Garlic bulbs from the farmers' market. I just thought they were so beautiful. I have never used garlic in this form before.
Well I had hoped to get this post out to you earlier in the week. But as I promised I did make two soups on Tuesday. I don't know how you feel about soup but for me making soup is pure fun and freedom. Really, you cannot do too too much to make it go badly. It is so easy and so free of measurements. I LOVE that. For if you have read any of my earlier posts, you would understand that I do not like to follow recipes to a T very often.
The soups I made were a sort of tomato basil soup and cream of mushroom. My tomato soup started out as a "stone soup" as I like to think of it. In other words, I decided to use the Trader Joe's Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Soup as my starter or jumping off point. I do this kind of thing from time to time which if funny because really when you see how much I add and alter, I might as well start from scratch.
The mushroom soup I made was based on what I thought was an old Bon Appetit recipe for "French Mushroom Soup" but I couldn't find it on their site. I did find what appears to be an identical recipe on Martha Stewart's site, however. Maybe that is where my tear-out is from. If you want to check it out see this: French Mushroom Soup for Entertaining. But of course, I couldn't stick to the recipe all the way.
In all soups, I like to start out with butter and/or olive oil and then some onion, garlic or other veggies. It sometimes depends on what I have in the fridge at the moment.
For my tomato soup, I stuck with just the olive oil, onion and a few cloves of garlic. Then I noticed I had a little red pepper already cut up from making salad the day before, so I threw it in. I sauté this until the onion and vegetables are somewhere between soft and beginning to color just a bit.
For the mushroom soup, I began with butter and a touch of olive oil and added onions and one of the garlic bulbs I show up top. The recipe doesn't call for garlic but I see no reason not to add a little garlic in most dishes! I love love love garlic!
I made several other variations to the mushroom soup as well. I didn't happen to have fresh parsley so I used dried. And instead of thyme, I used tarragon because I think mushrooms and tarragon are a beautifully paired duo. They just WORK together for me.
After cooking the mushrooms and adding them to the soup, I then pureed the whole thing with my Cuisinart hand held blender which I ABSOLUTELY LOVE and use all the time! I got mine at Sur la Table and couldn't imagine life without it. The recipe calls for leaving the mushrooms whole but for me the pureed version is just so much better in it's silky rich smoothness. If you decide to puree your soup, be sure to take out and discard the bay leaf first! At this point I would also have added cream sherry or Madeira to my mushroom soup but alas my once well-stocked kitchen is not up to par as it once was. Especially in the liquor department! There is something about a little sherry that can really round out the mushrooms and tarragon. Oh well. Next time! I really have to get my stocked kitchen back. What do kids do to you?
I wait until after pureeing to add the cream mixture. I have never used egg yolks in my soup before so this was a first. I cannot say whether I noticed much difference or not in the taste though. But then again, no two soups are ever alike when I start making them as I just wing it so often.
Okay, back to the tomato soup. I have my basics in the pot and then I added a few sad fresh tomatoes that were on their way "out". I also put in a can of diced tomatoes. It is best if you use the cans that do not have any extra seasonings or anything in them. I throw in some fresh basil, a little chicken stock and about half of the Trader Joe's soup and let this simmer for a bit to meld the flavors. After I feel the tomatoes have cooked down some, I then puree this soup too. Not only do I prefer it smooth but the kids do too. No scary things that look like unknown vegetables floating around! When I make tomato soup from scratch, I almost always roast a red pepper first and then blend it up really well but since this soup already has the roasted pepper flavor in it, I didn't this time. The soup from Trader Joe's tastes a bit sweet to me. I add a bit of red pepper flakes to put back some heat. Not too much or the kids might balk at it. You can always add more to individual servings based on taste.
Soup is one of those things that seems to taste better the longer it sits around on the stove. Go ahead and start early and just make sure to put the burners on low. This is the time to salt and pepper to taste. Check the consistency of your soup and see if you need to thin or thicken it. Adding a little extra cream or chicken stock is an easy thinner. Cream also works well in the tomato soup if you want a richer soup. Then it becomes cream of tomato basil soup. If you need to thicken your soup mix a little bit of flour with cool or room temperature chicken stock or cream or wine and make a paste before stirring it into the soup. Be sure to whisk it in well to avoid little lumps of flour.
Pureed soups are GREAT for dipping bread! And kids love it. My kids (who will not eat mushrooms) also loved the mushroom soup and sopped it all up with the bread as well.
Pop some French or sourdough bread into a 300º oven for 10 or 15 minutes to get it extra crispy on the outside and warm and inviting on the inside. It is the perfect accompaniment along with a nice Cabernet. For finishing touches I like to sprinkle a little shaved Parmesan onto my tomato soup. Ideally a little bit of parsley should garnish the mushroom soup too.