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Today’s recipe is another healthy, vegetable-laden dish– a fresh, simple soup that is brilliant served hot or cold.  See, I told you I was going to eat my weight in veggies.  This week the seasonal produce in my refrigerator– asparagus, pea shoots, and leeks– was just begging to be made into something wonderful.  This soup is the result.  It’s simple, though with seriously impressive flavors.  What I mean is, even though it comes together in about 30 minutes from start to finish (if you’re skilled with a chef’s knife), it tastes surprisingly complex.

From the first spoonful, you can distinctly taste each of the main vegetables.  Clean and crisp.  And the lemon adds that nice acidity that frames the flavors of the asparagus, pea shoots, and leeks.  As you stroll through the recipe, you’ll notice there are no herbs or spices (aside from salt and pepper).  For this soup, I wanted the pure flavor of the vegetables to stand out.  I also knew I didn’t want it packed with cream (though I love, love creamy soups).  Instead, I added a Yukon Gold potato to provide that smooth texture.

This soup is very good by itself– especially as a chilled Summer dish.  I also love it warm with a piece of toasted french bread and poached egg gently laid on top.  Magic happens where egg yolk meets soup.  Give it a try, you’ll see.  One last thing to keep in mind is that the balance of flavors in this soup stands or falls on how much lemon and salt you add.  As always, taste, taste, taste!

The Recipe: Spring Vegetable Soup

(Serves 4 — enjoy hot or cold)

1 quart chicken stock

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more to drizzle

1 pound asparagus

1 large white onion, chopped

1 medium leek, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 large yukon gold potato, peeled and chopped

1 packed cup of pea shoots

squeeze of lemon

sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

crusty french bread and poached eggs, optional

Prepare the asparagus by trimming the very ends.  If you have some thick ones, peel the last 1 1/2-inch of the stock with a vegetable peeler.  Cut off the tips of the asparagus and set aside.  Cut up the remaining asparagus into 1-inch pieces.

In a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed soup kettle, add the olive oil.  Over medium heat, sauté the onion, leek, celery and a sprinkle of salt and pepper until tender, about 5-7 minutes.  Add the chicken stock, potato, and asparagus.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat.  Simmer for about 15-20 minutes, or until the potatoes and asparagus are tender.  Then, put the pea shoots into the soup and cook for about 1 minute, or until the pea shoots have wilted a bit.

Meanwhile, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil.  Add the reserved asparagus tips and cook for about 2 minutes.  Remove from water and place into an ice bath to stop the cooking process.  Set aside.

Remove soup from heat.  Use an immersion blender or carefully pour the soup into a stand blender (in batches), blend the soup until creamy.  Season with a squeeze of lemon, to taste, as well as salt and pepper.  Seasoning this soup properly is key.  A bit more lemon or salt can make all the difference.   Add the asparagus tips to the soup or serve as a garnish on top.  This soup is wonderful served hot or cold.   It is outstanding served with toasted french bread and a poached egg on top.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by Relishing It!  Have a fantastic weekend!

Laurie

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I get the impression that when most people hear ‘pea soup’, they evision a bowl of thick green goo.  While I’ve seen my share of that style, I think– generally– split-pea soup has gotten a bad rap.  It doesn’t have to be tasteless mush.  Instead, split-pea soup can be beautiful, colorful, and full of amazing flavors and textures.  Of course, peas pair perfectly with the rich, salty flavor of a smoked ham shank.

It may take a bit longer to get the wonderful ham broth, but it’s worth the effort.  Keep in mind, you can cook the broth/ham shank and refrigerate it overnight or until you are ready to make the soup.  Aside from helping manage your prep time, doing so makes it easier to remove the fat from the soup.  Then re-heat the broth and continue with the recipe.  And remember, peas are best when handled delicately. Keep a watchful eye on them, as they cook rather quickly.  I like them to retain their shape and to have a bit of a toothsome bite.  Don’t forget to add the parsley and the lemon, as they really brighten this soup up.  It’s a perfect finish.  Hope you enjoy!

The Recipe:  Green and Yellow Split Pea Soup with Smoked Ham Shank

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 large white onion, chopped (1 1/4 cups)

5 – 6 large carrots, peeled and chopped (1 1/2 cups)

5 – 6 medium parsnips, peeled and chopped (1 cup)

kosher salt and cracked black pepper

1 1/2 pounds smoked ham shank

1 cup yellow spilt peas, rinsed

1 cup green split peas, rinsed

juice of 1/2 lemon

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

In a large Dutch oven over medium heat add the olive oil.  Sauté the onion, carrots, parsnips, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper for about 5 minutes.  Add 2 quarts of water and the smoked ham shank.  Bring to a boil and cover, then reduce heat to a medium simmer.  Cook for about 2 hours, or until the ham shank is very tender and falling off of the bone.  Remove ham shank from soup and shred the ham from it.  Discard the bone.  Meanwhile, take a spoon a carefully remove any fat from the broth and discard.  Bring the broth back to a medium simmer and add the split peas and the shredded ham. Cook the soup for another 30 minutes, or until the split peas are tender, but still hold their shape.  Make sure to not over-cook it.  Re-season with salt and pepper, if necessary.  Stir in the chopped parsley and the juice of a 1/2 lemon.  Enjoy!

As always, thanks for stopping by Relishing It!

Laurie

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Let’s add one more tasty, healthy, soup to the repetoir.  This one is interesting because the main ingredient is cauliflower.  That’s right, cauliflower.  Sure, it probably hasn’t crossed your mind to make cauliflower soup before, but let me try to convince you that you should.  I love cauliflower (thankfully my kids are HUGE fans, too), so it’s no surprise that I really like this soup.  But aside from the great flavor, cruciferous vegetables are wonderful for your health.  Don’t believe me?  Read here.  Aside from snacking on fresh cauliflower, I love it pureéd.  Mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes?  Divine.  The flavor mellows a bit and the texture is soft and creamy.  Those same characteristics are what make this dish so good.  Here, you get the illusion of eating a thick, cream-laden soup, when in truth it’s almost entirely healthy vegetables that your body needs.

If you’ve never heard of sunchokes, they are also called Jerusalem artichokes.  They’re kind of a funny-looking tuber with a distinct, subtle, earthy flavor.  I guess the best comparison I can come up with is that they taste like a cross between a water chestnut and a potato.  Here, they’re marvelous.  The leeks and rosemary are nice additions, too.  Use fresh rosemary if you have it (even a bit more than the dried amount listed).  I often turn to my dried herbs in the winter time, as fresh can sometimes be a bit pricey.

While dried rosemary is fine here, you’ll definitely want to use fresh parsley for the garnish.  It’s not expensive, and it’ll really brighten the soup.  Finally, there’s the bacon.  I’ve been told that bacon makes everything better, and for the most part, I think that’s about right.  Just a few crumbles on top, and you have the perfect complement to the subtlety of the puréed cauliflower.  If you want to go vegetarian, skip the bacon and substitute vegetable broth for the chicken and enjoy the pure earthiness of the herbs and vegetables.

The Recipe:  Cauliflower and Sunchoke Soup with Bacon Crumbles

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 1/2 pounds sunchokes, peeled and chopped

2 pounds cauliflower florets (from about a 3 pound head), chopped

2 large leeks, white and green parts only, chopped

1 quart plus 3 cups (7 cups total) organic chicken broth

1 teaspoon dried rosemary

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1 dried bay leaf

kosher salt

5-6 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled, for garnish

chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, add the olive oil.  When hot, add the leeks and garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes.  Add the chicken broth, cauliflower, sunchokes, rosemary, allspice, bay leaf, and a sprinkle of salt.  While covered, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a medium simmer.    The pot will look a bit crowded, but the vegetables will soften and reduce as it cooks.  After about 25-30 minutes or whenever the vegetables are soft, remove the bay leaf from the soup.  Using an immersion blender, purée the soup until it is uniform in texture and without lumps.  Alternately, a stand blender can be used to purée the soup, just make sure to do it in batches, as it all won’t fit at one time.  When the soup is puréed, taste it.  Adjust seasonings, if necessary.  Serve sprinkled with bacon and fresh parsley.  Enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by Relishing It!  Come join SoupaPalooza at TidyMom and Dine and Dishsponsored by KitchenAidRed Star Yeast and Le Creuset

Laurie

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Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup

If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m all about soups.  Just take a look at the soup section here for proof.  It’s not just that they’re generally hard to mess up, and that they come together quickly, but there’s just something so satisfying about a good soup.   To be honest, soup is one of my favorite things about living so far north.  It’s one of the reasons I have a hard time saying goodbye to Winter.  I love sitting down with my family to a big kettle of hot soup loaded with vegetables, grains, or legumes.  And I love to try different spices– to see how they meld together in the broth.   

Since we eat soup so often during Winter (several times per week), I try to keep it healthy.  These are our everyday meals, after all.  You likely know that I splurge on occasion and make a meal that isn’t exactly low in the calorie count.  But for the food that nourishes us every day, I try to be a bit more moderate.  My version of wild rice and mushroom soup is light, yet still packed with flavor and nutrients.  It’s far removed from those thick, goopy versions– laden with flour– that you often find in restaurants.  As an aside, it took me years to convince my husband that the stick-to-your-spoon soups are overrated.  He’s finally come around.

To keep the soup lighter, I like to use evaporated milk.  It makes it creamy, without the heaviness of actual cream.  And ‘yes’, you can always use real cream instead.  If you do so, just make sure to add it at the end so it doesn’t curdle.  And if you really prefer a little more thickness, I recommend making a roux from cornstarch and water.  Again, add it near the end of your cooking time.  This is the perfect soup for making a few things ahead of time.  Both the chicken and the wild rice can be prepared in advance and refrigerated.  If you do it this way, the soup really comes together in a cinch.

One last thing to keep in mind here– and I guess I mean to generalize this to all of my recipes– but pay attention to the salt.  If you look back through my other recipes, you’ll see I usually don’t give precise measurements for how much salt to add.  Salt can make or break a dish.  A quote by chef Thomas Keller has stuck with me– and I’ll paraphrase– if you can taste the salt, you’ve added to much.  Salt should enhance the other flavors, but you shouldn’t taste the salt.  My point is, since every broth and roasted chicken contains different levels of salt, you’ll have to decide how much you want to add.  Taste, taste, taste!

The Recipe: Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup 

(Serves 4 comfortably)

3/4 cup dry wild rice, cooked

7-8 medium carrots, chopped (about 1 1/4 cup)

1/2 medium white onion, chopped (about 1 cup)

4 celery stalks with leaves, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

8 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced thick (between 2 – 2 1/4 cups)

1 large leek, white and green parts only, chopped

3 tablespoons dry sherry

2 quarts organic chicken broth

1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk

2 cups roasted chicken, thickly shredded or cubed

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

 

Cook the wild rice according to directions on package.  Make sure not to overcook it; it will cook a bit longer in the soup.  Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the onions, carrots, leeks, celery,  and a pinch of salt and pepper.   Sauté for a few minutes until vegetables start to soften, making sure to stir a few times.  When the vegetables are somewhat soft, add the chicken broth, mushrooms, and rice.  Raise the heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until all of the vegetables are tender.  Add the evaporated milk, chicken, and sherry.  Let simmer until the chicken has warmed through and the flavors have melded.  Season with salt, pepper, and stir in the chopped parsley.  Enjoy with a piece of crusty bread!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Laurie

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I finally went on a full-scale cleaning and organizing mission.  I love my kitchen, but I could always use more space– just one more cupboard.  The focal point of my organizing was the food pantry.  There was a time, not long ago, when I got excited everytime I looked in the pantry– so many possibilities!  So many dishes to create!  Lately, opening that door just led to me being annoyed.  Plastic bags with twist ties, hiding all of those beautiful grains/legumes/dried fruit/and nuts that I buy in bulk.  Random boxes half-full of dried pasta.  I needed a better system, and mason jars were the answer.  They stack beautifully and best of all, I can see all of those beautiful dried goods– including these amazing lentils.

I love lentils: red, french, green, brown– they all have fantastic flavors.  Lentils are high protein and fiber and low fat.  They’re also convenient, since they don’t take long to prepare, so they’re perfect for when you need to get a quick weeknight dinner on the table.  Even better, they’re inexpensive.  I like to prepare them with an egg on top (because eggs make everything better), or made into simple, flavorful soups like this one.  They’re brilliant!

The flavors in this lentil soup mingle perfectly.  The ginger, curry, cardamom, and cumin are stand-outs.  They give the soup an identity.  And the lemongrass adds that little zing that really brightens things up.  Depending on where you are, lemongrass may be difficult to find.  If so, just add a bit of lemon zest and a healthy squirt of lemon juice before serving.  The coconut milk is the backbone here,  it ties all of the other wonderful flavors together.  It is rich and creamy, and envelopes those warm spices.  I use a whole can in this recipe, but if you want to reduce the calorie count, add just a half can.  If you do so, make sure to compensate for the loss of liquid by adding a bit more broth or water.  And don’t buy the ‘lite’ versions of coconut milk– they’re not particularly good.  Pair this soup with a nice piece of crusty bread drizzled in olive oil, and enjoy!

The Recipe:  Lentil Soup with Lemongrass and Ginger

(Serves 4 comfortably)

5-6 small/medium carrots, chopped (1 1/4 cup)

1 medium red onion, chopped  (about 1 cup)

1 stalk lemongrass, outer leaves removed and discarded, finely minced

1-inch knob of ginger, peeled and minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup crushed tomatoes

1 1/2 cup dried brown or green lentils, rinsed

1 can (13.5 ounces) organic coconut milk

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 teaspoon cardamom

1 quart organic chicken broth

pinch of salt

lemon, cilantro, and sour cream for garnish, optional

In a large Dutch oven placed over medium heat add the olive oil.  When hot add the carrots, red onion, lemon grass, ginger, a sprinkle of salt and sauté  for about 7- 10 minutes until the vegetables start to soften.  Then add the curry powder and cardamom and  toast for just 30 seconds, or so.  Immediately add the tomatoes, chicken stock, coconut milk, and lentils.  Raise heat and bring to a small boil.  Immediately lower heat to low/medium and cook the soup covered for about 20-30 minutes, or until the lentils are your desired consistency.  The amount of time will vary depending upon how high your flame is.  Taste the soup and adjust salt accordingly.  Take note that this is a soup that will thicken as it sits, so leftovers may need a splash of broth or water to loosen it up.  Serve with sour cream, cilantro, and lemon, if desired, and a drizzle of olive oil.  Enjoy!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Laurie

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Paprikash.  Just saying it reminds me of being a little girl, coming in from playing in the snow to that amazing aroma of paprika wafting through our farmhouse.  My brother and cousins were there, of course, with the same frigid hands and red wind-blown cheeks.  This soup– more than any other meal– defined my childhood.  Paprikash is nourishing and delicious, but it’s so much more than that to me.  It’s family and friends.  Paprikash meant company was about to arrive, and that we kids had the freedom of the farm while the adults chatted the afternoon away.  It meant the comfort of having my parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins all together to share a communal meal.  And now, paprikash is nostalgia.  It’s a bit strange to write about it here.  It’s bittersweet because I loved those days, and know that I can never have them back.  I’m reminded of how very lucky I was to grow up in rural North Dakota– to see my extended family every week.  This soup reminds me of those family traditions.  I love traditions.  I also love this soup.

This is my version of paprikash.  Like nearly every mother, grandmother, and aunt in my hometown, I’ve developed my own take on this Hungarian soup.  The foundations are the same:  beef, onions, potatoes, and dumplings.  And they’re all enveloped by a thick, rich, beef broth.  It’s a hearty soup that has a profoundly deep, comforting, flavor thanks to sweet paprika.  This is the bowl you want to eat when the snow is falling outside your dining room window.

Now for a few pointers.  First, use good paprika.  I can’t stress this enough.  The paprika is the canvas upon which the rest of the soup is created.  Buy the best you can.  Second, the soup takes a bit of patience.  The beef needs time to become tender.  When it’s ready, you will know.  And if you’ve never made egg dumplings before, they may seem a bit odd or confusing.  They are almost paste-like.  Here’s the thing though– just get them in there.  Drop a bite-size portion into the hot soup, they’ll cook, and turn out beautifully.  Finally, just how good this soup turns out will depend on the salt.  The amounts I list below should be fine, but remember that every beef broth is different.  Some are much saltier than others, so you’ll want to taste, taste, taste, as you add ingredients.  Better to add more salt later, than ruin an amazing meal.  I really hope you make this soup.  There’s nothing else like it.

The Recipe: Paprikash

(Serves 6)

5 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/4 -1 1/2 pounds of grass-fed beef stew meat, cut into small cubes

1 large onion, chopped (about 4 cups)

5 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika

2 quarts homemade or good quality beef broth

2 pounds yellow potatoes or yukon gold, peeled and cubed

6 eggs, lightly beaten

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus a bit more.

cracked black pepper

3 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley, plus more for garnish

In a large Dutch-oven over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  When it is hot, add the cubed beef and a sprinkle of salt and freshly cracked pepper.  Stir the meat a couple of times, and cook for about 5-6 minutes.  Transfer the beef, along with it’s juices, to a bowl and set aside.

In the same Dutch-oven over medium-high heat, add the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  When it is hot, add the 4 cups of chopped onion.  Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often, until they become golden brown and are very fragrant.

Still on medium-high heat, add 5 tablespoons of paprika to the browned onions and toast for about 30 seconds.  Add 2 quarts of beef broth, the reserved cooked beef and juices, 1 teaspoon salt, and cracked black pepper.  Bring to a boil.   Reduce heat to simmer.  Simmer on low-medium for about 2 hours, or until the beef is very tender.

When the beef is tender, raise the temperature to medium and add the cubed potatoes.  Cook for about 10-15 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through and tender, but not falling apart.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, using a large spoon, mix the lightly beaten eggs with the flour and 1 teaspoon salt.  It will form a sticky paste.  This is normal.  When the potatoes are cooked through, begin to add the dumplings one at a time.  Using a small spoon, gently “plop” a bite-sized portion into the hot soup.  You may want to use another spoon (or your finger) to help you.  It will sink at first, and then float to the top.  Repeat until all of the egg/flour mixture is in the soup.  The soup will look crowded, and you will need to “push” some of the dumplings out of the way to make room for more.  Once they are all in the soup, let them cook for another 5-10 minutes.  At this point, taste the soup.  Much of the flavor is dependent on the amount of salt.  Add more if necessary.  Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley.  Enjoy with a piece of crusty bread.  Please note that this soup is even better the next day!

Thanks for stopping by.  I always look forward to hearing from you!  Come join SoupaPalooza at TidyMom and Dine and Dishsponsored by KitchenAidRed Star Yeast and Le Creuset 

Laurie

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Szechwan Carrot Soup

Carrot soup.  It isn’t exactly a cause for celebration, is it?  Carrot soup even sounds dull.  Not this time, though.  I love a dish that takes a reliable, though perhaps uninspiring ingredient, and transforms it into something special.  Here the addition of a few interesting Asian flavors make this carrot soup absolutely delicious.  And as a bonus, this is a perfect weeknight soup.  Chances are the you already have most of these ingredients in your kitchen, and it comes together in less than a half hour.

Like most soups, this recipe has a lot of wiggle room so you can adjust it to fit your palate.  If you like things spicy (like we do) add more red pepper flakes.  Or you may want more peanut butter or sesame oil.  Feel free to experiment.  As always, make sure you taste before you serve it.  Since they remain the central flavor of this soup, it’s worth tracking down organic carrots.  You’ll find the flavor is simply better.  I paired it with this salad (without carrots), and it made a perfect, light weeknight meal.  Hope you enjoy it!

The Recipe: Szechwan Carrot Soup

1/2 medium white onion, chopped

2 celery ribs. chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 pound carrots, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces

1  inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes, or more to taste

4 cups chicken broth

1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon honey

2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

1 -2 teaspoons sesame oil

splash of rice wine vinegar or lime juice

Cilantro, chopped for garnish

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven.  Add the onion, celery, and garlic and cook a few minutes until the vegetables begin to soften.  Add the chopped carrots, ginger, red pepper flakes and broth and simmer until the carrots are soft, about 20-25 minutes.  Stir in the peanut butter, soy sauce, honey, and sesame oil.  Puree with a emersion blender, or transfer it to a regular blender and mix until smooth.  Taste.  Adjust seasonings if necessary.  Add a splash of rice wine vinegar or lime juice.  You may want to add more peanut butter or soy sauce, depending upon your personal taste.  Enjoy!

Source:  Adapted from The Amateur Gourmet

Thanks so much for stopping by Relishing It  — I love hearing from you.

Laurie

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