Wheatless Wednesday – Creamy Morel Mushroom Soup

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I’m not saying good bye to soup yet.  I know it’s spring and the sun is shining but as soon as the sun goes down it gets chilly and soup still seems like the perfect way to get warmed up from the inside out.  I love soup and I love mushrooms, hence Creamy Mushroom Soup, however, for a short time in spring, my absolute favorite of mushrooms is available, the coveted morel.  Much to my delight they were offered in my weekly CSA box and I clutched them in my hands like a prize.  Yet, I was in a quandary of what to make with them. Morels offer so many possibilities and they can turn an ordinary meal into a five star feast.  It was a rare drizzly day in California, so soup it was – this time.  Spoiler Alert! This won’t be the last you see of morel mushrooms from me this spring…

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Morel mushrooms are usually found in moist areas, around dying or dead Elm trees, Sycamore and Ash trees, old apple orchards and sometimes in our own back yards.  After hitting ‘Google University’, of which I am a full time student since starting this blog, I have discovered that morels are a favorite for ‘shroomers’, avid mushroom hunters who take to the woods in spring in search of  tasty morels.  Apparently people who like to hunt mushrooms are colorful individuals who like to tell tall tales, as I also learned about “SWATS” (Scientific Wild Ass Theories) on how, where, and when to find them which apparently differ from shroomer to shroomer.  I personally don’t ‘hunt’ mushrooms even though I have many that pop up in my garden because I don’t trust my ability to identify, and mistakes can have serious consequences.  I’m quite happy to get them safely identified with my weekly produce, however, the brave and hearty can learn more about morel mushroom hunting along with a dose of humor from The Great Morel.

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This version of mushroom soup derives most of it’s creaminess from a pureed potato and leek mixture rather than heavy cream or other thickeners.  I love the extra nutrients that the potatoes provide without the added calories, fat or cholesterol. Carb-fearing folks can be assured that Potatoes are complex carbohydrates which is our main source of energy. They are also a surprisingly good source of vitamin C and potassium, among other nutrients.   I also love the delicate flavor of leeks which is more sophisticated than onions but if you don’t have leeks, use onions or shallots.  I like to swirl in a half cup of plain yogurt towards the end for extra creaminess but that is purely optional.  In the spirit of eating farm to table, I use a yogurt from a  local and animal friendly farm, otherwise I would probably use a coconut, almond, soy or any other great plain non-dairy yogurt.

TIPS:  Mushroom lovers might like to ramp up the mushroom flavor by adding 1/2 cup dry wild mushrooms(reconstituted in hot water) or 1 cup earthy fresh mushrooms to the leek mixture and then blending along with the potatoes. The longer the soup is allowed to sit, the more flavors will develop. In fact it is better the next day.

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CREAMY MOREL MUSHROOM SOUP

2 cups fresh morels (or other fresh mushrooms)
4 tablespoons butter
3 cups vegetable stock
1 cup white wine
2-3 cups water
1 large or 2 small leeks
2 medium russet potatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup plain yogurt, any kind (optional)
1/4 cup pine nuts (optional)
1/4 cup grated parmesan (optional)

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  • Peel and dice the potatoes and boil on medium low in water for 20 to 30 minutes, covered, in a large pot until very soft.  Add more water if needed.

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  • While the potatoes are cooking, remove the root and dark green ends of the leek and slice in half lengthwise.  Clean by running water between the layers (fanning them like a deck of cards) to remove any dirt. Slice leeks into strips lengthwise and then chop by slicing crosswise.

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  • Saute the leeks in 2 Tbsn butter in a skillet until very soft.  Cover and add 1/4 cup water to make sure they get soft enough.

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  • Let potatoes and leeks cool slightly and process in a blender or food processor until smooth. If mixture is too thick add water 1/4 cup at a time.  Don’t overprocess as potatoes can get ‘gluey’.

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  • Rinse out pot and return potato leek mixture to the pot.  Add broth and stir to combine. Yum, look how creamy!

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  • Roughly chop the mushrooms and saute them in remaining butter until they are beginning to soften.

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  • Add wine and cook until it has almost entirely evaporated.

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  • Add the morels to the potatoes and bring to a simmer.

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  • Stir in the yogurt (if using), and add salt, and pepper to taste.  Turn the burner to low or off and let sit until serving to let the flavors develope.

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  • Toast pine nuts in a small dry pan for several minutes over medium heat until golden. Remove from heat and let cool.

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  • Serve soup with toasted pine nuts and a sprinkle of parmesan (both optional).

 

Creamy Morel Mushroom Soup

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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2 cups morels (or other fresh mushrooms)
4 tablespoons butter
3 cups vegetable stock
1 cup white wine
2-3 cups water
1 large or 2 small leeks
2 medium russet potatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup plain yogurt (optional)
1/4 cup pine nuts (optional)
1/4 cup grated parmesan (optional)

  • Peel and dice the potatoes and boil on medium low in water for 20 to 30 minutes, covered, in a large pot until very soft.  Add more water if needed.
  • While the potatoes are cooking, remove the root and dark green ends of the leek and slice in half lengthwise.  Clean by running water between the layers (fanning them like a deck of cards) to remove any dirt. Slice leeks into strips lengthwise and then chop by slicing crosswise.
  • Saute the leeks in 2 Tbsn butter in a skillet until very soft.  Cover and add 1/4 cup water to hasten the process.
  • Let potatoes and leeks cool slightly and process in a blender or food processor until smooth. If mixture is too thick add water 1/4 cup at a time.  Don’t overprocess as potatoes can get ‘gluey’.
  • Rinse out pot and return potato leek mixture to the pot.  Add broth and stir to combine.
  • Roughly chop the mushrooms and saute them in remaining butter until they are beginning to soften.  Add wine and cook until it has almost entirely evaporated.
  • Add the morels to the potatoes and bring to a simmer.
  • Stir in the yogurt (if using), and add salt, and pepper to taste.  Turn the burner to low or off and let sit until serving to let the flavors blend.
  • Toast pine nuts in a small dry pan for several minutes over medium heat until golden. Remove from heat and let cool.
  • Serve soup with toasted pine nuts and a sprinkle of parmesan (both optional).

 

Meatless Monday – Leek, Potato & Cabbage Soup with Turmeric

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Do you love rich and creamy soups but wish they didn’t have all the heavy cream (read extra calories)?  I am not usually a calorie counter but in general, this is one area where ‘more is not better’.  Fear not, there are simple ways to eat deliciously and nutritiously without adding unwanted calories which seem to go directly to the hips without passing GO!  This recipe employs a cooking technique that tricks your tastebuds into thinking that the delicible flavors crossing the tongue include creamy deliciousness while in reality it’s vegan, just veggies and broth.  Leeks and cabbage are sauteed until soft and then simmered with potatoes in broth and herbs until potatoes are almost falling apart.  Then half the soup is blended into a fine puree in a food processor or blender and added back into the soup, which yields a surprisingly creamy consistency without adding any cream, flour or other thickeners. Brilliant!  I have used this technique in the past with equal success, particularly in the yummy White Bean and Swiss Chard Soup which is from Gwyneth Paltrow’s book, “It’s All Good”.

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My Dad is always asking me where I get the ideas for my recipes.  All I can say is that if you are truly interested in a topic, say food, the ideas naturally just come to you.  I get cooking inspiration everywhere I go.  It helps that I love to read cooking magazines and I own dozens of great cookbooks.  I even peruse the local newspapers for recipes.  Often, I don’t use the recipe that has caught my eye.  Rather it might remind me I better make something with the squash or eggplant sitting on my counter or that I have roasted beets in the refrigerator and I am off onto the next idea. If I use a recipe created by someone else, I give them full credit and a link back to them, if possible.  Otherwise, it’s trial and error, and trust me, I have plenty of kitchen fails…  This particular recipe was prompted by this week’s  Farm Fresh To You CSA box, which, even a month or so later, every Tuesday still feels like a gift from a secret admirer even though I ordered and paid for it. (I know, I’m easily pleased fooled).  I opened the box, and pulled out a head of green cabbage, large leek and four bintje potatoes.  Hmmm, just what could I do with these?  Well, spoiler alert, I already ruined the surprise by posting the photo of this tasty soup.

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What, might you ask, are Bintje Potatoes? I had never heard of them before this so had to look them up.  They are a large oval-shaped tuber with pale yellow skin and yellow flesh. They are good for  boiling, baking, and are particularly good for making french fries and potato chips, although I haven’t tried those yet.  Since they are yellower in color than a russet potato, they will make soup that is not as white, especially when adding turmeric and cumin.  Any kind of potato will work in this recipe though, so use whatever you have available.

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Cabbage may seem like a strange ingredient to put in soup but in reality cabbage becomes sweet when cooked and adds a nice texture in combination with the potatoes.  Cabbage is also loaded with fiber and vitamins and minerals including vitamin C, K and vitamin B6 and beneficial phytonutrients. Throw in superstar turmeric and you have a really-good-for-you-soup.  Since this recipe only calls for a half head of cabbage, if you are looking for something to do with the other half, or if you are just a cabbage lover, check out the recipe for Roasted Cabbage ‘Steaks’

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TIPS:  If you like your soup extra smooth and creamy, just puree it all in 2 or 3 batches, clean out the pot and return the puree to the clean pot to reheat.  This soup can be eaten plain or topped with various garnishes.  My favorites are toasted pepitos (shelled pumpkin seeds), shredded or flaked parmesan and sprigs of fresh thyme.  Plain yogurt is also a good topping, especially if you sprinkle it with a bit of cumin.  If you have raw shelled pumpkin seeds, you can toast them in a dry pan for several minutes until they are golden and aromatic.

I really liked this soup but don’t take my word for it!  I brought a preview of the Leek, Potato and Cabbage Soup, along with a few other goodies, to my amazing friend, Lis, a breast cancer survivor who just finished her first week as Patient #1 in a clinical trial at UCSF.  Below is a photo Lis sent to me along with her lovely comment:  “Thank you for the absolutely delicious and hearty soup!  It fed all of us lunch today.  The toasty pumpkin seeds added a nice crunch and the shredded Parmesan gave it a little decadent cheesiness!” – Lis

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LEEK, POTATO & CABBAGE SOUP WITH TURMERIC

6 Tbsn coconut oil, olive oil or butter
2 medium or 1 large leeks, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
1/2 head green cabbage
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
4 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin
½ teaspoon black pepper
salt to taste

Optional toppings:  parmesan, toasted pumpkin seeds, plain yogurt, fresh sprigs of thyme

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  • Trim ends of leeks, saving only white and light green part.  Slice in half lengthwise and run under water to clean each layer by fanning like a deck of cards.  Slice each half horizontally into thin strips.

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  • Saute the leeks in the oil/butter and cook until soft and golden around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes.

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  • Thinly slice or shred cabbage

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  • Add the cabbage and garlic to the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

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  • Peel and dice potatoes and add them to the vegetable mixture along with broth, 4 cups water and spices except for salt. Bring soup to a simmer and cook, partly covered, until potatoes are very soft, 45 to 50 minutes. Add more water, as needed.

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  • Check for seasoning and add salt and more spices to taste.  You can serve chunky like this or process half the soup in a food processor or blender until smooth for a creamier consistency (highly recommended)

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  • Serve plain or  topped with parmesan, toasted pumpkin seeds, plain yogurt and fresh thyme.

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Leek, Potato & Cabbage Soup with Turmeric

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
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6 Tbsn coconut oil, olive oil or butter
2 medium or 1 large leeks, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
1/2 head green cabbage
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
4 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin
½ teaspoon black pepper
salt to taste

Optional toppings:  parmesan, toasted pumpkin seeds, plain yogurt, fresh sprigs of thyme

  • Trim ends of leeks, saving only white and light green part.  Slice in half lengthwise and run under water to clean each layer by fanning like a deck of cards.  Slice each half horizontally into thin strips.
  • Saute the leeks in the oil/butter and cook until soft and golden around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Thinly slice or shred cabbage
  • Add the cabbage and garlic to the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
  • Peel and dice potatoes and add them to the vegetable mixture along with broth, 4 cups water and spices except for salt. Bring soup to a simmer and cook, partly covered, until potatoes are very soft, 45 to 50 minutes. Add more water, as needed.
  • Check for seasoning and add salt and more spices to taste.  You can serve chunky like this or process half the soup in a food processor or blender until smooth for a creamier consistency (highly recommended)
  • Serve plain or  topped with parmesan, toasted pumpkin seeds, plain yogurt and fresh thyme.