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Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014 12:01 am

Hearty, not heavy

Leeks, onions, shallots and scallions make up the core of Creamy five lilies soup.
PHOTO BY NICK KOON/MCT

 

It’s that time of year again. Whether or not there’s a specific diet in your immediate future, if you’re like me, you’re ready for some lighter fare after holiday indulgences.

There’s just one problem. When cold winds howl through the pines, and sleet and snow abound, I want food that’s hearty and satisfying – dishes that will warm me right down to my toes. Here are three soups that are satisfyingly hearty and filling. But their rich mouth-feel comes primarily from puréed vegetables rather than butter or cream.

I created this recipe for a low-carbohydrate cooking class I gave several years ago. The name is a bit misleading; the onion genus Allium used to be classified in the Liliaceae family. It’s been reclassified as part of the Amaryllidaceae family. Regardless of what you call it, the soup’s velvety texture makes it hard to believe that it contains no cream. The Fricos (aka Parmesan crisps) are easy to make, and add a crouton-like crunch. They also make a good snack all by themselves.

Creamy five lilies soup

  • 6 T. unsalted butter, divided
  • 4 c. sliced yellow or white onions, not super-sweet
  • 1/2 c. sliced shallots
  • 12 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 4 c. chicken stock, or other stock such as beef or vegetable, unsalted or low sodium
  • 2 c. leeks, white part only, thinly sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper (preferably white) to taste
  • Thinly sliced scallions
  • 12 Parmesan crisps, see below


In a large skillet, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat and stir in the onions, shallots and garlic. Cover the pan and let the vegetables sweat until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes.

Uncover the pan, reduce the heat, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are golden brown and caramelized, 15-30 minutes.

Add the stock to the pan and stir the bottom to scrape up any browned bits. Purée the mixture in a blender, food processor or with a hand-held blender until creamy. Be sure the mixture is not hot if using a blender or food processor – it can “explode” with the heat.

Melt the remaining butter in the skillet and add the leeks. Cover the pan and let them sweat until translucent, then uncover the pan and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until they are softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Return the puréed mixture to the skillet, season to taste with salt and pepper, and heat through. Serve in soup bowls, sprinkled with the sliced scallions and with the crisps on the side. Serves 6.

Parmesan crisps (frico)

  • About 1 c. coarsely grated Parmesan or aged Asiago cheese


Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle a heaping tablespoon of the grated cheese in a lacy circle. When lightly browned and set, remove to a paper towel. Repeat with the remaining cheese. Makes about 12 crisps.

The original recipe for this bisque called for heavy cream. Fortunately, it tastes just as rich and satisfying using thick Greek-style yogurt instead. Just be sure that once the yogurt is added, the mixture is not allowed to boil.

Butternut squash and apple bisque

  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 3-4 tart apples such as Jonathon or Granny Smith
  • 1 T. butter
  • 1 1/2 c. thinly sliced leeks (white part only) or onions
  • 6 c. chicken stock, plus additional if needed
  • 1 c. thick Greek-style yogurt
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste


Optional garnishes:

  • Thinly sliced scallions
  • Croutons
  • Minced fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, marjoram
  • Fried sage leaves
  • Crisply fried crumbled bacon
  • Crumbled blue cheese
  • Diced fresh apple


Peel the squash and scoop out the seeds. Cut into 1-inch chunks. You should have about 6 cups. Butternut squash vary a lot in size, so if you have less, cut back proportionately on the other ingredients. Peel, and core the apples and cut into chunks.

In a large Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the leeks or onions, stir to coat, and cover the pan. Sweat the leeks until they are softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the squash and apples and pour in the chicken stock.

Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan, and cook for 20-30 minutes, or until the squash and apples are completely cooked.

Purée the mixture with a hand-held blender, food processor, blender or food mill. (Important note: Cool the mixture to warm before using a blender or food processor – hot ingredients can “explode” in them.)

Return the mixture to the pan over low heat, whisk in the yogurt, and season to taste with the salt and freshly ground pepper. Do not let the soup boil once the yogurt has been added. Serve the soup with or without garnishes, as desired.

(Note: This bisque lends itself well to several variations. Add a tablespoon of minced fresh ginger or ginger juice and/or a tablespoon of curry powder. Or sauté up to 2 tablespoons minced sage, rosemary, thyme, marjoram or winter savory, either singly or in combinations, with the leeks.) Serves 6-8.

Caldo Verde (literally, “green soup”) is virtually the national dish of Portugal. Its depth of flavor makes it seem as if the soup had been slowly simmered for hours, but it’s actually put together in minutes with just a few ingredients. Traditionally it is made with potatoes, and I have to admit that I like it best that way; even so, it’s wonderfully warming and delicious made with the cauliflower.

Caldo verde

  • Portuguese soup with potatoes (or cauliflower), greens and sausage
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 12 oz. Portugese choriço or Spanish chorizo or Cajun andouille sausage or garlicky Polish or smoked sausage, diced (if not using the Portuguese or Spanish sausages, add 2 teaspoons paprika, preferably smoked, and hot pepper flakes to taste, optional)
  • 8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 qt. water or chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 lb. boiling (red skinned) potatoes, unpeeled, cut into chunks or 3-4 cups bite-sized pieces of cauliflower
  • 1 lb. kale
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Olive oil for garnish, optional


In a large soup kettle, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the sausage and sauté for a couple of minutes. Remove the sausage and reserve.

Add the garlic (and the paprika and pepper flakes, if using) to the pan and sauté until softened but not browned.

Add the water or stock, and the potatoes (or cauliflower) and simmer until the potatoes are cooked, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove the thick stems from the kale and discard. Stack the kale leaves and finely shred. Add the kale and sausage to the potato mixture and simmer until the kale is tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Gently mash the potatoes (or cauliflower) in the soup. They should not be a smooth purée; there should still be small chunks. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let stand for at least 15 minutes before serving, then reheat if necessary. Drizzle a little olive oil into each soup bowl as a garnish. Serves 6 with leftovers.

Contact Julianne Glatz at realcuisine.jg@gmail.com.

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