Halfway through National Soup Month: cream soups
Creamy Asparagus. Cream of Cauliflower. Cream of Broccoli. Cream of Mushroom. Cream of Celery. Creamy Potato. Cheesy Broccoli. Tomato Basil. Cream of Tomato.
A pot of soup simmers and steams, chasing winter’s chill with its comforting aroma. Homemade vegetable cream soups shine with the flavor of your chosen veggie. They’re a good winter source of vegetables, protein and calcium. Satisfying and nourishing, hot, creamy soup is the ultimate comfort food on a cold winter day. You don’t even have to chew it.
While pureed soups were known as far back as the Middle Ages (we know this from medieval cookbooks, “Le Viandier” and “Le Menagier de Paris”), they became popular in French cuisine during the 19th century. Their rich, buttery flavor and velvet-smooth texture were appealing during this era of new, fancy foods and luxurious fare. In this country, “The Virginia House-Wife” by Mary Randolph (1824) included recipes for creamed soups and tips on folding in flour and butter to thicken the soup.
In the 20th century, creamed soups were popularized by Campbell’s. In 1897, Dr. Dorrance invented condensed soup. Cutting costs of packaging, shipping and storage meant the finished product cost just a penny per ounce. By the early twentieth century, more than 20 varieties of canned condensed soup were marketed. The jingle “M’m! Good! M’m! Good!” helped sell the product to busy housewives. Cream of celery came on the market in 1913; cream of mushroom in 1934; cream of broccoli in 1990. To further sell its soups, Campbell’s published recipes that used the soups in sauces and casseroles, like Campbell’s 2-step chicken broccoli divan.
Canned soups have some undesirable ingredients, like the flavor enhancer MSG, preservatives and artificial flavors. The thick cream sauce is prominent, while the vegetables are secondary. Loaded with butter, cream and Cheddar cheese, they’re high in fat and pack on the calories. For example, a bowl of broccoli-cheese soup at Panera Bread is 350 calories and 23 fat grams; 300 calories and 25 g. fat at TGI Fridays; 470 calories and 33 fat grams at Einstein Bros.
That is why, in our largely overweight American society, creamed soups have lost popularity with calorie-conscious consumers. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Homemade vegetable soups can take advantage of the veggies in your freezer from the fall harvest — and can make those vegetables the star of the show. To cut calories and fat, replace the cream with milk and broth; butter and cream should have only minor roles.
Generally, flour is used to bind the cooked, mashed veggies together, and the soup is enriched with cream and sometimes, eggs or cheese. For a gluten-free version, use cooked potatoes or potato starch as the binder. Other starchy veggies, like parsnips or turnips, can also be used as a thickener and are a healthy substitute for the flour-butter paste.
Simmer the ingredients slowly in a rich broth until they’re fully cooked, then puree them — an immersion blender makes this part easy. To make the soup rich and creamy, add a bechamel sauce (but this will add calories). Add a sharp cheese for more flavor. Garnish with fresh herbs like dill, parsley or thyme and seasoned croutons when serving.
To replace canned condensed soup in a casserole, make a thick bechamel sauce with 3 tablespoons flour, a tablespoon of olive oil, a tablespoon of butter and only 1 1/3 cups of liquid (broth, milk or combination). Flavor the sauce with 1 cup cooked (sauted) mushrooms, celery or broccoli.
Use your imagination. The main ingredients are a veggie of your choice, broth and milk or cream. Vary the flavor and texture by adding herbs, spices and aromatics like onions, garlic, mushrooms, etc. Add chicken or turkey for extra protein.
Delicious and comforting, creamed vegetable soups will be a hit however you make them.
German Creamy Kartoffelsuppe Ham and Potato Soup
Adapt this recipe to what you have available and your own dietary needs. To make it vegan, use dairy-free milk and vegetable broth. For a meaty version, ham or German sausage can be added at the end. You can even make it into a chunky stew instead of a creamy soup.
1 or 2 slices bacon
2 quarts broth (vegetable, chicken, beef, or pork)
1 cup diced celeriac or 2 stalks celery
1/4 cup fresh minced parsley or chopped fresh dill weed
1 teaspoon paprika
1 or 2 cups diced cooked ham, optional
Peel and dice the onion; scrub or peel and dice the potatoes.
In the bottom of soup kettle, cook bacon for 5 minutes to crisp and render fat. Remove to drain on paper towels. Add diced onion to the bacon drippings; cook 5 minutes. Stir in diced potatoes; cook 5 minutes more. Add the broth (store-bought or home-made) and the remaining vegetables; cook 30 minutes, until vegetables are soft.
For a creamed soup, use an immersion blender (or put everything through the blender, in batches). Blend completely for a creamy soup; or blend only half for a chunkier version.
Taste and adjust seasonings; garnish with parsley, add ham or a little yogurt.
Option: For a vegan soup, omit bacon and ham; cook onions in olive oil.
Anothe option: For a hearty green potato soup, add a couple cups of chopped kale, collards, Swiss chard, spinach, peas, broccoli, or green asparagus; cook until tender.
Adjust the amount of broth for a thicker or thinner soup.
Experiment with other herbs, like marjoram, rosemary or sage. Cayenne or cumin can add a little heat, if you like that.
Cream of Asparagus, Cauliflower or Broccoli Soup
2 cups broth
About 4 cups frozen cauliflower or broccoli florets, or 1 pound bunch asparagus
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoon flour
1 cup milk (skim if you’re on a diet or half and half if you like it rich)
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese, optional
1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
1 small carrot, grated
In saucepan, combine broth and cut up veggies. Simmer until soft and tender. Remove vegetables and puree in food processor or blender, if desired.
Melt butter; add flour and stir until blended; add milk, stirring, until thickened. Add broth from soup, pureed vegetables, and Parmesan; simmer, stirring, to combine. Bring to a boil and cook just a couple minutes to blend flavors. Garnish with parsley and shredded raw carrots. Serve hot.
Option: For a dairy-free milk, use cashew cream, oat cream, soy cream, or canned coconut milk.
Other options: For cream of asparagus soup, you can use green asparagus, potatoes, Onions, Fresh basil, Parmesan cheese, Olive oil, Butter, Stock, White pepper, Salt, Nutmeg, Garlic. For creamy cauliflower soup, you can use cauliflower, Potatoes, Onion, Butter, Stock, Milk, Cream, Nutmeg, Salt, Parsley, Roquefort Cheese.
Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be found at www.yvonafast.com and reached at email@example.com or on Facebook at Words Are My World.