Sunday, March 10, 2013

Pureed Roasted Vegetable Soup

Two posts in a week- well, since I've been absent for the last 7 months, it's the least I can do!  I mentioned in my last post that I had a lot of veggies to use up, and had made two pans of roasted vegetables with some of them. I love roasted veggies- roasting brings out their flavor in a way that no other cooking method does, really concentrates it, and seems to make it richer somehow.  Believe it or not, roasted broccoli is one of my 12 year old daughter's favorite foods- yes, no joke!  It is so easy to roast vegetables too...just toss in oil, spread in a single layer on a baking sheet, and roast at a high temperature until barely tender and beginning to brown. They are so versatile too- they can be eaten as-is for a side dish, tossed in salads, or, as is the case with this recipe,made into a lovely pureed soup.

I wish that I could take credit for this soup, or even the idea for it, but I can't.  I belong to a wonderful community of working mothers, and one of my friends there posted this on the cooking forum there a few years ago.  It's not really a specific recipe, but more of a guide.  Roasted vegetables are simmered in broth until tender, then pureed and seasoned, and voila- soup!  It really is that simple- however, as I have found, the vegetables used do matter in the end product.  Pureeing vegetables does not necessarily produce an attractive result- the more green vegetables used, the more muddy and putrid the color of the soup, and however delicious the taste, it may not be so appealing to eat.  So keep that in mind when roasting your veggies, if you are doing so with a mind to use the leftovers for this soup.  Another thing I have found is that it is absolutely necessary to have tomatoes in the mix.  Fortunately I did this time- I had purchased some baby heirlooms at Trader Joe's a couple weeks back and needed to use them up, and they were a delicious addition.  Good tomatoes are not that plentiful this time of year though, so if you can't find good fresh ones, use some canned diced or stewed tomatoes, drained of course.  Add them to the broth with the roasted veggies, and they will provide a tangy zing that you wouldn't get otherwise in the soup.  One last thing- beans!  In this soup, I included some leftover roasted garbanzo beans that I had in the fridge, but you can use whatever you have- they provide protein and fiber, not to mention a nice creamy consistency.  I also like to throw in a couple of cloves or garlic.  The flavor mellows when it's simmered in the soup, but provides a nice flavor in the final product.  Salt and pepper are really the only seasoning necessary, but feel free to add fresh herbs of your choice for additional flavor.

For my soup, my roasted veggies consisted of: broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, onions, asparagus, brussels sprouts, and baby heirloom tomatoes.  I went heavier on the carrots and cauliflower than the green veggies, so that the color would not be unappealing.  Use vegetables that will roast well together- you don't necessarily want to use something like zucchini here, as it will cook much faster than the rest of the veggies.  For serving, I like to make homemade croutons with thin slices of french baguette brushed with a little olive oil, broiled until just toasted, and then add some fresh grated parmigiano reggiano and broil until just melted.  Serve the soup with a couple of croutons and extra bread for mopping up the last dregs in the bowl.  It is THAT good.

Pureed Roasted Vegetable Soup
Serves 4-6

4 cups roasted vegetables
4 cups chicken broth
1-2 cups water
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt/pepper to taste

Parmesan croutons:

French baguette slices
Olive oil
Grated fresh Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

1.  In a large pot, combine veggies, broth, water and garlic.  Bring to a boil, then simmer until vegetables are tender enough to puree.

2.  Using a stick blender, or in batches in a food processor, puree soup until smooth.

3.  For croutons, brush baguette slices with olive oil and broil until they barely begin to brown.

4.  Top with cheese and and broil about 1 minute longer until cheese melts and begins to brown.

5.  Serve soup with croutons.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Finally Back! Shaved Root Vegetable Salad With Scallions

I'm back- yes, it has been a long time since I last posted in August!  The only excuse/explanation I have is that life got busy with kids gearing up to start school, then the holidays, and the next thing I know, here we are, 7 months later and halfway through the school year!  I know I never did finish my 3-part series on zucchini, and it's just as well- there I got tired of it myself, and besides that, I already posted my favorites here.  So, I am trying to get back on the bandwagon.  Cooking, yes, and documenting.  Call it a late New Year's resolution.

So, it's March, and this part of the world is only just beginning to wake up from the dead of winter.  I was out for a walk yesterday, and the promise of spring is out there- buds on trees, bulb shoots sprouting from the cold ground, and warmer (if only slightly) temperatures.  Here in Oregon, it will be another month at least until spring can be declared officially arrived, and it will be awhile yet after that before we see the results of that on the grocery store shelves.  Whatever faint signs we see of spring now, we are still deep in winter when it comes to available produce.  This last month has been difficult, as prices for most foods have increased sharply, and I have felt it the hardest in the produce department.  Broccoli, which I usually buy for between $1.79 and $1.99 per pound, is up to $2.79 per pound.  Even celery, usually a good, cheap staple, was twice as much last time I was at the store than it usually is!  Don't even get me started on way can I fathom paying $2.59 for a skinny head of romaine lettuce.  As such, salads are NOT happening much at my house these days!  Well, not green salads, anyway.  I have a nice winter salad to share today that is all at once seasonal, tasty, and economical, as well as a little bit different.

This salad is adapted from this Shaved Rutabega and Turnip Salad with Scallions from Fine Cooking magazine, posted on the Bitten Word blog a few weeks ago.  I love these guys!  They cook recipes they find in cooking magazines and then blog about them, giving honest reviews and occasionally suggestions on how to make them better.  After seeing that blog post, I picked up a turnip on impulse one day at the grocery store, but nixed the rutabega because, well, I don't know why.  Except maybe because turnips are prettier.  They taste fairly similar to me, and I didn't want a glut of them, so just got the one turnip.  And there it sat in my fridge, until clean-out day came this past weekend.  I had gone to Costco and the grocery store and loaded up on goodies, so took out all of my produce and spread it out on the counter to see what needed to be used most urgently before it went bad.  That'll teach me to shop more carefully- turns out that I had a TON of broccoli!  I bought ahead, fearing another price hike, then hit a big sale where it was actually back down to its regular price, so bought more at that price, and ended up with way too much.  So I made a broccoli soup and two pans of roasted veggies, some of which I used in a nice couscous salad.  But I digress. There was this turnip, staring me in the face as if to say "you've had me for nearly a month- when is it going to be MY TURN???"  Remembering the salad from the BW blog, I set about to make a similar salad with what I had.  I found a largeish carrot and a handful of big radishes, and figured I'd make a take-off of the Fine Cooking recipe.  I used a vegetable peeler to shave paper-thin slices of the turnip and carrot, and a regular knife to slice the radishes as thinly as possible.  The rest of the salad came together very easily: a simple dressing of mustard, rice wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper, and a sprinkling of chopped scallions.  The result is a delicately crunchy raw vegetable salad with a bright, tangy flavor, a nice departure from the typical heavier taste of braised or roasted vegetables.

The only thing I would do differently again is to do a better job measuring my ingredients.  I tend to eyeball things, and as such, sometimes get it wrong.  I substituted stone-ground mustard for the dijon that the recipe called for, and that was fine...but I used too much.  I also added too much of the chopped scallions, which were very  strong to begin with. The delicate flavors of the root vegetables were a bit overpowered by both the mustard and scallions.  I still enjoyed this salad, but now that I know what a delicate balance it is between the vegetables and dressing, I will more carefully measure next time.

Shaved Root Vegetable Salad With Scallions
Adapted from Fine Cooking, via the Bitten Word Blog

1 medium turnip, peeled
1 large carrot, peeled
About 6-8 large radishes
2 medium scallions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp stone ground mustard
3 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1.  Slice turnip in half.  Use vegetable peeler or mandoline to shave paper-thin slices from the cut ends.  When you reach the point when you can't shave any more without also shaving off your fingertips, place the turnip piece on the cut edge on a cutting board and continue to shave slices off until you have sliced as much of the turnip as possible.  Use a knife to thinly slice the remainder.

2.  Shave thin strips from the carrot in about 2 inch sections.

3.  Slice radishes in half and then slice as thinly as possible with a knife.

4.  Combine shaved vegetables in a large bowl.

5.  Whisk together vinegar, mustard, olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Pour over vegetables.  Add sliced scallions and toss to incorporate well.

6.  Serve at room temperature or refrigerate and serve cold.