When the produce at your local store, farmers market or your own garden is at its peak, it’s time to make fresh vegetables the star of your meal.
It’s time to make summertime soups.
In the summer, you want to make the most out of your produce by bringing out its flavor in the most pure and natural way. The fewer adornments, the less complexity, the better. Other flavors should not distract you from the garden-fresh goodness of your bounty.
As an added benefit, simple flavors usually come from simple cooking techniques.
In other words, summertime soups are both delicious and easy to make. Win-win.
Beet-Fennel-Ginger Soup. (Hillary Levin/St. Louis Post Dispatch/TNS)
2 1/2 cups red beets, peeled and chopped
4 cups chopped cabbage
2 cups chopped fennel
1 garlic clove, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped ginger
8 cups vegetable stock, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup nonfat yogurt
2 tablespoons chopped fennel sprigs
Combine the beets, cabbage, fennel, garlic, ginger and 6 cups of the stock in a large soup pot and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes.
Strain the soup through a large mesh sieve. Puree the vegetables in 1 cup of the heated broth in a food processor or blender until smooth (you may have to do this in batches). Add the remaining heated broth, and blend. If the soup is not of a pourable consistency, add some of the remaining 2 cups of broth until it reaches your desired texture.
Chill at least 2 hours before serving. Season with salt and pepper. Serve in chilled bowls, if desired, with yogurt and fennel sprigs. Makes 8 servings.
(Adapted from “Healthy Cooking” by At Home with the Culinary Institute of America.)
ASPARAGUS AND SHIITAKE MUSHROOM SOUP
1 pound fresh asparagus
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon water
4 stalks celery, chopped
2 medium leeks, white part only, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
Salt and pepper
6 cups chicken stock
7 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
Fill a large bowl with ice and water, and set aside. Bring 3 quarts of salted water to a boil.
Snap the woody stem off each stalk of asparagus, and reserve. Lightly peel half the number of stalks. Chop the reserved ends and the remaining unpeeled asparagus into 1/4-inch pieces. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed. Blanch the peeled asparagus in the boiling water. Do not overcook; the asparagus should be cooked yet remain crisp. Transfer the blanched asparagus to the ice water.
When the blanched asparagus is cool, cut into 3/4-inch pieces. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.
Remove and chop the mushroom stems. Slice and reserve the caps.
Heat the vegetable oil and water in a large saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the chopped (1/4-inch) asparagus, mushroom stems, celery, leeks and onions. Season with salt and pepper and saute until the onions are translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.
While the chicken stock is heating, melt the butter in a separate large saucepan over low heat. Add the flour to make a roux and cook, stirring constantly, until the roux bubbles, 6 to 8 minutes. Strain 4 cups boiling stock into the roux and whisk vigorously until smooth. Add the remaining stock and vegetables. Whisk until well combined. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Purée in a blender or a food processor. Strain into a 5-quart saucepan and return to low heat. Hold at a simmer for a few minutes while completing the recipe (Note: If you are not going to serve the soup within 1 hour, do not complete the next step until ready to serve; otherwise, the delicate flavor and color of the asparagus will be dissipated).
Heat the cream, sliced shiitakes and 3/4-inch asparagus pieces in a nonstick sauté pan over medium heat. When hot, add to the soup and adjust the seasoning. Serve immediately. (This soup may be held hot in a double boiler for up to 1 hour.) Makes 8 servings.
(Recipe from “The Trellis Cookbook” by Marcel Desaulniers.)
Cream of Zucchini and Almond Soup. (Hillary Levin/St. Louis Post Dispatch/TNS)
CREAM OF ZUCCHINI AND ALMOND SOUP
6 tablespoons onion, minced
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/3 cups zucchini, sliced thin
2 tablespoons slivered almonds
5 cups chicken stock
2 1/2 tablespoons ground almonds, see note
2/3 cup half-and-half or heavy cream
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Note: You can use almond butter for ground almonds. If you don’t have it, grind slivered almonds in a spice grinder or chop small and grind with a mortar and pestle.
Saute onions in butter until soft. Add zucchini and slivered almonds. Cook, stirring for 3 minutes (zucchini should not be barely tender, not limp). Add chicken stock and simmer for 15 minutes. Add ground almonds. Simmer 10 minutes. Stir in cream, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Heat thoroughly. Makes 8 servings.
(Adapted from “Marshall Field’s Gourmet: A Taste of Tradition.”)
Sweet Pea Soup. (Hillary Levin/St. Louis Post Dispatch/TNS)
SWEET PEA SOUP
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
4 (1-inch) slices sweet red bell pepper
1 carrot, peeled and sliced thin
4 cups chicken, ham or vegetable stock
2 cups frozen or fresh peas
Salt, to taste
Crispy bacon, optional
Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, red pepper and carrot. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add stock and simmer 5 minutes. Add peas and cook until peas are heated through, 1 minute for frozen and 3 to 5 minutes for fresh. Add salt to taste. Puree in a blender until smooth. Serve with croutons and crumbled bacon, if desired. Makes 4 servings.
(Adapted from “Vita-Mix Recipes for Better Living.”)
— Tribune News Service