I’m playing catch up with the French Fridays with Dorie crowd , and for some reason I decided to group my efforts by topic. During the last few weeks I’ve made the three soups I missed writing about: the creamy cauliflower soup sans cream, cheating on winter pea soup, and the orange scented lentil soup. The backbone for all three soups was a homemade vegetable broth. I usually just use the bouillon cubes whenever a recipe calls for vegetable broth, but I wanted to make my own stock for these soups. Vegetable broth gets the ugly duckling treatment in most cookbooks and kitchen reference books I have around. It’s usually ignored or mentioned in a little blurb away from its chicken, beef, and veal counteparts.
What I enjoyed the most of making my own broth is adjusting the ingredients to fit the flavor of the soup or stew. If you will be using the vegetable broth to make comida criolla, tie with some string cilantro stems and recao, and drop a couple of annato seeds into the pot. For Asian dishes add a piece of ginger and lemongrass stalks and swap the cubanelle pepper for a hotter jalapeño. Whatever you choose, don’t skip the mushrooms. They add depth and complexity to the otherwise traditional mirepoix based stock. Save the mushy vegetables and use them to thicken soups, as I did with the lentil soup.
- 1 large or 2 small onions, quartered
- 3 medium carrots, cut into four large pieces
- 1 cubanelle pepper, quartered
- 2 ribs of celery, cut into five large pieces
- 8 button mushrooms, wiped clean
- 3 sprigs of thyme
- 2 cloves of garlic, smashed
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 spice clove
- 5 black peppercorns
- 2 coriander seeds
- 2 quarts of water
Add all the ingredients to a heavy bottomed pot. Simmer over medium low heat for two hours, or until it reaches the desired golden/amber color.
On to the soups… as the song goes, two out of three ain’t bad. The cheating on winter pea soup was just okay. My version ended up very thin – it could have used a lot more peas. I substituted the suggested Romaine lettuce for kale and added a garnish of truffled whipped cream that melted the minute it touched the soup.
The creamy cauliflower sans cream soup fared a little better, texture wise. I cheated and used frozen cauliflower because the fresh (?) ones in the supermarket did not look too appealing. Since the celery I was using was a local organic version, the ribs were tiny and I had to use more of the leaves. The finished product does not look as refined as the traditional version with the little dark flecks, but it was pretty tasty. I drizzled extra virgin olive oil on top. This cauliflower soup would be a great base to play with decadent seafood garnishes.
Our favorite, hands down, was the orange-scented lentil soup.
I did not grow up eating lentils, but this soup was so tasty it would have made a convert out of any of the picky eaters at my household. Instead of the du Puy lentils favored by Dorie, I used green organic lentils. I opted out of pureeing the soup with the immersion blender, and enhanced the texture with some pureed onions and carrots. It was one of my favorite weekend lunches in recent memory. Since I did not puree the soup (nor the orange peels), the orange essence was there, but it did not overpower the flavor of the soup.