Breaking News: Potato Topples Tomato in Soup Cage Match

The new go-to potato soup

“I like this better than tomato soup.” You read that right. Roasted Tomato Bisquehas enjoyed favorite soup status in our house for years now . . . YEARS. But, last night, it was unexpectedly dethroned. The fall came out of nowhere. Luca sat quietly next to me slurping his Kartoffelrahmsuppe (say that three times fast) and the proclamation was handed down . . . “A++” . . . then, “May I have another bowl, please?” Then, “Can I take this for lunch tomorrow?”

I had high hopes for this soup for myself – potato soup with the spicy bite of horseradish. I have found typical potato leek soup to be a bit subtle and uninspired, so when I can across this recipe last week, I worked into the menu as soon as I could.

I did make some tweaks based on availability of ingredients. I had time to stop at one grocery store – Schnucks – and they did not have celery root, so I used celery. I thought of substituting turnips, but the ones they had were unappealingly rubbery. The celery was fine, but I will try celery root if I can locate some next time. I used thyme instead of marjoram and cut some of the fat by decreasing the amount of butter and using half and half instead of heavy cream. It is a very smooth creamy soup. Next time, I will probably add some chunks of potato . . . maybe even some small roasted cauliflower florets . . . for some textural contrast.

And, next time I will be certain to make more of the new house favorite.

Spiced Potato Soup (Kartoffelrahmsuppe)

adapted from Saveur

4 main course servings

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
½ leek, white and light green parts only, cut into 1″ slices
1 rib celery, finely chopped (The original called for celery root. The grocery store I stopped at didn’t have it, so I went with celery.)
1 ¼ lb. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 2″ chunks
2⅔ cups vegetable stock (I mixed 2  2/3 cups water with 1 teaspoon of Better Than Bouillon)
1 ¼ cups half and half (The original recipe called for heavy cream which is unecessary . . . I think you could even use 2% milk.)
1 1/2  tablespoon prepared horseradish (You may also use fresh.)
1 ½ tsp. finely chopped thyme (The original called for marjoram, but I have loads of thyme growing in the backyard.)
2 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. finely chopped chives
Caramelized onions, for garnish

Heat butter in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium heat; add garlic, onion, leek, celery and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add potatoes, stock, cream, celery root, horseradish, thyme, cloves, and bay leaves, and bring to a boil; reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are soft, about 30 minutes. Season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Remove bay leaves and cloves. Remove from heat, and using an immersion blender, regular blender, or food processor, purée soup until smooth and frothy. To serve, ladle soup into 4 bowls, and garnish with chives and caramelized onions.

Serve with chunks of whole wheat baguette and butter.


Me:  A (I love the flavor the horseradish gives the soup.)

Scott:  A (“Definitely an A.”)

Luca:  A++ (There was discussion of infinity, so I think this soup earns Luca’s top rating.)

Alia:  A (She said, “Two As” in fact.)


Around the World in Lentil Soup

Lovely lentils

Lentil soup, let me count the ways. Soup featuring the humble lentil is a vegetarian cliché, I know. But, it is a cliché for a reason. Like tofu, like other legumes, lentils easily take on any flavor profile. So, I make lentil minestrone, Mexican lentil . . . how about curried lentil soup . . . or French?

I added a new one to the repertoire last night – Spicy Moroccan Lentil Soup with Tomatoes and Herbs. I was very indecisive about dinner. It must be the change in season or a low-yield trip to the farmers market (you have to get there before 10 around here or you are stuck with sweet potatoes and scallions) because I find myself at a loss for dinner ideas this week. Last night, I did something crazy . . . crazy for someone who has a tendency to control . . . I picked up A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen and opened it up. That’s the dish I made for dinner. Call it fate or kismet or whatever, but I had almost all the ingredients I needed for the soup.

This recipe as written is easy – measure, chop and dump. I made it a little more complicated to develop more flavor. It is still simple. The prep time is quick, but it does take some time to cook so plan accordingly.

Where to next? I think Thailand is nice this time of year.

Spicy Moroccan Lentil Soup with Tomatoes and Herbs

adapted from A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen

Four generous main course servings

1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil

1 medium yellow onion finely chopped

4 scallions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced

4 medium garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon sweet paprika

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground tumeric

pinch of cayenne, or more to taste

1 1/4 cups French lentils (the original recipe called for brown lentils, which I did not have)

1/4 cup red lentils (these can be omitted – I added them to thicken the soup a bit)

6 cups water

1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted)

Salt, to taste (I think I added about 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt)

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the oil over medium high heat in a large soup pot. I use a 6 quart Dutch oven. Add the onions with a pinch of salt and saute until soft and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Lower heat to medium and add ginger, garlic and scallions. Stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the spices – paprikas, cumin, tumeric, cayenne (if using) – and stir for a minute more. Add the lentils, water, tomatoes and salt.

Simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the lentils are soft and the soup has thickened. Add the parsley and cilantro. Taste and add salt if needed. The flavors should pop . . . make sure it is seasoned or it will be bland.

I served the soup with packaged garlic naan.


Me:  A- (It has good flavor, but I still wanted a little more.)

Scott:  A (“Definitely an A.”)

Luca:  B+

Alia:  A+ (I am not sure how seriously you should take this. She did finish her soup, which says something.)



The Other Soup

The soup that made a tomato soup lover out of Scott.

There are two soups I can count on for an A average rating from the critics – red lentiland tomato. This isn’t just any tomato soup. This is THE soup that made a tomato soup lover out of Scott. On occasion, when we are eating this meal, Scott announces (in his best Ward Cleaver voice), “Kids, this is the soup that made me LIKE tomato soup” followed by an appreciative head nod.

Tomato soup as he knew it – as I knew it – was of the Campbell’s variety. Read: salty, watery, ketchup-y. *Shudder* This soup is thick, flavorful and a bit creamy. Any grilled cheese would be happy to take its place beside it . . . or quesadilla . . . or Asiago garlic bread.

This really IS good food.

Fire-Roasted Tomato Bisque

slightly adapted from Food & Wine

2 tablespoons unsalted butter (The original recipe has 4 tablespoons of butter. It is not necessary because it is thick and rich enough with 2.)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups water + 2 teaspoons Better Than Bouillon
Two 14 1/2-ounce cans crushed fire-roasted tomatoes (I use Muir Glen. I am a bit of a hoarder of these.)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream (You could certainly leave this out. It is definitely gilding the lily.)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the chopped onion, carrot, celery and garlic, cover and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir over low heat for 1 minute, or until the flour is fully incorporated. Add the water, Better Than Bouillon, tomatoes, tomato paste and sugar and bring to a boil. Cover partially and cook the soup over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, 15 minutes.

Transfer half of the soup to a blender and puree until smooth. Return the puree to the saucepan. Or use a stick blender and puree to your preference in the pan. I like it pretty smooth. Add the heavy cream and cook until the soup is just heated through. Season the soup with salt and black pepper. The salt is key to a flavorful soup. I begin with 1/4 teaspoon, taste, then add more if needed. I typically use 1/2 a teaspoon.

Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with grilled cheese or quesadillas or cheesy garlic bread.


Me:  A

Scott:  A

Luca:  A+ (He did say it would be better with a few gnocchi thrown in.))

Alia:  A+ (YAY!)

Vestiges of Winter Comfort Food

Red lentil soup is more like a stew the next day. Luca opted to take it (rather than his beloved pasta or cheese-pickle-radish-tomato sandwich) for lunch today. That's a mighty fine endorsement.

Like in many other places, the weather has been unusually warm here. It finally became more reasonable with a rain followed by cooler temperatures yesterday. At last, a soup supper day.

I love soup. It typically has everything you need in it – protein often in the form of legumes, complex carbohydrates like bulgur wheat, a little fat and an assortment of veggies. I think there used to be a Campbell’s commercial that proclaimed “Soup is good food.” There isn’t any Campbell’s around here though. I make two soups that receive a consistent A rating from the family – red lentil and tomato.

Red Lentil, Bulgur and Mint Soup was on the menu yesterday. I came home from work and had a fragrant pot simmering on the cook top half an hour later. The first thing Luca said when he walked in the door from school was, “What smells so good?” Red lentils are a favorite of mine. Because they soften considerably, they are best in soups and curries. Their flavor is wonderful – rich and peppery. Red lentils may not be available in standard grocery stores, but you can find them at natural food stores and international groceries. I serve this soup with a prepared flat bread like naan on the side. I hope you have a chance to try this before things get hot again.

Red Lentil, Bulgur and Mint Soup

adapted from Sultan’s Kitchen

1 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium Spanish onion, finely diced (3/4 cups)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 medium tomato finely chopped (1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons paprika (I do a mix of sweet and smoked: 1-1/2 tablespoons sweet and 1/2 tablespoon smoked)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
or ground red pepper
1-1/2 cups red lentils
1/4 cup basmati rice
6 cups vegetable stock or water (I use water mixed with 1 teaspoon of Better Than Bouillon)
1/4 cup fine-grain bulgur
1 tablespoon dried mint
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges to serve

In a heavy medium-size saucepan, heat the olive oil and the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook gently for about 2 minutes, or until they’re softened but not brown. Stir in the tomato paste, chopped tomato, paprika, and Turkish pepper. Saute for about 1 minute until spices are fragrant. Add the lentils, rice, and stock. Cover the saucepan and bring the liquid to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rice is cooked and the lentils have blended with the stock. Add the bulgur and mint, and season with salt and pepper. Make sure you season well. I usually add about 3/4 teaspoon sea salt at this stage. If you don’t, the soup will be boring and bland. Keep tasting and seasoning until you can taste the peppery bite of the red lentils. Cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the soup is too thick, add a little water.

Serve at once with lemon wedges and warm flat bread for dipping.

Note: I have successfully added little, roasted cauliflower florets to this soup for some cruciferous goodness . . . about 1 cup, maybe a little more, at the end of the cooking process.


Me:  N/A (Forward bends and back bends at yoga. This is another reason I like soup – most is great to make ahead.)

Scott:  A

Luca:  A

Alia:   A (Finally, a A from Alia)