With the abundance of spring produce starting to flood the grocery stores and farmer’s markets, I want to share a formula recipe for a basic creamy soup. This soup is vegan, but you can always add a splash of cream at the end if you so desire. Remember that for a formula to work, you need all the pieces, but the variety of ingredients is up to you. Recently I made this soup using two bunches of beautiful fresh asparagus – it was a perfect, light soup that tasted divinely Spring-like but didn’t weigh us down. Serve this soup with salad, fresh bread, or panini. You can even float some rice or noodles in the center of the bowl when you serve it.
Basic Creamy Soup
Your ingredients are:
Oil – about 2T
Aromatic vegetables (leeks, onions, scallions, garlic, etc.)
one potato, peeled and chopped
4 cups chopped main vegetable
herbs and spices
1 qt. to 6 cups liquid
The ingredients explained:
1. Oil – Any variety oil is fine. Use about 2 T, or hack off a knob of Earth Balance non-hydrogenated margarine. Fuller flavors like extra-virgin olive oil or toasted sesame oil are fine, but remember that they have to work with the main vegetable flavor. You can always blend your oils: 1.5 T light olive oil with .5 T toasted sesame oil has a nice flavor. Put your oil in a soup pot and heat it up over medium high heat.
2. Aromatics – Use about 1.5 – 2 cups of aromatic vegetables in any combination. Consider onions (any color), shallots, leeks, garlic, and scallions. Also consider more exotic possibilities like garlic scapes. I like a single smashed garlic clove combined with a large chopped white onion. If you want to put in some celery here, be SURE to de-string it. The strings don’t puree well. Saute your aromatics until they are just beginning to soften.
3. and 4. Add one potato, peeled and chopped and your main vegetable at the same time. Doesn’t matter what kind of potato – any kind will work. The potato adds creaminess to the soup when it is pureed and the main vegetable is the main flavor of the soup. Use ANYTHING for your main vegetable – about 4 cups worth. Peel and chop in pieces about 1″ in size (make sure you run a peeler over thick asparagus stalks). I have used everything from broccoli and asparagus to carrots, winter squashes and a combination of leftover veggies. Pumpkin works well with sweet potatoes and carrots. (Note: If you do a combination of veggies, make sure they are all the same basic color. Mixing carrots and broccoli, for example, will give you a most unappealing looking soup) Saute your these two items for a few minutes until coated with the aromatics and oil, then add your liquid. (Another note: If your tomatoes have thick skins, consider blanching and peeling them before adding. The skins don’t always puree well.)
5. Herbs and spices – Add the herbs and spices to your sauteeing vegetables immediately after adding your main vegetable. Start with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp white pepper (a must for me) and alter from there. Consider curry powder with carrot or cauliflower, a little fresh rosemary with mushrooms, or just the good old Italian herb blend with any vegetable. If you have fresh herbs, by all means use fresh herbs. Basil and cilantro are heavenly with tomato, and sage and winter squashes are delicious together. Start with 1/2 tsp. dried (1/2 T fresh) and add to taste from there. You can also substitute a splash of soy sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos instead of the salt.
6. Liquid – I generally use organic vegetable stock. You can use canned, boxed, frozen, or fresh – whatever you have. You’ll need 4-6 cups. The liquid should almost completely cover the vegetables. Simmer your vegetables until they are very soft and the potatoes can be pierced easily with a fork, about 15 – 20 minutes. Note about liquid: If you only have water on hand and want to use bouillion cubes omit the salt in step 5. Also, to get a little exotic, cut back on 1.5 – 2 cups of stock and add a can of coconut milk. The combination of carrot, coconut milk and curry powder is unforgettable!
Once the vegetables are tender, cool a little bit then puree in batches in a food processor, or in the soup pot with an immersion blender. Return to the pot to reheat if necessary, garnish and serve.
7. Garnishes – use your imagination! Chopped nuts floated in the center, noodles or leftover rice reheated in the microwave will make the dish a little heartier. Some deep fried tofu cubes are great, as are finely chopped fresh herbs. If you have any croutons or chow mein noodles in the pantry, throw them on for crunch. In barista fashion, swirl in tablespoon of soy creamer. Get creative with your garnishes. Remember we eat with our eyes first, so how food looks matters almost as much as how it smells and tastes.
Have fun with this formula and remember that soup is one of the most thrifty and versatile dishes on the planet. Next time you are in the farmer’s market and see celery root in season on sale or see huge bunches of swiss chard on sale for a buck, snap them up and make a delicious, soul-satisfying soup for dinner.
One final thought: If you want to get crazy and go outside the box, make this soup with a peeled, chopped, rinsed white onion and fruit (pears or apples) combined with butternut squash or sweet potato. Make 2 cups of your liquid organic pear (or pear blend) juice. Add just a pinch of salt and a pinch of nutmeg or cinnamon. It’s weird but delicious. Really!
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