Foodist Approved: Tuscan Red Lentil Soup with Kale and Farro

by | Jan 15, 2014
Red lentil soup with kale and farro

Red lentil soup with kale and farro

This past week has been a pinch hectic as my husband and I closed on our first house and are getting ready to move.

Dinners had to be quick and easy with minimal cleanup, meaning one-pot meals instead of my usual nightly disaster in the kitchen (which always keeps my husband busy scrubbing). But into those single pots I also needed to fit a lot of healthy goodness, as I’ve been extra hungry lately (have I mentioned that I’m pregnant!!).

My best concoction from the week was a creamy, hearty soup that I loved so much, I made it twice. This recipe takes less than fifteen minutes to throw together and then you can just sit back with a glass of wine and enjoy the smells while it simmers (no wine for me!).

I got lucky with how good this soup turned out as I was actually just trying to use up a few random ingredients in our pantry. I found a bag of red lentils that had been sitting neglected for a while. I like how red lentils take on a creamy texture when cooked in a broth. They’re perfect for thickening a soup and they add a healthy dose of protein and fiber.

I tossed in a cup of farro to make it a meal. That, combined with the kale, made this a one-pot meal loaded with both nutrition and flavor.

It also makes for a delicious vegan soup (there is no actual cream in this creamy soup). Simply use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and skip the sprinkle of parmesan.

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For the Love of Food

by | Oct 25, 2013
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week the nutrition of raw vs cooked veggies, the tremendous benefits of sleep for health, and how personal values motivate your food choices.

Want to see all my favorite links? (There’s lots more). Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato,  Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (And yes, I took that pepper heart pic myself).

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Foodist Approved: Immune-Boosting 8-Vegetable Minestrone

by | Oct 16, 2013
8-Vegetable Minestrone

8-Vegetable Minestrone

Cold weather is ahead and that means all the good things that come with it. Cozy fires, hot chocolate, comfy sweaters, and holiday parties.

Oh, and flu season.

But fret not. Darya and I are here to help you stay healthy all fall and winter long. A recent post of hers contains ten great tips on how to avoid getting sick. And my recipe for a hearty, healthy homemade soup will help you nail her #9: Eat well.

For years I’ve been working to perfect the recipe for my Immune-Boosting 8-Vegetable Minestrone. I love the result.

This isn’t your average minestrone with some beans and a few wimpy vegetables floating in some tasteless broth. My minestrone alone is a complete meal. It satisfies like a bowl of your favorite hearty pasta, and in addition to eight different fresh veggies this soup includes whole-wheat penne, cannellini beans, spicy chicken sausage (optional), and a sprinkle of Parmesan. Even better, it is easy to make and hard to mess up.

Ready to beat cold and flu season? Don an apron and dust off your pots and pans. It’s a lot of vegetables to chop, but enlist the help of a friend and you’ll both benefit from the big batch of soup this recipe makes. It’s so good you can eat it multiple nights in a row, or freeze the leftovers and enjoy a quick, healthy dinner at a later date.

Enjoy!
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For The Love Of Food

by | Jan 20, 2012

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

There are certainly some must reads this week, including Ruth Reichl’s speech from the Good Food Awards about how the food landscape has changed (for the better) in America. I also found an excellent discussion of the Paula Deen fiasco, and a handful of studies showing exercise is even more awesome than we knew.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Digg. I also share links on Twitter (@summertomato), Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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Spicy Carrot Ginger Soup With Lemon

by | Sep 15, 2010
Spicy Carrot Ginger Soup With Lemon

Spicy Carrot Ginger Soup With Lemon

Last weekend I bought some amazing, gnarly looking chantenay carrots from the San Francisco Ferry Plaza farmers market. When I found them at Tierra Vegetables they were just begging me to turn them into soup. I rose to the challenge, but first I had a few problems to solve.

Usually when I eat or make carrot soup it is in one of two styles. It can come either curried, warm and spicy, or gingered with hints of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. While I love these soups, they feel a little too much like fall and winter for me to get excited about them when summer in SF is just starting.

I didn’t want a soup that is warm and wintery, I wanted a carrot soup that is bright and summery.

To achieve this I started with carrot and ginger, but add a twist. Rather than spicing the soup with cinnamon and other fall flavors I added tumeric and a few Thai chili peppers to give it color, flavor and some heat. Then I brightened it up with lemon juice and preserved lemons. The soup is finished with crème fraîche, scallions, ginger flowers and lemon-scented olive oil.

To my delight this soup turned out amazing and unlike anything I had ever tasted. And it was exactly what I wanted. If you don’t have preserved lemons, I’m sure zest would produce a similar effect. Likewise, you can swap a serrano pepper for the Thai peppers and sour cream for crème fraîche. Ginger flowers and lemon oil are just bonus.

To blend the soup I used my new Cuisinart immersion blender (aka hand or stick blender), and I was very pleased with the result. I’m really happy about this because the Cuisinart is half the price of the Braun blender I used to use.

You can make the soup in a regular blender if you do not have an immersion blender.

Spicy Carrot Ginger Soup With Lemon

Ingredients:

  • 3 chantenay carrots or 5-6 regular carrots, peeled and cut into half inch slices
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1 inch fresh ginger root, grated
  • 2-3 Thai chilies or 1 serrano chili, chopped and seeded (optional)
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1 qt vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 lemon juiced (and zest if desired)
  • 1/2 tbsp preserved lemon strips
  • Crème fraîche
  • Scallions
  • 1 tbsp butter or olive oil
  • salt to taste

Heat butter or oil in a heavy bottomed soup pot and add onions. Saute until they become translucent then add the carrots, half the ginger, peppers and tumeric and cook until carrots are tender, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. If the vegetables start to brown, lower the heat.

When the carrots are soft add broth and bring to a boil. Simmer until the carrots are very tender and can easily be cut with a fork, about 10 minutes. Remove soup from heat, add the rest of the ginger and preserved lemons and blend until smooth, about 5 minutes. Add water as needed to thin the soup. I ended up adding 2 full cups.

If you are using a regular blender, be very very careful when blending hot liquids. Only fill the blender half full and blend in batches, holding the lid down with a kitchen towel. I’ve had many steaming soups explode and burn me, and it is not fun. That’s why I love my hand blender.

At this point you can filter the soup through a fine mesh strainer if you like, but I prefer to keep all the fiber in the soup and simply blend it very well. The texture is rich and silky this way, but will be thinner if you filter it.

Whisk in lemon juice and adjust salt to taste. Ladle hot soup into a bowl and garnish with crème fraîche, scallions and lemon oil.

This makes a fairly large batch of soup. However, carrot soup freezes extraordinarily well so feel free to freeze a couple pints for later. The soup will keep 3-4 days in the refrigerator.

What is your favorite way to make carrot soup?

Originally published Sept 7, 2009.

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How To Get Started Eating Healthy: Stock Your Freezer

by | Apr 15, 2009
Rice Balls

Rice Balls

There are many places you can turn when you’re feeling lazy or are too busy to cook a fresh meal, but instead of reaching for the take-out menu I prefer to turn to my freezer. For one thing, even the taqueria directly downstairs from my apartment cannot whip up something as quickly as I can. And their grilled veggie burrito (not to mention the carne asada burrito!) is substantially more expensive than anything I would make–I’m sure you can guess which is healthier too.

(This post is part four of the series How To Get Started Eating Healthy. Part one is Stock Your Pantry, part two is Essential Groceries and part three is Seasonal Shopping.)

Your freezer is an invaluable resource for storing foods that are best made in large batches. Frozen fruits and vegetables from the grocery store can also come in handy when you are in a pinch. Below is my personal list of freezer essentials, but please add your own in the comments and tell us how you use them:

  • Frozen rice balls The single most essential item in my freezer is my giant bag of frozen brown rice balls. When I first explained the best way to make rice, I mentioned that I prefer to make a large batch and freeze it in individual servings. This is a trick I learned from a former housemate that always cooked traditional Japanese food (thanks Kiyoshi!). He used white rice, but I think this method is even more valuable for whole, intact grains since they are not particularly easy to integrate into your meals unless you make them yourself. Whole grains take quite a while to cook, but if you make a lot and freeze them you only need to cook grains occasionally. In addition to rice, you can also freeze other grains like barley and steel cut oatmeal.
  • Cooked legumes To know me is to know that I love beans and lentils. Legumes are some of the healthiest food you can eat, and are among the best sources of protein on the planet. The only problem is they can take a long time to cook. Lentils cook pretty quickly (~20 minutes), but I like to make beans in large batches in the pressure cooker and freeze the rest in 1-2 tupperware containers that I thaw at my leisure. Lentils can be frozen as well.
  • Green legumes In addition to beans I have cooked myself, I also keep a stock of shelled, frozen soy beans and petite green peas in the freezer. These cook in just a few minutes and are delicious tossed with nuts, garlic and fresh herbs. My recipe needs some serious updating, but if you want an example of what I mean check out my Edamame and Peas Quick Fix.
  • Frozen fruit I always have a few bags of frozen wild organic blueberries for the days I run out of fresh fruit for my cereal. They thaw pretty fast (sometimes I put them in the microwave for 30 seconds) and are pretty tasty. They are great in oatmeal and pancakes as well.
  • Walnuts I keep my walnuts in the freezer to prevent the unstable omega-3 fatty acids from going rancid. Other nuts likely store well in the freezer too but tend to be more stable at room temperature than walnuts, which are particularly high in omega-3s.
  • Soups I love soup and cook it often. If you have ever browsed through James Peterson’s book Splendid Soups, you know why. The problem with soup is there is only one of me and the recipes tend to serve at least 4 people. Unless you want to eat the same thing all week long, freezing your left overs is your best bet. An added bonus is that you end up with a freezer filled with your favorite creations that can be eaten on lazy days.
  • Bread I do not eat bread often, but love to have it in the house just in case. But I never buy regular, sliced grocery store bread that is full of preservatives, dough conditioners and other bizarre ingredients that belong in the lab. Instead, I like to go to my local bakery (Acme or Tartine), get a fresh loaf, cut it up into single servings and freeze it in gallon freezer bags. You would be shocked at how nicely frozen bread reheats in an oven set to 325. Alternatively you can take it out a day early and thaw it in the fridge.
  • Meat Most of you already know that meat stores well in the freezer, but you can also store scraps and bones to make your own stock. Conveniently, you can also freeze your homemade stock.
  • Sauces During the summertime my local markets are practically giving away basil. It is such a wonderful herb, I cannot help making big batches of pesto all season. Leftover sauces can be frozen and taken out in winter when your favorite flavors are harder to find.
  • Spices I have recently started grinding my own spices, but like many things it is easier to do it in large batches. Extra spices store well in sealed containers in the freezer.

Your freezer is a great resource and I encourage you to be creative. It can make healthy eating much easier by giving you quick access to healthy foods, and also spares you from monotony when you cook in large batches.

How else can your freezer help you eat healthy?

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North African Couscous With Beans and Cauliflower

by | Mar 16, 2009

Moroccan cauliflower stewA little over a month ago I published a recipe for a warming Moroccan vegetable tagine. As would be expected from a tagine, the recipe (modified from Mark Bittman’s blog Bitten) contained dried fruit and was spiced almost like a dessert (with cloves and cinnamon) but with a rich, savory undertone.

Last week I tried a thinner, spicier variety of North African soup. Again from the New York Times, this stew was loaded with beans and vegetables and is served on a bed of spiced couscous. More brothy than the tagine, this recipe packs a unique heat that gives it a completely different feel from its richer, sweeter counterpart.

Since North African cuisine is unfamiliar to most Americans, it is my pleasure to showcase its delicious versatility.

I changed the recipe slightly from the original version, mainly in the interest of time. Personally I have no patience for beans to cook, so I used a pressure cooker then added the beans to the soup later rather than cooking them in the broth itself (which takes hours). To replace the bean soaking water that the recipe calls for, I substitute 1 qt chicken (or vegetable or beef) stock and some of the bean cooking liquid. In my opinion, this change does not have a big impact on the flavor. It may even improve it.

Also, after following the original recipe I thought the soup tasted a little dull. I rescued it with the juice of a Meyer lemon, which really highlighted the depth of spice and flavor in the dish.

I made my harissa from a powdered mix I bought a few weeks ago from Tierra Vegetables at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. They told me it is the one used at Chez Panisse (when on the menu). I know, I’m spoiled rotten.

I will provide a recipe here for making your own. If you have a blender or food processor, the recipe is not terribly difficult to follow. You will make more than you need for one soup, but you can freeze the rest indefinitely. It is a wonderful spicy sauce that is great on meats or in stews. I realize that making harissa is a little intimidating, but it is amazingly delicious and is definitely worth the extra work. It really isn’t that hard either.

Alternatively, Whole Foods and other specialty stores often carry pre-made harissa.

North African Couscous With Beans and Cauliflower

Harissa:

  • 6 dried ancho chilies
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed and minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 ripe tomato, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 0.25 – 0.5 cup olive oil

Gently rinse chilies or wipe off dust with a damp cloth. Remove and discard the seeds and tops of the chilies and soak them in hot water for half an hour. Discard the soaking water, cut up the chilies and place them in a blender with all other ingredients except the olive oil. Blend into a smooth paste. Remove the paste from the blender and slowly mix olive oil into the mixture. DO NOT overwork the olive oil, it can become very bitter if you are not careful with it.

Stew Ingredients:

  • 1 large cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
  • 2 cups dried white beans, soaked in 2 qts water overnight
  • 1 qt chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup frozen petite peas, thawed
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds (or 0.5 tsp ground)
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds (or 0.5 tsp ground)
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds (or 1 tsp ground)
  • 2 tbsp harissa (recipe above)
  • Meyer lemon juice to taste (half lemon)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 cups couscous (whole grain is slightly better)
  • 0.5 cube chicken bouillon
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Kosher or sea salt to taste

Put beans in a pressure cooker and follow the instructions for cooking the kind of beans you are using. In the meantime if you are grinding your own spices, toast them lightly for a few minutes on a skillet then grind them into a fine powder in a spice grinder. Set aside. (You can use these same spices to add to the harissa, just double the amount then split it in half.)


In a large soup pot, heat olive oil and add onion. Cook, stirring regularly until the onions are tender and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, ground spices and 0.5 tsp salt. Cook and stir spices until fragrant, about 1 minute, then add the stock, 1 extra qt of water, the harissa and tomato paste (I recommend the kind in a tube, which keeps indefinitely once you open it). Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Remove 0.5 cup of broth and set aside.

Add cauliflower florets to the simmering broth and cook, partially covered for 20 minutes. Your beans should be done by the time the cauliflower is tender. While the stew is simmering, follow the instructions on your box of couscous and substitute the broth you reserved for 0.5 cup of water, also adding the half bouillon cube.

There is something of an art to getting couscous to cook right. I usually end up adding slightly more dry couscous than the box calls for using the given amount of water. After boiling the liquid and removing it from heat, if when you add the dry couscous to the pot you cannot see individual grains under the liquid surface, then I would add slightly more couscous until you can just see it, like pebbles in shallow water. I know this is vague, but I always have to eyeball it to get it right. It’s not the end of the world if you’re off a little, since this is going into a soup anyway.

Also be careful while your couscous is steaming. Steam it (covered) exactly 5 minutes then fluff it immediately with a fork (be gentle with the grains). Over-cooking or over-watering your couscous will make it clumpy and gummy–not ideal.

When your simmering cauliflower is tender, add all the beans and 1 qt of their cooking liquid. Return the pot to a simmer and add lemon juice, salt and adjust harissa as desired. You may need to add the juice of the entire lemon. It should be bright and spicy. Stir in peas, parsley and simmer 5 more minutes.

To serve, scoop a large spoonful of couscous into the bottom of a bowl and a generous portion of the stew on top. Garnish with additional parsley and harissa.

I am very interested in your experiences with making or buying harissa. Any suggestions or recommendations are appreciated.

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Healthy Lunch: Chicken Chard Soup

by | Jan 21, 2009

Since summer ended I have been searching for the perfect winter lunch to bring to work. I want something healthy, delicious and, given the season, warm.

Roasted vegetables are a pretty good choice, but I learned the hard way that they don’t quite have the long-term appeal of summer salads (i.e., I got sick of them really fast).

My latest experiment is soup.

Soup appeals to me for many reasons:

  1. It stores and transports easily and can be heated up in a minute or two in the microwave. This makes it a perfect food for the office.
  2. Almost any recipe can be turned into a soup, so you can enjoy cuisines from all cultures–you could eat soup every day for the rest of your life and never eat the same one twice.
  3. Soups are easy to modify, and hard to mess up.
  4. As many of you know, I have a lot of experience making soup.

I accepted the challenge.

The first place I turned was my faithful Splendid Soups, by James Peterson. I can’t imagine there is a better soup recipe book on the planet. Not only have I used it to make dozens of spectacular soups, but it has made me a better overall cook as well. This book is truly a treasure.*

I had several goals for my first soup:

First, I wanted it to be healthy and light, meaning it should have something green (e.g. chard) in it and be broth based rather than cream based.

Second, I wanted to use the whole chicken I bought at the farmers market. I don’t normally eat meat for lunch, but I had been wanting to experiment with whole chicken and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

I ended up modifying one of the vegetable recipes in the book to include chicken. Peterson gives detailed instructions on how to use chicken in any soup, so I simply followed his technique.

My soup turned out divine, but preparing it took longer than I had hoped.

Word of advice: Ask the butcher to quarter the chicken for you (unless you are planning on roasting it). This was only the second time I had quartered a chicken, and though it wasn’t very difficult it definitely cost me 20-30 minutes because of my inexperience. Oops.

Chicken Chard Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium chicken, quartered
  • 1 large bunch of Swiss chard, trimmed
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium sweet onions, diced
  • 2 jalepeno peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1 28-0z can of diced tomatoes, drained
  • 4 cups (1 box) chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 0.5 cup parsley, finely chopped
  • Juice of 1 Meyer lemon
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil

Heat some olive oil in a pan just large enough for the chicken to cover the bottom. Add the chicken skin-side down and cook on medium heat for about 8 minutes. Turn with tongs and cook for another 5 minutes, remove from heat and set aside. If at any point the chicken begins to burn, lower the heat.

Shred the chard by cutting out the stems (I like to leave a few in, but I cut them in half), stacking and rolling the leaves, then cutting them in thin, 0.25 inch strips. This is the same chiffonade technique we use on basil, sage and mint leaves.

In a 4-quart pot, cook onions, garlic and chilies in olive oil on medium heat for about 10 minutes. Allow the onions to become translucent, but not brown. Add thyme and cook 2 more minutes.

Add broth, water, tomatoes and chicken and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently for 15 minutes or until the chicken feels firm to the touch. Remove chicken and set it aside to cool. Add chard to the soup and simmer 10 more minutes.

Remove chicken skins and cut chicken into bite-sized chunks. Return chicken meat to the soup, add parsley and simmer 2 more minutes. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste and serve with crusty bread.

This soup will keep up to 5 days in a cold refrigerator.

*Note: If you decide to buy Splendid Soups (or any other item from Amazon), please consider using one of the links from this site and help support my blog. My favorite books and kitchen equipment are listed in the Shop.
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Are You Bean Careful?

by | Dec 3, 2008

Yesterday I mentioned that if you are going to use dried beans for cooking you should pick them over for pebbles before using them. Today I want to show you that I’m not kidding.

For my apartment’s last Soup Night I decided to make a recipe I found in the New York Times. The recipe was for Andean Bean Stew With Winter Squash and Quinoa, and it called for a pound of dried pinto beans. Since I was cooking for 20 people I doubled the recipe and bought a full 2 lbs of dried beans.

That’s a lot of beans, folks.

Because of the huge volume I had to be extra careful when looking for pebbles. To pick through beans I like to lay them out on a large cookie sheet, as shown. You can sort through a smaller amount of beans on a solid-colored plate or even in a clear bag on the counter.

As you can see from the top picture, 2 lbs of beans from the bulk bin at Whole Foods yielded 4 not-so-small pebbles.

Finding these little guys didn’t take more than a minute or two, and I guarantee you my guests appreciated the extra effort.

Let this be your warning. I do not wish to send you into shark-filled waters if you happened to be inclined to go buy dried beans this weekend. The last thing I need is a bunch of angry emails from your dentists!

Lentils are known to harbor pebbles as well, so searching for small rocks is a good habit to cultivate with all dried legumes.

The Soup
On the food front, the recipe turned out absolutely amazing! Since doubling the recipe required two whole winter squash anyway, I chose one large butternut squash and one kabocha squash. Both were delicious, but I was particularly fond of the kabocha (just look at that color!). It was denser, but the texture was creamier and the flavor more sweet and nutty than the butternut.

Peeling the kabocha was no easy task, however. I always just use a vegetable peeler for butternut, but on the kabocha the skin was so tough this was not an option. Instead I boiled it whole for 3 minutes on each side (it floats) and took the skin off with a pairing knife. Alright, I admit I had a boy do the peeling.

Does anyone have an easier way to peel a kabocha?

The Andean stew was very hearty, but our guests were not shy about finishing every last drop. I highly recommend it, particularly for a cold winter weekend.

This picture was taken after the quinoa was added but before it finished cooking.

Don’t forget to bean careful!

UPDATE: I have since learned that a kabocha does not need peeling. If it is cooked through the skin is soft and edible. My new favorite trick is to cut one in half, scoop out the seeds and roast it face down for 40 minutes. Mmmm.

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Silky Parsnip and Sunchoke Soup

by | Nov 24, 2008

I am really proud of myself for this one, guys. You could probably guess I was a little nervous about what to do with my parsnips and sunchokes. I find both these vegetables a little alien and I have only recently started experimenting with them.

Following my gut and combining them in a soup with leeks turned out to be a stroke of genius.

The soup I made is really simple. But do not be deceived, the subtle complexity of the flavor it packs is absolutely divine and the creamy texture of the sunchokes makes it luxuriously silky.

The finishing touch is the juice and zest of a Meyer lemon, an addition that brightens and balances the creaminess of this soup. In a pinch you could use a regular lemon, but I really recommend making an effort to find the real thing.

Because this soup is so easy it is perfect for a weekday lunch or dinner. But the rich, earthy flavors would make an excellent first course for your Thanksgiving meal as well.

Silky Parsnip and Sunchoke Soup

Ingredients:

  • 3 large parsnips
  • 5 medium sunchokes
  • 1 large leek
  • 3-1/2 cups cold water
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 1/2 Meyer lemon
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Scrub and peel the parsnips and chop them into small slices (in half in necessary), about 1/3 inch thick. Scrub the sunchokes as well, but do not bother to peel them. Instead use a pairing knife to remove any rough patches. Cut the sunchokes into 1/4 inch slices.

Clean the leek very carefully and chop it into thick sections, as described previously. In a large soup pot heat olive oil and add leeks. Saute the leeks for about 2 minutes, then add the parsnips and sunchokes. Lightly salt and pepper. Continue to saute, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables become soft and partially translucent.

Add 2 cups of water and the bouillon cube to the vegetables and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the vegetables are completely tender, turn off heat and add the remaining water. Use a hand blender* to finely puree the vegetables.

Before I got to this step I was certain that I was going to end up straining this soup. Most good pureed soups need straining to thin them out. While you are welcome to do this, I found it was not necessary if I pureed the vegetables long enough, probably because of the texture of the sunchokes. This does take some patience, however. Puree the mix for at least 5 minutes.

Once you have finished blending the soup you can heat it up again if necessary. Otherwise, squeeze the lemon half into the soup and add the zest (leaving some aside for garnish). Adjust salt.

Ladle soup into bowls, garnish with zest and freshly ground pepper and serve. You can drizzle more lemon juice on top as well, it is delicious.

*Note: I am of the opinion that whoever invented the hand blender deserves a Nobel prize. These things make pureeing soup a snap, and are easy to store and clean. This is the one I use (I have also added this item to my sidebar if you want to purchase it from Amazon). If you do not have one and want to make this soup immediately, a regular blender will suffice. However, be very careful when blending hot liquid and do not fill the blender more than halfway at a time unless you want to be doused with scalding hot soup. Hold the lid down firmly with a kitchen towel for your protection.

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