Monday, January 21, 2013

I want your psycho, your vertical stick

Just a reminder that my blog has moved to

I will double post until the end of the month for my scheduled posts; however, any non-scheduled posts will no longer be published here.

...stick blender, that is.

Photo credit: some amateur

The 'stick' blender, or immersion blender if y'all like your words fancy, it probably one of the greatest inventions for soups.  There's nothing wrong with a blender, but let's compare methods:

  • Blender Method:  pour or ladle hot soup from pot to blender.  Turn on blender (make sure the lid is on).  Puree to desired consistency.  Stop blender.  Wait before opening lid (just trust me).  Pour contents back into blender.  Repeat, if necessary (usually the case because one generally makes more soup than a blender can hold).  Stare at soup that still remains in blender.  Feel shame.
  • Stick Blender Method:  Move soup pot so that immersion blender can reach (may not be necessary; if that's the case, at least turn off the burner).  Insert blender into soup.  Turn on blender and move around until desired consistency is reached.  Remove blender.  Lick blender blades (unplug first, unless you feel lucky).

I could easily say that of all of my wedding gifts, this one gets the most use.  Soups, stews, hot sauces, shakes, you name it.  A well spent $30-50 bucks by someone.  Actually, that someone was me.  It was on our registry but, as registries go, you get a little crazy with the gun and sign up for everything and then some.

But I digress.  While not a parent (yet), I've heard that these things are great for when you want to play drug dealer with your kids, only with vegetables.  Pureed vegetables in sauces and soups are a great "gateway" to the harder stuff, like grilled, steamed, and raw vegetables.

In previous posts I've rambled about stocks and broths, and went on record as saying, "store bought stuff is OK, sorta."  So, today I'm going to discuss a few soups where this is the case and even include some "recipes."

Tomato Soup

  • Carrots, onions, celery, garlic - diced*
  • Italian seasoning
  • 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup of heavy cream** (allow to come to room temperature, or as close as possible)
  • 4 cups of stock (chicken or vegetable)
  • Olive oil
  • 1-2 Bay leaves
  • Fresh Basil (optional)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

  1. Chop up vegetables.  (How many?  Whatever you have, but at a minimum one carrot, one rib of celery, any size onion, and a few cloves of garlic.  How fine?  Per my rant, if you're using a blender, who cares.  If you're using a stick, then get them pretty tiny, but don't stress about it.)
  2. Heat up some olive oil in a pot.  Sauté vegetables briefly (a few minutes).
  3. Add seasoning (How much?  A couple of shakes from the container.)
  4. Add tomatoes
  5. Add stock (Note:  waste not, want not.  I add the tomatoes, then pour some of the stock into the can to get the rest out.  Wapner at 4...Wapner at 4.)
  6. Add bay leaves.
  7. Stir.  Bring to boil, reduce to simmer.  Simmer for at least 30 minutes.
  8. REMOVE BAY LEAVES!!! (see next step.)
  9. Blend soup using preferred or available method (hopefully, you removed the bay leaves).
  10. Add the cream by tempering.  Put cream in a bowl or large measuring cup.  Add a ladle of soup to cream and mix.  Add another ladle of soup and repeat.  Pour mixture back into pot.
  11. Chop up basil and a) add to soup or b) serve with soup at table.  Season with salt and pepper.  If you're feeling naughty, add a slab of butter and melt it in.

Serve with any or all of the following:  crackers, Parmesan cheese, crushed red pepper flakes

Now, about that cream.  You can use heavy or light whipping cream.  In all honesty, if you use these, the tempering step is probably not necessary.  You can also use half-and-half or whole milk.  In my opinion, if you want to use lowfat or skim milk, save yourself the time and energy and don't use it at all If you do use anything other than cream, you'll have to temper it before adding or else it'll get all grainy in texture.  Blech!  If you up the amount of vegetables and blend really, really well, you might get it to work with the lower fat options (or no milk at all) and still be rich.  Adjust by adding another cup of stock, if that's the case.  I've never used silken tofu, but I'm sure it would work just fine as a substitute.

You want Butternut Squash Soup?  Dice up a butternut squash and cook with the vegetables.  Cut back on the tomato (14 oz. can instead of 28).  Add sage to the list of seasonings (and use fresh sage instead of basil).  Cook a little longer (definitely more than 30 minutes).  The cream is totally optional, as the soup will be really thick from the squash.

Pumpkin soup?  Same thing.  Even easier when you use canned pumpkin.  Add some nutmeg and allspice.

Hopefully, you're starting to see the method to my madness.  To date, I've given you two recipes that you can make 6 soups from.  I'm sure there's more (avocado soup, etc.).  This is where you can start to get creative.  Start with a basic recipe, and begin to play around.  Are my basic recipes the best?  Probably not.  But that's ok.  It's a starting point.  It's why I don't (usually) give specific amounts.  Feeling timid?  Ease up on the spices at first (i.e., you can always add spice and heat, but taking it away is difficult), Google a quick recipe for reassurance.  Long story short: practice and the occasional failure are going to be your best friends.  And really, unless someone ends up in the hospital, cooking failures aren't that bad (and when you primarily cook vegetarian, you gotta really screw up to give someone food poisoning).

It figures that I'd launch a blog where I spend a month on a topic during a month with a solid 5 weeks (then again, 7 months have 31 days, but whatever).  A few more recipes next week.

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