Oh baby it’s cold outside and nothing warms up a numb body better than a steaming hot bowl of soup. Purée of vegetable soup is an easy recipe made with ingredients typically found in a well-stocked pantry and refrigerator. Canned tomatoes, canned or fresh cannellini beans, onions, carrots and celery make up the foundation for this hearty soup. The additional ingredients, like herbs, spices and other vegetables, add extra body and flavor for a bright tasting vegetable soup with great depth of flavor.
My original intention was to create a hearty tomato soup recipe. I love tomato soup, especially when paired with a grilled cheese sandwich. Essentially, I did develop a tomato soup, but one with a blended flavor of tomatoes, aromatics and legumes. As a result, compared to a traditional tomato soup, the tomato flavor is less pronounced. I found the generous amount of mixed vegetables softens the tomato flavor, creating a hearty and fresh tasting blend of garden delights.
I love living where there are four distinct seasons, but during this dark and chilly winter, I sometimes need a reminder of the sunny and warm days to come. These short days with harsh and biting temperatures can make a person feel sad and extra hungry. Do you find your appetite increases during the winter? Mine does. I believe the body needs extra calories to maintain a normal body temperature. That is my theory but some scientists disagree.
If you find you are always craving something extra during the winter, instead of reaching for a bunch of crackers, or cookies, make a bowl of vegetable soup. Not only will it provide sustenance and warm you up, the bright color and taste will lighten your winter mood and give hope for the spring days to come.
Warming winter foods:
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Whenever I try a new food or learn a new trick I like to share it with you on my blog. This week I discovered a winter squash I never had before, kabocha squash. It is a gnarly looking green winter squash like a small pumpkin, and tastes like a blend of sweet potato and pumpkin. Kabocha is sweet and dense like a sweet potato, but with as silkier texture. Compared to a sugar pumpkin, it has a deeper burnt orange color, smoother texture, and a richer sweet squash flavor. It is not a new variety, but one that is gaining in popularity throughout the US. Like most winter squashes, you can substitute Kabocha in most recipes using winter squash.
My curiosity was piqued after reading a recipe for Red Curry Ginger Squash Soup. In the recipe the author described Kabocha squash as the sweetest of winter squashes available. Of course, I had to test her statement and bought it to make her soup. This soup is made up of some of my favorite flavor combinations, Thai red curry paste, coconut milk, fresh ginger, and lemongrass. I have a weakness for Thai coconut curries and love stews and soups made with them. With that in mind, I knew this soup recipe is a winner.
Red Curry Ginger Squash Soup comes from Meyers and Chang At Home, by Joanne Chang and Karen Akunowicz. This is a wonderful cookbook featuring dishes from the restaurant Meyers and Chang in Boston’s South End neighborhood. The book is filled with amazing recipes celebrating Taiwanese food and Joanne Chang’s Taiwanese American heritage. For their ginger curry soup recipe, they recommend using one of three different winter squashes, with Kabocha high on their list. I found soup is a great meal to make when trying an unfamiliar vegetable. In the event you are not totally in love with the flavor, it is easier to doctor-up soup into something preferable. Fortunately, kabocha’s flavor satisfied like I thought it would, and required no doctoring. The rich and sweet flavor, and silky texture of the kabocha was perfect with the fresh ginger and Thai curry paste. This soup is giving my all-time favorite pumpkin soup some competition.
This is an easy soup to make, but there are a couple of considerations.
How to peel Kabocha squash 2 ways
Like a lot of winter squash, Kabocha has a very tough outer skin. Peeling off the skin is tricky. You need a good cutting board and sturdy surface, and a sharp chef’s knife.
First, cut the kabocha squash in half, then pull the two sides apart. Then scoop out the seeds like you would for a pumpkin. Scrape out as many stringy strands too. Once cleaned, cut each half into 3 or 4 wedges depending on how big your kabocha is. Finally, lay each wedge on its side with the skin facing out, and run your knife down along the outer side, slicing along the curve of the wedge.
The alternative method is to roast the Kabocha then slice away the peel. First, cut the kabocha in half, scoop out the seeds, then slice in wedges like the method above. Place the wedges on a sheet pan. Drizzle a little olive oil over the kabocha wedges and sprinkle with some Kosher salt. Place the sheet pan in a pre-heated 400°F/ 204°C oven. Roast the squash until the flesh is very tender, about 40 minutes to an hour. Using a spoon or a knife, scoop or cut out the flesh away from the peel. This method cooks and peels the vegetable at the same time.
More delicious Asian Cuisine inspired recipes:
Tips for making Kabocha Coconut Curry Soup
The other consideration is keeping the coconut milk from separating or curdling. This happens when the coconut milk reaches a certain temperature and the proteins that link the fat to the water change shape, denaturing of the protein, and no longer stay emulsified. It is a natural process and does not cause coconut milk to go bad. It just looks unappetizing. To prevent the coconut milk from curdling it is important to make sure the coconut milk is at room temperature and the ingredients in the pot are not boiling. I work at controlling the temperature, so the coconut milk stays emulsified and smooth. Stirring the soup helps with this as well.
While making this soup, I lowered the temperature after the kabocha became tender and mushy. Then I let the liquids in the pot cool down to barely a simmer. Once the soup cooled, but remained warm, I added the coconut milk while stirring constantly until the coconut milk incorporated. Once the coconut milk is added, the soup needs to cook for an additional 30 minutes. It is important to control the soup’s temperature, so it does not boil. I slightly turned up the heat to a low simmer and continued to stir the soup at regular intervals.
I have yet to determine if Kabocha is the sweetest of winter squashes around, but I am eager to continue testing that theory. My next kabocha adventure might be adding it in my pumpkin pie recipe, or my sweet potato cake recipe. What is your favorite Kabocha or winter squash recipe? Let me know in the comments section below the recipe.
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© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Broccoli. Spinach. Fresh herbs. These three ingredients are all that is needed to develop a nutritious and velvety smooth soup. No fat. No diary. Just vegetables and fresh herbs. It doesn’t get any purer and simpler than this. What I am talking about, is broccoli soup with spinach and mint. This broccoli soup recipe is deliciously satisfying, and so wonderfully smooth you won’t believe there is no added cream. Broccoli soup with spinach and mint is also the easiest soup that I have ever made.
This recipe is from the cookbook, Fresh Happy Tasty: An Adventure in 100 Recipes by Jane Coxwell. I love this cookbook. The recipes are inventive, not complicated to make, and Jane likes to enhance the flavor of her food with a lot of fresh herbs. Jane Coxwell is the personal chef to Diane von Furstenberg aboard her sailing yacht. She gets to sail around the world, shop at international seaport markets, and cook delicious food for Diane von Furstenberg and the boat’s crew. The photographs of the food and markets are sunny with vibrant colors, and Jane always has a laughing smile on her face.
If you have never made soup before and want to try, this is the soup recipe for you. Most soups begin with a base sometimes called mirepoix or sofrito. They usually consist of celery, carrots and onions that are sautéed until softened. Mirepoix is the bodybuilder for stews, soups and some regional foods. However, this broccoli soup does not have it or need it. Broccoli is the base, spinach mellows the broccoli and contributes to the smooth texture, and the fresh herbs add interest. All the ingredients contribute to the soups bright and pure flavor. If you love broccoli and spinach, then you will love this soup.
Keys to Success Making Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint
The number one key to success is all about the blending. You will need special equipment to make broccoli soup with spinach and mint. The original recipe specifies using a blender, but I do not own one. I have made this recipe at different times using a food processor or an immersion blender. Both appliances worked with excellent results. My advice is to be patient, and keep at it. The whole blending process will take time. Just when you think you are done blending, blend some more. Later when you think you are done, blend some more. As you continue to whirl, the soup will become thicker, velvety smooth and develops an amazing bright green color. I have never been to Ireland, but I imagine the soup is the color of Ireland’s grassy emerald fields.
Another key to success comes from the secondary ingredient, the spinach. I believe the raw spinach, along with the blending, is responsible for creating the luxurious texture. Broccoli alone will not blend so smoothly because of its own texture. Understand that if you substitute the spinach with other leafy green vegetables like chard, it might taste great, but omitting the spinach will create a completely different soup.
This is a minor suggestion: I cut off the stems of the raw spinach before it is added the blender or food processor. Sometimes, even baby spinach leaves can have stringy stems.
What to serve with Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint:
Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint pairs beautifully with goat cheese and olives. If you are lucky enough to have access to a delicious olive rosemary bread, toast it and spread it with creamy goat cheese.
Or, make croutons with the olive rosemary bread and garnish the soup with the croutons and a drizzle of yogurt or crème fraîche.
Additionally, any open face melty cheese sandwich made with crusty bread is yummy with soup.
We like to serve broccoli soup with spinach and mint for dinner smorgasbord style. Accompanied with grilled herb marinated chicken breasts, marinated artichokes, olives, goat cheese, and toasted bread. Joe refers to this type of meal as, “Soup and Stuff” and is one of his favorite dinners.
Anything salty, crunchy, tangy, creamy is divine served with broccoli soup with spinach and mint. Enjoy!
© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
I am feeling overwhelmed with all the leftover food from Thanksgiving. Add that on top of all the food I made testing recipes for the blog, my refrigerator is stuffed to capacity. I will feel counterproductive if the food goes to waste. Ultimately, it is a difficult task for two people to be solely responsible for consuming these large quantities of leftovers. I am humble enough to realize the big picture, too much food is not really a problem. Yet, I can feel the spiritual “Waste not, Want not” glare from my parents singeing me. Plus, my freezer is full.
One benefit of having too much food is I do not have to go out to the grocery store and shop. As long I have a surplus of pantry staples, I can make whatever I desire. Today is a soup kind of day and I am hoping making an impromptu soup for myself and Joe will help me eat up some of this food.
There is no need to follow a recipe for an impromptu soup. Just follow your instinct, desire, and what is in your refrigerator. It is easy to make soup without a recipe. Simply, keep in mind these three layers: the base, the body, and the enhancements. The base is your stock. The body is the ingredients, “fixings,” you want to put in the soup such as meats, vegetables, and grains. The enhancements are the herbs and spices. They give your soup that je ne sais quoi, add depth, and additional flavor to your impromptu pantry soup.
I decided to make turkey soup for lunch using up my homemade turkey stock, cooked turkey, celery, mushrooms, ginger and basil. All ingredients were available and needed to be used up. I added some lemon zest, crushed ginger root and fresh basil leaves to liven up the flavor of the turkey stock. It is not a necessary step, but it did add a zippy layer of flavor to contrast the rich turkey stock.
How to make soup without a recipe:
Start with your base, the stock. Homemade stock is best, but if store-bought stock is all you have then go for it. I always say to use what you got. Making soup is an easy way to use up the container of store-bought stock. Vegetable, chicken or turkey stock is a great base with most soups. If you are using store-bought stock, taste it before you season with salt. Use as much stock as you need to feed yourself and or your companion(s), about 1 1/2 cups to 2 cups of stock per person. This will depend on what type of soup you are making and how hungry you are.
I wanted to make enough soup for myself and my husband, with no leftovers, and used 3 cups of stock.
Enhance the stock to the flavors you desire. This is the optional phase of impromptu cooking and depends on your time, what’s available, and your mood. If you have fresh herbs or spices and you want the flavor to be layered within the stock, add a sprig of a herb or two and let it steep in the stock.
I added some lemon zest, crushed ginger root and a sprig of basil. I steeped the herbs for 30 minutes, then strained out the herbs with a fine mesh strainer lined with cheese cloth.
Optional ingredients: garlic, fresh herbs like rosemary, sage, dill, cilantro, parsley, lemongrass, ginger, chili paste, white wine, coconut milk, lemon zest, lemon juice, lime zest, lime juice, sherry just to name a few.
Tip: While you are heating up the stock, be careful to prevent the soup from boiling. Boiling will make the stock cloudy.
Add the body, the “fixings”. The fixings can be vegetables or proteins, like cooked chicken, pork or shrimp, or a combination of the two. If cooked rice, potatoes and pasta are available they can be great additions as well. This is a pantry soup so add whatever you want to use up in your fridge or freezer, and believe will taste well together. The amount of each ingredient is up to you. Yet, keep in mind there should be more broth then the fixings, because it is soup not stew.
If you have fresh vegetables cook them first by sautéing them, such as onions, celery, carrots or mushrooms. Or blanch vegetables like green beans, sugar snap peas, asparagus, broccoli, spinach, escarole. Frozen vegetables do not need to be defrosted before adding them to your soup stock.
I had some mushrooms, celery, scallions and cooked turkey to use up and added them all. First, I sautéed the celery until softened then added the mushrooms and minced ginger. Once they were all cooked, I added the turkey to heat through. Then I added the cooked ingredients to the soup stock and garnished with scallions and basil.
Assemble and heat through. Put all the prepared and cooked fixings in the stock and heat up. Now you have a simple and delicious soup for lunch or dinner. It is a savvy soup using food from your refrigerator and pantry, and done in 30 minutes or less. A simple process that will get your culinary creative juices flowing and your taste-buds happy.
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