Lifestyle

Soul-soothing soup

Soups are a great way to get warm during the winter, and easy low fat recipes can help you get all the taste you’re looking for without the calories after the holiday season. - Chad Coleman/Staff Photo
Soups are a great way to get warm during the winter, and easy low fat recipes can help you get all the taste you’re looking for without the calories after the holiday season.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Staff Photo

After months of over-indulging in holiday foods containing an alarmingly high content of fat, sugar and carbohydrates, I’m ready to embrace a predominance of healthy eating. Longing to comfortably fit back into my favorite jeans is as much of a motivator as my desire to control my cholesterol levels. Like many of us, I’m kicking off 2011 with a commitment to maintain a healthy attitude and approach to eating. In order for that idealistic concept to be successful over time, we need food options that are low in fat and sugar, while still being big on taste and nutrition.

As I keep mentioning from time to time, I’m a big soup lover, more so than ever during these cold, dark months. Vegetarian soups are loaded with vitamins and minerals. Vegetarian dishes that eliminate the use of all dairy products are referred to as vegan, which also makes them easier to digest. Roasting the vegetables with oil intensifies their flavor with a depth that evolves as they caramelize. Roasting does add an extra step to these soup recipes, but I promise you it makes a significant difference in taste and is well worth the added effort and time.

I got the idea for these two recipes when I tasted similar ones at a favorite restaurant of mine called Poppy, located on the north end of Broadway in Capitol Hill. They served a pumpkin with cardamom soup that inspired me to prepare one substituting carrots for the pumpkin. Cardamom is an exotic and sweet spice in the ginger family that I love to use in both cooking and baking. It’s a common ingredient used in India, as well as Nordic countries, where it enhances Finnish and Scandinavian sweet breads. The Greeks also make scrumptious egg bread infused with cardamom.

The cauliflower and fennel taste in the following soup is quite subtle and even hard to identify if you’re not made aware beforehand. Coupled together, the cauliflower and fennel complement each other beautifully and equally share top billing.

Roasted Cauliflower and Fennel Soup

Serves 8+

Ingredients:

2 to 2½ pounds cauliflower

2 pounds fennel (approximately 2 medium to medium large bulbs)

3 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon salt (added prior to roasting)

4 cups vegetable broth

2 cups water

½ teaspoon salt (added after pureeing)

¼ teaspoon white pepper

Toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Fennel springs (chopped) for garnish

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wash and cut the cauliflower into small florets. Wash and trim by removing the fennel stems and cut the fennel bulbs into thick slices, then quarters. Save some of the wispy fennel sprigs to use as garnish. Place the cauliflower and fennel in a large roasting pan; toss with the olive oil and ½ teaspoon of salt. Roast for about 30 to 40 minutes, stirring a few times to make sure they’re roasting as evenly as possible. You want the vegetables to be very tender when inserted with the tip of sharp knife. Some of the vegetables will roast darker than others, which is perfectly fine.

Place the vegetable broth and two cups water in a soup pot over high heat; bring to a boil before reducing to medium low. (I recommend using the soup brand Imagine, which has come out with a new organic vegetable cooking stock that is very good.) Add the roasted vegetables to the stock. Deglaze the roasting pan by adding about ¾ of the stock and scraping any stuck-on roasted particles in the bottom of the pan; add the deglazed stock to the soup pot. Cover and cook on medium low for 30 minutes.

In small batches, filling a blender no more than halfway full for safety reasons, puree the soup until it’s completely smooth, for about 10 to 15 seconds. Pour each batch into a large, clean container. Rinse out the soup pot and return the pureed soup. Stir in the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon white pepper. Adjust the seasoning to your taste. If the soup consistency is thicker than you like, just add some water in small amounts one at a time to avoid over thinning. To serve, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and chopped sprigs of fennel.

Roasted Carrot with Cardamom Soup

Serves 8+

Ingredients:

2 pounds carrots

1 medium onion

3 tablespoons of olive oil

½ teaspoon salt (added before roasting)

4 cups vegetable broth

3 cups water

½ teaspoon salt (added after pureeing)

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

¼ teaspoon white pepper

Toasted sliced almonds for garnish

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wash, peel and trim the ends of the carrots. Cut into 2-inch slices. Peel the outer skin of the onion, slice and quarter the slices. Place the carrots and onions in a large roasting pan. Toss and evenly coat with olive oil and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Roast for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure they’re roasting evenly. The carrots should be very tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife.

Bring the soup stock and water to a boil over high heat before reducing to medium low. Place the carrots and onions in the stock. Deglaze the roasting pan by adding about ¾ of the stock and scraping the stuck on roasted particles in the bottom of the pan; add the deglazed stock to the soup pot. Stir in the ground cardamom, cover and cook for 35 to 40 minutes. In small batches, puree the soup mixture and pour into a clean container. Rinse out the soup pot and return the pureed soup. Add the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon white pepper. Adjust seasoning to your taste. Serve topped with toasted almond slices.

Enjoy, and happy, healthy 2011!

Cynthia Shifrin can be reached at (206) 232-3722 or cyns0117@aol.com.

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