Vegetables Every Day

Vegetables Every Day
Carrot Tarator with Beets

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Creamy vegetable soups

So, what to do with all those wonderful vegetables at the farmers market?  Soups are a great option. Here are some creamy vegetable soups that are a bit different -- heavy on the vegetables and light on the cream.
The Gadget: the immersion blender.  Typically the Cuisinart is used to puree soups, it does an excellent job.  But it’s big thing to wash, if you are making any quantity of soup you need to do in batches (so yet another bowl).  And inevitably, you put too much soup in, and it spurts all over the place. The immersion blender is just on little thing to wash (done immediately after the puree, it’s really more of a rinse).  Sometimes it’s a bit hard to get the puree going with a little immersion blender (hint – make the vegetables small), and smart to use a big, deep pot, but it does an amazing job on either a full puree like in this recipe, or a partial puree to thicken a potato chowder or bean soup.

Ingredients: Besides good vegetables, I recommend Pacific Organic Free Range Chicken Broth (they carry it at Safeway), it comes in 1 quart boxes.  If you don’t happen to have a bottle of white wine open, vermouth is a fine substitute (thanks for this hint from Julia Child).

Butternut and Leek Soup

Originally I did this soup as a starter for a wine dinner, but its so good and satisfying (and easy) it has entered the regular rotation.  It’s great with bread for a weeknight dinner, or can be gussied up as a first course soup.  And it reheats well.

Serves 4+
3 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (about 3 medium)
6 cups peeled, diced butternut squash (about 1 medium)
1/3 cup white wine (or vermouth)
1 quart chicken stock
1 - 2 teaspoons salt, to taste
½ to ¾ teaspoon freshly ground fresh pepper, or to taste.
¼ cup light cream (aka half and half), or less amount of heavy cream

Put the leeks, squash and stock in a large (8 quart) pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cook until the squash is fork-tender, about 20 – 25 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender or in a food processor. Add the cream, salt and pepper to taste.

Presentation:  good on its own, but a few herbs (chives) look very nice.  Or a bit of yogurt and/or toasted pumpkin seeds.  To get really fancy, drop me a note for the shallot-sherry herb butter.

Make ahead: Cover and freeze (can put in a 1 gallon zip-loc bag) or refrigerate up to 3 days.

Creamy Cauliflower-Garlic Soup

I have only made this once (but will do again, every week there is good looking cauliflower at the market).  It reheats very well.

Serves 4 as a main course

1 head garlic
Olive oil
2 small or 1 large head of cauliflower (about 2 lbs)
1 quart of chicken broth
¼ cup cream
Fresh ground nutmeg (if you have it)
Salt and pepper
Chopped chives or other herb garnish.

Cut the top of a whole head of garlic.  Place on a sheet of foil, drizzle with olive oil.  Pull up the foil to form a loose pouch.  Bake for about 45 minutes at 400F (a toaster oven works good) or until soft.  Let cool a bit.

Meanwhile, cut off leaves and stems (heart) of the cauliflower heads, and cut florets into pieces (smaller is better for immersion blender).  In a large pan (bigger is better for immersion blender), combine cauliflower and broth, bring to a boil then simmer until tender, 12 to 15 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Squeeze some garlic into soup (this will be to taste, I used about half the head), then puree with immersion blender.  Work until smooth. Put back on the heat, add cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Cook a few minutes to heat back up, then serve with a bit of herb garnish.
Use the comments to let me know what you think!

Farmer's Market

My happiest find in 2006 was a “real” farmers market in Phoenix. I horribly missed the Auburn (California) farmers market.. especially peaches that you had to eat over the sink they were so juicy.  I had tried… Scottsdale had one I happened upon a couple of years ago, with only a few sad wilted vegetables, the ‘farmer’ market in the Casa Paloma shopping center, where the one farmer (amid the other folks selling soap and beaded purses), when asked about the strawberries (which seemed out of season) said they were from Watsonville (just like inside the grocery store).  But now, Ahwatukee has a real farmers market, with 5+ farms showing up regularly. They run on Sunday mornings starting about 9am at the Tennis center on the NW corner of 48th and Warner (behind McDonalds – there’s some irony).  There is one lady (usually in the back) with great root vegetables, carrots and turnips, plus really nice greens (and good prices), another guy with eggs, bell peppers and broccoli (already thinking of an omelet), plus Sri – who has the biggest stand and most variety, including lots of Asian fruits and vegetables.  Plus the tomato people. There are some others that show up, with cheese, tuna, bread, some prepared foods. Tthe salsa lady is worth a mention because in addition to being made locally, its low in salt – a rarity in prepared foods.

Right now, you can get all the basic winter vegetables – cabbage, broccoli, root vegetables including potatoes and onions, plus some stuff that must be coming from green houses, like bell peppers and tomatoes. And of course, lots of citrus.  The lettuce is looking real good, everything seems to be springing back from the freeze in January.  I’m interested the progression as it gets hotter, the market eventually shuts down for summer.  But hopefully there will be peaches.

Next… some idea’s on what to do with all of these vegetables.