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Posts Tagged ‘soup’

Asparagus soup

I came home to a new Plan B box today, my first since the fall. A lot of greens, a cucumber, tomatoes, apples, mushrooms, and asparagus – which reminded me that I still had a bunch of asparagus in the fridge to cook up.

So I made this Jamie Oliver asparagus soup recipe that I found recently. It’s very simple, served with toast and a poached egg. I made a half recipe, which worked about right for a single bunch of asparagus (which, before I trimmed the bottoms, came to 450 g). I didn’t have any leeks so used 1 1/2 onions, but it would be better with leeks.

The truth is, I haven’t been excited about asparagus lately, but this soup was far more interesting than just steamed asparagus. I might serve the leftovers with grated cheese or even kefir mixed in.

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I recently resurrected a favourite soup from last winter’s cabbage-cooking mission. (I haven’t been getting the CSA for the past few months – not enough time to keep up with it – so haven’t had the piles of cabbage I used to have.)

It’s from a wonderful cookbook, Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way by Lorna Sass, that I recommend for anyone who wants to learn about whole grains. It’s not just a collection of recipes; the author goes into the history of grains and writes a profile on each one she includes. And it’s not just the basics like wheat and barley, either: less-common grains like teff, amaranth and even job’s tears are included. Better yet, when she says “whole grains”, she really means it. For instance, the rye in the soup is whole rye berries, unprocessed, that still have the odd bit of grass mixed in when you buy them. Definitely nutritious, and delicious – they’re chewy and stay that way, a texture I like in soup (as opposed to mushy pasta or rice).

This soup isn’t a ton of work – just chopping onions and cabbage, and presoaking the rye – and it makes 6 servings that heat up well as leftovers for lunch. A hard-boiled egg makes a good side, and my favourite addition so far is rye crostini (that I got from Longo’s).

Truth? I didn’t make the dill sour cream; I just served at home with plain yogurt and at work with no dairy. It’s just as good. And, um, I didn’t chop my caraway seeds. But don’t dare leave out the lemon juice.

I also added extra broth, can’t recall how much, but this soup is pretty forgiving of changes like that.

A note on the whole rye: it seems more complicated than it is. Don’t forget that you’re using them for soup so it doesn’t matter if there’s a bit of extra water or if they’re not entirely evenly cooked. Soak overnight then cook the grains in the morning. You can leave them for the day before making the soup in the evening if you like.

Rye Berry Soup with Cabbage and Dill Sour Cream

2 tbsp butter
2 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp caraway seeds, chopped
8 cups (tightly packed) shredded cabbage (1 3/4 pounds – about 1/2 a head of cabbage)
6 cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 tsp sugar
2 to 3 cups cooked Basic Whole Rye Berries (see below)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 to 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the dill sour cream:
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Serves 6

Heat the butter in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until they soften, about 4 mins. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, paprika and caraway and cook for another minute, stirring constantly. Lower the heat if the mixture threatens to burn.

Stir in 2 cups of water and the cabbage. [Note: I had to add some of the stock here too.] Bring to a boil, cover, and lower the heat to medium. Cook until the cabbage wilts, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 mins. Add the broth, sugar, rye berries and salt and pepper. Cook the soup until the cabbage is tender and the flavours have mingled, 15 to 20 additional mins.

Meanwhile, prepare the dill sour cream. In a small bowl, blend the sour cream, dill and vinegar.

When the soup is done, stir in lemon juice to taste, and adjust the seasonings.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and top each portion with a dollop of dill sour cream.

Basic Whole Rye Berries

1 cup dry rye berries (makes about 2 1/2 cups cooked)
2 1/2 cups water
Salt to taste (add at end of cooking)

Soak the grains overnight in a heavy Dutch oven or saucepan. Alternatively, do a quick-soak: Bring the water to a rapid boil. Stir in the grains. Turn off the heat, cover, and let stand 1 hour.

Bring the grains to a boil in the soaking liquid. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer until tender, 25 to 40 mins. Add salt toward the end of cooking, if you wish.

Once a few of the grains have burst open or you detect the whitish starchy endosperm peeking through one end of some grains, start checking for doneness: Cut a few grains in half and see if they are one colour throughout. If so, taste a few grains and see if they are juicy and the bran and starchy centre are soft. Remove from the heat. Rye gets plumper if left to soak in the cooking liquid for an extra 10 to 15 minutes.

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I used to always use those powders to make soup, but I’ve made the switch to homemade stock. It’s delicious, easy to make and a good way to make use of leftover vegetables.

The recipe I always use is from the Rebar Cookbook (which everyone should own, by the way), but adapted for my own tastes. And you don’t have to be exact with quantities – use what you have.

I always put my leek tops and shiitake stems in the freezer so they’re ready for making stock. You can do this with a lot of vegetables and it means less waste and an easier job cooking.

Basic Vegetable Stock
Adapted from the Rebar Modern Food Cookbook

1 tbsp olive oil
1 (large) or 2 (small) yellow onions
2 leeks, greens only, or combination of leek greens and garlic scapes
1 garlic bulb
4 carrots
1 celeriac root
1 apple
1 to 2 cups shiitake mushroom stems (or whole mushrooms)
4 bay leaves
1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp coarse salt
few sprigs thyme, parsley and/or sage
20 cups cold water

1. Peel and roughly chop the onions, leeks, carrots and celeriac. Separate the garlic bulb and smash the cloves with the flat of your knife. Quarter the apple. If using whole mushrooms, chop them roughly.

2. Heat oil in a large stock pot and add the onions, leeks, carrots, celeriac, salt and bay leaves. Sauté for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add all of the remaining ingredients, starting with the water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 45 minutes. Strain and cool if not using immediately. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or in the freezer for up to 2 months.

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No pictures today but two good, simple recipes.

I took this asparagus soup recipe from epicurious.com and made it this weekend almost verbatim – just used onion instead of shallots. It was fine the first day, but really good the second and third. I made a fresh vegetable stock mostly out of green garlic tops from my Plan B box and it added a lot of flavour. Be careful not to oversalt this soup as it has a very delicate flavour.

And tonight, I boiled up some red potatoes and tossed them in pesto. I had arugula and made it with pistachios and cheddar (partially inspired by this recipe) but you can use any greens and nuts you have around. Be careful with the garlic quantities. It’s a nice, simple way to prepare potatoes in the summer.

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