Potato, Leek and Kale Soup

potatokalesoup

 

 

I’ve been out of sync with my kale intake recently. It is usually my go-to green, but lately it has languished in my fridge’s back drawer, getting brittle and crumbly, long abandoned for more exciting produce. Feeling the need for its powerhouse nutrients in between these food rich holidays, and not wanting just another boring old kale salad, I decided on a soup. That way I could use an entire bunch of those curly greens but still insert some other flavors so dinner would be a bit more exciting. Za’atar toasted chickpeas added the flavor, texture and thrill element.

Come this new year, I plan to get back into my green smoothie routine. Blending, freezing and defrosting those mason jars full of scary looking liquid by the office space heater. Best way to breakfast. Throw in some chia and flax seeds, maybe some spirulina or chlorella? Go ahead and mock, you wouldn’t be the first one.

Try out this soup as a mini respite in between gravy slathered turkey, buttery mashed potatoes, cinnamon rolls and mocha cheesecake. A real nice accompaniment is cheddar toast, so it isn’t too healthy. Wouldn’t want your body to go into shock.

 

Potato, Leek and Kale Soup with Za’atar Chickpeas

Trim, clean and slice up 2 large leeks along with 1 shallot and a large sweet onion. In a soup pot, heat up a good sized knob of butter until it begins to foam then add a heavy drizzle of olive oil. Once it gets hot, add the sweet onion and shallot. Sprinkle some salt and let cook until just translucent, stirring once in a while. While the onion sweetens, roughly chop up one to four potatoes, depending on size and your preference. Finely chop  1-2 garlic cloves. When the onion is super soft and before it gets any coloration, add in the leeks. Stir to combine, add a bit more salt and oil if necessary. After the leeks start to soften add fresh thyme, a couple sprigs worth. Stir occasionally and watch to be sure they are softening and cooking but not browning. They’ll meld and almost look a bit goopy. Add in the chopped garlic and potatoes and stir all up. Let cook for another minute or two and add vegetable broth, a large carton full or more, depending on your pot size. Cover and bring to a light boil until the potatoes are very soft, 20-30 minutes. Stir and taste occasionally, adding salt as needed.

As the soup cooks, drain a can of chickpeas and heat up a good amount of high heat oil in a pan. Once hot, add the chickpeas and add about a tablespoon of za’atar, adding some sesame seeds if you feel like it. Season with salt and pepper and fry the spiced chickpeas until crispy and dark brown but don’t burn! Let cool if they finish before the soup.

For the cheddar toasts, thinly slice up a baguette. I love the crust to be full of sesame and poppy seeds, great in partnership with sharp white cheddar. Slice up some sharp cheddar and lay a slice of cheese on each slice of bread. Toast in a hot oven until cheese just bubbles. Take out to cool.

Once the potatoes are pretty soft, add in the leaves of an entire bunch of kale. Stir up to completely wilt then take the pot off the heat. Using an emulsion blender ( or appropriately using a regular blender), blend up the soup until pureed. Include a glug or two of milk to make it creamy and blend to combine.

Serve soup with some toasted chickpeas, a swirl of olive oil and some fresh parsley. Cheddar toasts on the side for dipping purposes.

 

 

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Roasted Cauliflower Soup

 

Creamy-Curry-Cauliflower-soup

 

 

Soup season has arrived.

 

This, my second, Autumn in the Pac Northwest has been a bit more damp than the first one. Soggy, vibrant leaves are crushed underfoot and eventually create outlines, almost fossil-like imprints in the sidewalk. As long as I’ve got my rainboots on and a mug of something warm is within arm’s reach, I am totally on board with all of it.

I been working at my new job for a month now. Going to work everyday in a gorgeous cookbook store with incredible events, and working alongside smart, amusing and hardworking people has done wonders for my disposition. I’m spoiled and it has made the months and months of job searching, applications, interviews and almost-but-not-quite-what-we-are-looking-for’s worth it. Which makes it quite impossible to see this blustery fall as a negative.

It is dark by the time I get home now, and I’m often just a tad carsick from the 8 bus’s constant stop and go while overflowing with riders. They really need to get on top of things with that bus route. It is out of control. Anyway, though surrounded by cookbooks and constant food creativity, sometimes one is just too tired or overwhelmed to create anything gourmet for dinner. Most often, I just require an aromatic, flavorful dinner that induces warmth, comfort and satisfaction. Plus, my immersion blender is so fun to use and it makes my soups seem lavish. With a smooth,puréed soup you can pour that fancy flourish of golden olive oil on top which instantly elevates a simple soup to 11.

 

 

 Creamy Curry Cauliflower Soup

adapted from The Kitchn 

 

Pre-heat oven to 400 F. Cut up a large head of cauliflower into florets, toss with olive oil, salt, black pepper and a couple dashes of cumin. Roast in the oven, stirring occasionally till lightly toasty and browned, about 10 minutes or so. Meanwhile heat up some olive oil in your soup pot and dice up a large sweet onion and 3-5 garlic cloves. Once the oil is hot, cook the onions with some salt until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Toss in the garlic and cook until slightly browned. When the cauliflower is done roasting, add it to the soup pot and stir together. Add about 5 cups of vegetable broth and stir to combine. Cover until it starts to simmer. Add a couple pinches of salt, and 1 teaspoon of curry powder, 1 teaspoon of cumin, 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon of coriander and any other of these types of spices that strike your fancy. Adjust these to your taste. Let the soup simmer for about 10-15 minutes or so to let the flavors all meld. Take off the heat and blend, using an immersion blender or carefully using a regular blender. Pour 1 cup of half/half or milk or coconut milk into the soup and stir to mix or re-blend to combine.  Return the soup to the stove and keep on low to keep it hot as you come back for seconds and thirds. Taste it to see if your seasonings need adjusting. Dish out into bowls and top with a curl of olive oil, red pepper flakes, fresh parsley and fresh black pepper.

All soups need a warm, bready substance as a delivery system and my favorite with this is Trader Joe’s frozen garlic naan. Spread a bit of butter on top and toast in the oven for a couple minutes and you’ve reached absolute dinner perfection.

 

 

 

 

zuppa di minestrone

bowl-of-minestrone-2

 

Growing up, I was never much interested in cooking, merely eating. I didn’t give much thought to behind the scenes of the meals my mom would miraculously create for the seven of us, even after a full day of work. One of favorite meals was her vegetable soup. It was thrown together with tons of fresh veggies, chunks of tomato and topped with melting wisps of parmesan cheese. I remember my surprise at biting down on something hard and crackly and promptly shrieking with distaste. “It’s just a bay leaf.” Mom said. I told her that it didn’t seem as if this bay leaf  in her soup was, in fact, edible. She rolled her eyes and said that it was in the soup for flavoring, calm down and finish your dinner or you don’t get dessert.

 
 

 
 

When I lived off campus during my senior year at college, my roommates decided to institute “Family Dinner”. This was short lived as our Senioritis gradually got more and more serious as the year went on.  But in the beginning, we were all about it. I had little to no experience with cooking back then and felt woefully inept facing my first turn at making dinner for the seven of us. I called my mom and asked for her vegetable soup recipe. She laughed and said it wasn’t really much of a recipe and to throw a bunch of vegetables in a pot and cook for a while. Now panicked, I chided her for her nonsensical instructions and told her that she needed to tell me step by step how to recreate the soup of my childhood or else her daughter wouldn’t have anything to show for Family Dinner and how much shame that should bring her. Patiently, she went over all the ingredients, amounts and directions to recreate her simple vegetable soup.  It was basically a minestrone soup, though she omitted the white beans and her pasta of choice was tortellini. The final product impressed my roommates and taught me that I, like my mother, could communicate my  fondness for others through food. This was an important discovery, as I am by no means an affectionate individual and would constantly deny hugs to my beloved roommates. Instead, I fed them.

 
 

My Minestrone Soup

 
I made a big pot of this to ensure a few days of leftovers for the two of us. Adjust as necessary.

Dice 1 large leek, 1 large sweet onion, 1 fennel bulb and 1 shallot. Pour a glug or two of olive oil in your soup pot and toss the diced items in once it’s hot. Saute until translucent.

Chop up a couple carrots and 3-4 zucchinis into bite sized pieces. Once the onion mixture in the pot is translucent, stir in the carrots. Sprinkle a bit of dried oregano and thyme onto the carrots cook up for about 5 minutes. Add chopped zucchini, a couple pinches of salt and some black pepper. Dice a few garlic cloves and add to pot. Stir until zucchini softens a bit. Add a bit more olive oil if needed. Roughly chop and add whichever types of fresh herbs you choose. I used a bunch of basil, some parsley, chives and a couple of sage leaves. Nothing beats those fragrant, luscious, fresh herbs I tell you.

Once all these veggies are cooking up nicely, pour in vegetable broth. For this big pot I used 1.5 boxes and added a bit of water once it started getting a bit too thick. Pour in 1 large can of diced tomatoes ,about a cup of tomato paste and a can of rinsed, small white beans.  Adjust ratios to your taste preferences of course.

I added in a couple of parmesan cheese rinds and a large bay leaf for taste. Bring the soup to a boil and simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Taste and add more salt/pepper if needed. Add a few handfuls of frozen or fresh corn. Add a few large handfuls of small pasta. I used whole wheat macaroni. You may want to add a bit of water to the soup as the pasta will be absorbing liquids and you don’t want stew, you want soup.

Cover the soup and cook until the pasta is tender and al dente-esque, probably 6-8 minutes. Stir up the soup and dish into bowls. Grate fresh parmesan cheese on top, add a dollop of pesto and some more of those freshly chopped basil/chives . Eat, then repeat.

Roasted Carrot Soup

Roasted-Carrot-Soup-with-Crispy-Chickpeas

I’m not sure why, but I’ve never really been a huge carrot fan. You know when you are chomping on some carrots and one turns out to taste bitter and almost rancid? Your face grimaces and it’s all  you can do to survive the 3 seconds it takes to spit it out. Or is that just me? This is a thing, I promise. I think I live in fear that any carrot could be that carrot. But, my friends, this is no way to live!

I decided to brave my carrot-ey fears when I  came across Five and Spice’s Roasted Carrot Soup that added some orange and cumin to the mix.  My mind whirred and my glands salivated at the prospect of such simple flavors combining gloriously. Plus I thought that roasting carrots would prevent the Dreaded Bitter Carrot by bringing out the natural sugars. Add some garlic in there, and you’ve got a soup going!

Roasted Carrot Soup topped with crispy chickpeas

– adapted from Five and Spice’s recipe

Wash, peel and roughly chop carrots in 1/2 – 1 inch pieces. On a parchment lined baking sheet, toss in carrots and garlic cloves, drizzle olive oil and sprinkle salt and black pepper. Make sure it is all evenly coated and spread out. Throw a rosemary sprig or two on the sheet and bake till it looks and smells gorgeous, about 25-35 minutes or so. Stir once or twice.

Heat up a bit of olive oil in your soup pot and throw in a diced shallot, a chopped sweet onion and if you like things crazy, another garlic clove. Allow to saute a bit. Once those carrots and garlic are done, throw into the pot. Zest some orange and and ginger over them. Pour in 4 cups of vegetable broth and stir up. Put a mint or rosemary sprig in the soup. Bring soup up to a boil, then simmer till the carrots get super soft, about 10-15 minutes.

Heat up a couple dollops of grapeseed oil in a saute pan. Drain and rinse a can of chickpeas. Saute them up with some cumin, salt and pepper. Add some sesame seeds once they start to crisp. Stir occasionally till they get browned and crunchy. Careful of popping oil. It hurts.

Take out the rosemary/mint spring and add some fresh squeezed orange juice to taste. Blend up the soup with a table top blender or use an emulsion blender. If using a tabletop blender, be careful! Blend in batches and take off the plastic middle part of the lid to let the heat escape a bit which prevent explosions.

Add salt, cracked black pepper and cumin. Taste! Add more spices, orange juice, ginger or chopped rosemary/mint as necessary. Dish out , and top with a generous helping of crispy chickpeas and some freshly chopped parsley.

If  you are like me, eat while watching The Taste and laughing at Team Hot Mess.

Parsnip soup topped with crispy sage and lemon butter

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Though we aren’t in a polar vortex or anything, I can still get some comfort from a piping hot bowl of savory soup. In my opinion, winter is the season for soups. Ok, fall is too but a lot of foods are in season then, so soups tend to fall to the wayside. During the grey monotony of winter, it is more difficult for me to get motivated and creative about dishes other than soup. Especially since we are all supposed to be getting smarter, thinner, cooler and all around er-er after January 1st.

What is easy to make vegetarian, gluten free and dairy free!?!

SOUP soup SoUp.

Parsnip is a funny word right? Down home and rustic yet fancy.

I can imagine Mr. Carson deploring Mr. Mosely for serving the 3rd course to Lady Mary with the wrong hand with a hooked nose glare.  “Mr. Mosely, please refrain from hauling the creamed parsnips willy nilly into the dining room. They’ll slosh”.

I’d never cooked with parsnips before and wasn’t even exactly sure how to prepare them, but this soup from Love and Olive Oil just sounded to cozy to pass up on account of ignorance. Luckily Food52 came to my rescue with an ingenious little video showing exactly how to core a parsnip. Slightly labor intensive, but worth it. Just don’t slice yourself like I may have.

I was excited to use my new christmas present, an emulsion blender to create an easy, creamy luxe soup. It worked deliciously if I do say so myself. My husband agreed.

Parsnip soup topped with crispy sage and lemon butter

Top off 3 garlic heads till most cloves are showing and drizzle with olive oil. Place in foil and tightly wrap so none spills out and scorches your oven. That is annoying. Roast garlic for about 35-40 minutes. When they are done, let them cool a bit and push out the soft warm pods. Inhale deeply.

Chop up a large onion and one shallot. Saute in olive oil in your soup pot until just browning. Core and chop up about 6 medium sized parsnips. Add to the pot with sprig or two of fresh rosemary. Pour in about 4 cups ( 1 container) of vegetable stock and allow to simmer for about 45 mins. Test to see if the parsnips are soft.

Add those mouthwatering garlic cloves and if you want  cream, add about 1/2 a cup or so. Use an emulsion blender ( or a countertop one CAREFULLY) to meld everything together. Season to taste with a healthy dose of salt and fresh black pepper, maybe a squeeze of lemon juice.

Heat up a chunk of unsalted butter in a pan until foamy. Add some sage leaves for about 2 minutes until crisp. Place leaves on paper towel. Add one small lemon‘s worth of juice and take away from heat. Mix up lemon butter.

Serve yourself a bowl, top with a couple crispy sage leaves and a drizzle ( or more) of lemon butter. A crusty slice of bread would not be an out of place accompaniment.