Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Creamy soups: vegan cream-of-mushroom and non-vegan cream-of-cauliflower

I knew I wanted soup today. A warm, salty, creamy soup.

No, I'm feeling fine. In fact, I feel fantastic: I got ten hours of sleep the last two nights (making up for a month of seven-hour nights), and today I've been bouncy and cheerful, and eager to cook.

In any case, on my walk home yesterday, I passed a restaurant advertising the Soup du Jour as "Puree of White Bean and Mushroom." Mmm, I thought, I can make that. Then, upon picking up the veggie box today, I discovered that we hadn't even eaten last week's broccoli and cauliflower. (And we have a very old but perfectly chipped red cabbage; sometime soon, the cabbage, the new bok choy, and the broccoli greens are going to get together. Or perhaps the cabbage will slow-cook with some tempeh and potatoes and leeks in red wine, soy sauce, and star anise. We'll see.) What better than a cream of broccoli and cauliflower?

Vegan Puree of White Bean and Mushroom

Last night, set a medium-large pot of cannelini beans soaking — remember that beans need four times as much volume to cook in as they take up dried (three times for the expansion, and one more so that simmering does not make them boil over). Upon arriving home, begin boiling beans with a "bouquet garni" of bay leaf, black peppercorn, and celery seed (wrapped up in a cheese-cloth tea bag, or perhaps loose and then pick out the bay leaf and peppercorn). Cook a few hours, until beans mush easily. Drain in a sieve in the sink.

Return now-empty (but no need to clean) pot to heat with some olive oil, and sauté minced spring onion (1 large stalk) and fennel bulb (1 small cultivated bulb). When aromatics become aromatic, add 1/3 lb mushrooms, diced, and stir until mushrooms become pungent. Deglaze bottom of pan with some vegetable stock, and begin spooning in white beans until proportions are right. Stir on medium-low heat, mashing beans thoroughly, and control thickness by adding more vegetable stock or water (or white wine, but I don't have any). Salt to taste and serve hot. I haven't tried yet, but I expect it to freeze well (nothing needs to keep its crunchiness), and to need more water upon defrosting.

Non-Vegan Cream of Broccoli and Cauliflower

This recipe is vaguely based on the recipe in The Joy of Cooking, but I've made a number of changes.

In a medium-large pot, melt a half a stick to a stick of butter, and sauté minced spring onion (1 stalk) and fennel (1 small cultivated bulb) and celery (I didn't have any) until tender but not brown. Meanwhile, coarsely chop a medium-large head of cauliflower and two small heads of romanesco broccoli, discarding the leaves but retaining the stems. Add to pot, and stir a few minutes. Add two cups vegetable stock and 1 cup water, stir to deglaze, and simmer covered until broccoli is easily mashed with a whisk, about thirty minutes.

Mash broccoli and cauliflower, and add salt and pepper. Combine one cup cold milk with a spoonful of cornstarch, whisking with a fork, and pour into soup. Stir and heat on low until hot throughout, but do not boil. Serve hot.

Soy milk or water can presumably be substituted for the milk at the end, and the flavor is robust enough for oil to replace the butter at the beginning (reduce the amount precipitously, until you have just enough to sauté the aromatics); I would not do a pure broccoli soup vegan, but cauliflower is incredibly creamy without any added dairy.

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