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Cream of Tomato Soup

Curried Cauliflower Bisque

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

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

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

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.

By Barbara Beltrami

It had been one of those days from hell — blustery, cold and wet. Battling the mall crowds had left me tired and cranky and both my stomach and I were grumbly. My feet hurt, my back ached and my head throbbed from the unavoidable, ubiquitous and ambient music that blared with a rock beat insistence. All I could think of was getting home, changing into my old jeans, a baggy sweater and fuzzy slippers and grabbing some crackers to assuage my hunger pangs before I collapsed.

But as I came in the door and dropped my shopping bags, an aroma redolent with veggies, onions and herbs greeted me. There simmering on the stove was the pot of soup I had made the day before, removed from the fridge by an elf (bless his husbandly heart) and set to simmer in anticipation of my return from my ill-advised expedition.

It was sipping (read slurping) that steaming bowl of soup that revived me and reassured me that there were still some things that hadn’t been commercialized and that homemade soup was one of them! I sat back, smiled contentedly and reflected on what a nice productive day I’d had and all the bargains I’d found on things I didn’t need. Soup has a way of doing that.


In Italian “ribollita” means reheated. (And doesn’t just about any respectable soup taste better the next day?) This one is chock full of kale, other veggies and beans and is a tribute to its name.

YIELD: Serves 6 to 8


Two 28-ounce cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

8 cups chopped, well-washed trimmed lacinato kale*

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped

2 ounces well-trimmed pancetta, julienned†

2 garlic cloves, minced

One 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes with their juice

4 medium celery stalks, thinly sliced

2 medium carrots, peeled and diced

2 tablespoons minced fresh sage leaves or 2 teaspoons dried

8 cups broth

4 cups cubed crusty leftover bread

salt and pepper, to taste

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS: In a food processor, puree half the beans. Cover and set aside. In a large pot, bring 2 inches water to a boil. Arrange kale on a steamer rack; place in pot and cover with tight-fitting lid. Steam for 3 to 5 minutes, until almost tender. Place a pot or large saucepan (at least 6½ quarts) over medium heat, add olive oil and heat 45 seconds. Add onions, pancetta and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, one to two minutes, until onions are opaque. Stir in tomatoes with their juice, celery, carrots and sage. Reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes, until the vegetables are very tender.

Add the pureed and whole beans, broth, kale to the tomato mixture. Bring the liquid to a boil; reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, about half an hour, until beans and kale are very tender and soup is thickened. Add bread cubes and cook 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper, if desired. Cool to room temperature; cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight. Half an hour before serving, reheat the soup over low heat to a gentle boil; stir frequently. Ladle into bowls and drizzle about half a tablespoon olive oil over each one

*Lacinato kale, a long-leafed dark green variety that resembles Romaine lettuce is preferable and available in most specialty markets, but the more familiar regular kale is okay if you can’t find it.

†Pancetta is Italian bacon available in most supermarket deli departments and certainly in Italian delis.

Cream of Tomato Soup

Warning: You’ll never be happy with the canned version once you’ve tasted this. And do I even need to say how great it is with a grilled cheese sandwich?

YIELD: Serves 4 to 6


3 tablespoons butter

½ cup chopped onion

4 tablespoons flour

2 cups milk

2 cups water

½ bay leaf

1½ teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

Two 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes

Salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: In a large heavy pot or saucepan, melt the butter, then add the onion and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the onion is softened but not browned. Add flour and continue to stir for another minute or two. Slowly add milk, bay leaf and sugar; continue to stir until slightly thickened. Stir the baking soda into the tomatoes, then add the tomatoes to the milk mixture and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer until heated through. Remove bay leaf and discard. Let cool about 15 to 20 minutes; puree in batches in food processor. Add seasonings and serve immediately or refrigerate and reheat before serving.

Lentil and Leek Soup

This hearty soup gets its zing from the addition of just a little vinegar, which acts as a flavor enhancer.

YIELD: Serves 6 to 8


1 pound dried lentils, rinsed, drained and picked over

2½ quarts broth

4 carrots, peeled and diced

1 large onion, peeled and diced

1 large rib celery, diced

3 medium leeks, thoroughly washed and sliced

1 bay leaf

1½ cups chopped tomatoes

1 cup juice from tomatoes

2 to 3 tablespoons wine vinegar

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

4 scallions, washed and thinly sliced

DIRECTIONS: Place lentils, broth, vegetables and bay leaf in a large nonreactive pot.Bring to a boil, then simmer, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes or until lentils and vegetables are tender. Add tomatoes, juice and, if soup seems too thick, water as needed. Cook 10 minutes. Add vinegar and oil. Stir; cook over low flame 5 minutes more. Remove bay leaf and discard. Adjust seasoning. Garnish with scallions.