Soup! Glorious, Simple, Healthy Soup!

Yesterday afternoon I spent some lovely hours with a friend named Jill.  We make 3 different kinds of soup, watched football, and ate a digusting amount of pizza.  We might have sipped on some of the wine we used in the soup :)

The poor girl got in over her head with a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)!  Those are a great way to get fresh and seasonal produce, but if you don't stay on top of your share, you can find yourself with a fridge and counter full of alien-looking things that need some cooking asap.  So she called, I answered.  And we cooked!  For a single lady, she was able to put several, single-serving containers into her freezer and feel great about her lunches in the weeks ahead.  Yay!

We made Potato Leek Soup, Cream of Broccoli Soup, and Vegetable Beef Soup.  Today I happen to be making soup for dinner, so I'm throwing in that recipe as well.  Leftover Turkey Soup!

Potato Leek Soup

I kind of love Julia Child.  A teeny bit.  Ok, a lot.  This is a "Jill" version of her Potage Parmentier.  I make it without amounts or thought, but each time it's velvety and lovely.  The only way to write this recipe is in coversation style.

Take about a pound of leeks.  Trim off the root ends, trim off the dark green parts, and you're left with the white and light green parts which are tender.  Slice each leek lengthwise and then into 1/2 inch half circles.  Dump all of this into a large bowl of cold water and swirl it around.  Choose not to be digusted by the dirt and sand that settles to the bottom - thank goodness you're eating something that was grown in the dirt!  Rinse them off and let them dry a bit.

Get a soup pot going on the stove on low-medium.  Plop about three tablespoons of butter into the pot and when it's melted, add the leeks.  Add a bit of salt and pepper now, please. Let them soften and shimmy while you work on the potatoes.

Peel and cube about a pound of potatoes of which kind you are in charge of choosing.  I like Yukon Gold, but red, or russet or whatever you have will be just fine.  Add these to the leeks when things are soft in there.

Right away, you can pour in your liquid(s).  You need two quarts in total, and this can comprise of chicken stock, water, and/or vegetable stock.  Use a half-cup less than two quarts and this last half cup should be a nice white wine.  If you don't like wine or don't have it, I am sorry for you, but you can use all water and/or stock with fine results.  If you even dare reach for that nasty cooking wine from the grocery store, we need to talk.  Carry it over to the sink, pour it down the drain, put the bottle in your recycling bin and vow to never purchase the horrid salt-fermented grapes-preservatives-funk ever again.  Thank you.

Now that your liquids are in there, turn up the heat so it comes to a nice bubble.  Add some thyme, fresh if you have it, dried is ok.  Pinch in a bit more salt, lower that heat to a gentle simmer and cook until the potatoes are finished.  Test?  Take a small knife or fork and pierce the biggest one - did it crack or pierce easily?  Done.

At this point, if you have a handy dandy hand held immersion blender you can use that to puree your soup.  Otherwise, cool it a bit and run it through your blender in a couple batches.  When it's smooth and pretty, back in the pot it goes and this is the nice part - stir in some heavy cream.  If you think fat is bad, well then I'm sorry for you again.  But you can serve this soup without cream if you like.  Otherwise, use about a quarter cup of cream

Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper.  When you serve it, chives are nice to sprinkle on top.

Cream of Broccoli Soup

6 cups chopped broccoli (fresh or frozen is fine)
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
6 tablespoons flour
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups milk (I use whole)
2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
dash of nutmeg

Steam or boil the broccoli until it is very tender.  If you want to save the liquid from this and use in place of some of the chicken broth, great!  Set aside the broccoli.
In a soup pot, saute very gently the onions in the butter.  You want them soft, not browned.
Sprinkle the flour over the onions and stir until all the butter is absorbed.
Slowly add in the milk, whisking to keep it smooth. 
Add the chicken broth (or broccoli water).
Simmer for a few minutes to cook off the flour taste.  Add salt and pepper.
Add the broccoli and parsley to the pot, simmer for a few minutes.
At this point, you can serve it 'chunky' or you can blend it for a smooth soup.
Stir in the dash of nutmeg to your taste, and serve with a sprinkle more on top!

Vegetable Beef Soup

This one is WIDE open to variation.  Here's what Jill and I did:

1 pound ground beef, browned and set aside
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, smashed and chopped
4 stalks of celery, sliced
2 quarts of beef broth
4 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 purple-topped turnips, peeled and diced (try them, you'll like them!)
4 large carrots, sliced
4 roma tomatoes, chopped (a can of diced would be fine!)
Fresh oregano, about a palm full, chopped
Fresh parsley, a nice handful, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large soup pot, saute the onions, garlic and celery in the butter/oil.  When they are soft, add the beef broth and the potatoes, turnips, and carrots.  Season with some salt and pepper.  Bring to a simmer, and cook until the vegetables are mostly tender.
Add the tomatoes and herbs, the browned ground beef, and more salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer for 10 minutes or until it tastes good and all the flavors have done their magic. 
Serve this soup with crusty bread or popovers!  And a green salad at the end!

Leftover Turkey Soup

This is our dinner tonight.  Yesterday, I cooked a turkey breast in the crock pot with fingerling potatoes and carrots and some white wine.  My crew ate freely of it and put the pot in the fridge with the remains for me to figure out today.  Thankfully, there's plenty of meat, a bit of broth, and enough potatoes and carrots to chop up and make into a soup.

I'll add some home made chicken stock from my freezer.  And other good things.

First, I'll take a big soup pot and saute up some onions and garlic in a good amount of butter.  Then I'll sprinkle on some flour and let that shimmy and absorb.  I'll pour on my stock and a good splash of white wine.  When that is a bit thickened, I might add some whole milk and some more stock.  Husband prefers brothy over creamy, so I like to please him  :)  When the base looks right, I'll dump in the turkey, potatoes, carrots and probably a handful of chopped herbs.  My herb garden is still alive and thriving, so I'll likely use sage and thyme and parsley, all good for turkey.  Plenty of salt and pepper for flavor.  After 15 minutes of simmering, another taste will tell me if I need any more seasoning, a splash more wine or perhaps a splash of lemon juice to brighten up all the flavors. 

This pot of goodness will be served with home made biscuits and a green salad.  There should be enough left over for our lunch tomorrow.  That's the goal, anyway.

Enjoy your soups.  I think my next post ought to be about home made stock (broth) - right?
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