By Barbara Beltrami
Many readers have asked me for more soup recipes and who can blame them? Winter chills have a way of making us crave bowls and mugs of hot soup for lunch as well as dinner. I make a huge pot of soup every week, as much, I think, for the comfort of its simmering on the stove as the comfort of ladling it into sturdy mugs and bowls and ingesting a sense of well-being despite what’s going on outside. For a little variety this time I’ve focused on pureed soups, which are smooth and very sipp-able from a mug (I think of them as winter smoothies), and I’ve come up with three favorites: Cream of Tomato and Cream of Mushroom, which are guaranteed to keep you zipping right past that canned soup aisle forevermore, and finally a nice spicy Curried Cauliflower Bisque, which will definitely get your taste buds singing.
Cream of Tomato Soup
YIELD: Makes 6 servings.
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
¾ cup chopped onion
¼ cup flour
4 cups milk
1 bay leaf
1½ teaspoons sugar
Two 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes
½ teaspoon baking soda
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
In a large pot melt butter over medium heat; add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until soft but not browned. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, 1 or 2 minutes until a smooth paste is formed. Slowly add milk, then bay leaf and sugar and continue to cook and stir until slightly thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes. In a medium bowl, combine tomatoes, baking soda and salt and pepper; add to milk mixture and bring just to a simmer; remove bay leaf and discard. Let cool slightly and puree in batches in food processor or blender. Return to pot and, stirring frequently, bring back to simmer or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Do not freeze. Serve with grilled cheese sandwiches.
Cream of Mushroom Soup
YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings.
4 cups chicken broth
1 pound mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
2 shallots, peeled and minced
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup flour
½ cup half-and-half
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
In a medium-large pot bring chicken broth to a low boil; add mushrooms and shallots and simmer one hour. In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, melt butter, then whisk in flour until smooth; slowly whisk in half-and-half, bay leaf and salt and pepper and cook until mixture is thickened and smooth, about 15 to 20 minutes. Add mushroom broth to mixture and stir until thoroughly incorporated. Let cool slightly, then puree in batches in food processor or blender; return to saucepan and reheat, stirring frequently, over medium-low flame. Remove bay leaf and discard. Serve immediately with buttered toast or crackers.
Curried Cauliflower Bisque
YIELD: Makes 4 servings.
1 head cauliflower, separated into even florets
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 medium onions, chopped
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 teaspoons curry powder or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
Steam cauliflower until very tender, 10 to 15 minutes depending on size of florets. In a large saucepan heat butter and oil over medium heat; add onions and sauté until soft but not browned, about 10 minutes. Add steamed cauliflower, broth, curry powder and pepper; stir, then transfer mixture in batches to food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Return to saucepan and heat over low flame. Top with yogurt and serve immediately with a cucumber salad.