, I’ve never cared for mushrooms. The texture, the taste — not for me. Since last August, that’s all changed. My transformation from mushroom-challenged to fungi-infatuated began with an unexpected hunt for chanterelles when I was in Duluth. It developed further when a farmer in Frazee, Minnesota shared some of his freshly-harvested shiitake mushrooms with me. A recent weekend at Fall Mushroom Camp at Little Elbow Lake Park on the White Earth Indian Reservation clinched it. Done deal. I’ve become a lover of fresh mushrooms. Stuffed, stir-fried, paired with pasta or simmered in soup, I eat them. I’ll admit, it’s a remarkable transformation.

At Mushroom Camp, I thought it best to try to learn to identify just two or three edible wild mushrooms. I focused on Shaggy Manes, Lobster Mushrooms and Honey Mushrooms. Now, after spending time at Camp with very experienced mushroom foragers as my teachers, I feel confident I can safely harvest and eat these three mushrooms.

Morning walks with my dog, Gracie, have become forays. I wear my hiking boots so we can veer into the woods when I spot oak trees, a honey mushroom’s favorite place to propagate. With my “mushroom eyes” turned on, I hunt for honeys.

I was surprised to find honey mushrooms growing right in my own yard. I discovered a large cluster of the mushrooms growing at the base of an oak tree.

As I circled around the tree, I continued to find more honeys.

In no time, I had a small basket filled with honey mushrooms from my yard.

I made a pasta dish with some of the mushrooms. That recipe is in my column this week. Then, I dug out my Hungarian cookbooks in search of a recipe for soup. Last week I hosted my Simple, Good and Tasty Book Club for our monthly meeting. We decided on a mushroom potluck dinner. One of the members brought Hungarian Mushroom Soup. The recipe I’m sharing with you is an adaptation of that recipe combined with a couple of variations in my Hungarian cookbooks.

I served my Hungarian Mushroom Soup with Bacon, Green Pepper and Tomato Sandwiches today. Full of creamy mushrooms, dill weed and paprika, the soup is marvelous.

I looked back at some pictures I took when I was in Hungary a few years ago. Sure enough, I spotted honey mushrooms in a shot I took at Central Market Hall (Nagy Vasarcsarnok) in Budapest.

I’m not sure why the woman selling them looked so unhappy — maybe just tired after foraging for all of those wild mushrooms.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m hooked on mushrooms. I find it thrilling to forage for them — it’s a wonderful way to enjoy a Fall day of sunshine and crisp air.

And, my Hungarian taste buds relish this Mushroom Soup.

Hungarian Mushroom Soup

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrot
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms, stems removed, sliced (honey mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms or cremini mushrooms work well)
  • 2 teaspoons dried dill weed
  • 1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 4 cups vegetable, chicken or beef broth, divided
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, plus extra for serving
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

Melt butter in soup pot. Add chopped onion, green pepper and carrot. Saute 5 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Add garlic. Saute 2 or 3 minutes more. Add mushrooms. Saute 5 minutes.

Add dill weed, paprika, soy sauce and 2 cups of the broth. Bring soup to a simmer. Cover pot and simmer for 15 minutes. Whisk milk and flour together until mixture is smooth. Pour into soup, stirring well to blend. Cover pot and simmer soup for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add remaining 2 cups broth and lemon juice. Stir. Heat to a simmer. Take pot off of heat and add sour cream, stirring until completely blended into the soup. Return pot to heat and warm soup until hot. Do not allow the soup to boil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle hot soup into heated bowls. Add a small dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of parsley to each serving. Makes 6 to 8 servings.