Carrot + Cardamom Soup

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Hey, look! Michael Ruhlman just posted one of my favorite soup recipes from our cookbook, Nom Nom Paleo: Food For Humans!

Carrot + Cardamom Soup by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

It took many tweaks to get it juuuuust right, but this Carrot + Cardamom Soup is now my go-to recipe to showcase this lowly root vegetable in its best light. 

Carrot + Cardamom Soup by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Carrot + Cardamom Soup by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Check our my Carrot + Cardamom Soup recipe here, and while you’re at it, take a gander at my recent Ruhlman guest post about my own take on Paleo, too.

Carrot + Cardamom Soup by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Carrot + Cardamom Soup by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

While we’re on the topic of Ruhlman: if you’re as crazy about eggs as I am, you must get your hands on Michael’s new book, Egg: A Culinary Exploration of the World’s Most Versatile Ingredient. It’s a must-have for anyone who aspires to be a serious cook. (Okay, fine: you get a free pass if you’re allergic to eggs.)

Happy cooking!

Whole30 Day 9: Soup’s On!

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Despite working all day at the office and coming home to demanding in-laws and bickering children, my mom somehow always found the time to whip up an elaborate supper. Our spread would predictably include at least four entrées, steamed white rice, and a pot of simmering soup to end our meal. And on weekends, when all of my uncles and aunts would gather at our house for dinner, my mom would make a feast of ten or more dishes — but she never forgot about the soup.

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She did this every night. All from scratch. Her epic meals were one of many ways she showed us her love.

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Now that I’m a mom, I’m taking a page out of my mother’s playbook and fixing up steaming bowls of homemade soup for my family. And when I do, I get the warm fuzzies, thinking back to my mom’s nightly kitchen ritual. (Ai ya! Did I just admit that I want to be like my mother? Shhh! Don’t tell her.) Melissa Joulwan recently described soup as a “big pot of warm hug,” and I couldn’t agree more. Everyone should take the time to cook a nourishing meal for their loved ones — and luckily, a pot of soup is a simple and economical way to do it.

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Curried Cream of Broccoli Soup

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[UPDATED November 2, 2012: This ain’t a new recipe (it’s from almost TWO years ago!), but it continues to be popular and the old photos were all kinds of horrible, so I updated this post with new pics. Enjoy (again!)]

This recipe is a perfect example of what I call garbage soup: I pull out whatever vegetables are left in my crisper and throw them in a pot with some pre-made broth. This formula works with just about anything, but if you happen to have some broccoli florets and leeks in the fridge, make this blitzed cream of broccoli soup. My chef sis told me a long time ago that her secret ingredient in pureed soups is a bit of diced apple so I always toss some in.

Here’s what to gather to feed 4-6 people:

  • 1½ pounds broccoli
  • 4 leeks, cleaned and trimmed 
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 medium shallots
  • ¼ medium apple, diced
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or fat of choice
  • 1 quart organic chicken broth or bone broth
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 cup coconut milk

Here’s how to make it:

Trim and chop up the broccoli into roughly uniform-sized pieces.

Don’t waste the broccoli stems. Just trim off the hard, woody exterior and cut up the soft flesh underneath. 

Roughly chop the alliums. Remember any combination works — if you’ve only got onions, dice up two large ones.

Dice up the apple.

Once your veggies are prepped, melt the coconut oil over medium heat in a large stock pot. 

Add the leeks, onions, and shallots and sauté until softened (5-10 minutes). 

Throw in the chopped broccoli and apple, and…

…add the chicken broth. Top off with some water if the vegetables aren’t fully submerged.

Crank the heat up to high to bring the soup to a boil.

Lower to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.

Next, add the curry powder and season with salt and pepper to taste.

 Turn off the stove and let the soup cool slightly. Then, use an immersion blender to blitz the ingredients.

The result should be a smooth, aromatic green broth. 

Add the coconut milk and stir to incorporate it into the soup.

Turn the heat to high, and bring the soup back up to a boil. 

Ladle into bowls and serve immediately.

To make this a one pot meal, mix in some leftover meat and dig in.

Watermelon and Tomato Gazpacho

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True confession: As a child, I despised gazpacho.

Ever since that fateful day I tasted the bitingly acidic sludge my gastro-curious mom picked up from the neighborhood “gourmet” deli, I swore I’d never willingly eat chilled tomato soup again. It wasn’t until years later that I begrudgingly sampled a bowl of gazpacho at Oliveto’s and the scales fell from my eyes. Oh my. So that’s what gazpacho tastes like when it’s made with sun-ripened heirloom tomatoes and not V8 mixed with metallic-tasting canned tomatoes! These days, gazpacho is one of my favorite simple, make-ahead summertime recipes — especially when combined with the bright flavors of juicy watermelon, cool cucumbers, and crisp red peppers.

For this refreshing version of gazpacho, use the best tomatoes you can find. And no, removing the skins from the tomatoes and cucumber is not optional. Make this soup when you’re wilting under the heat of the summer sun, and you’ll thank me.

(Note: I made this recipe in a single batch ‘cause I own a gigantic, super-powerful, 64-ounce Vitamix. If you’ve got a smaller blender, divide the recipe in half or blend in batches. Alternatively, you can purée the soup in a food processor, but you won’t achieve the same smooth texture.)

Here’s what to gather to make 8 cups:

  • 2 pounds ripe tomatoes
  • 1 medium red bell pepper 
  • 1 hothouse cucumber (approximately 1 pound)
  • 2 small shallots, coarsely chopped
  • 4 cilantro stalks
  • 1 pound cubed watermelon (approximately 3 cups) 
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Here’s how you make the soup:

Gather the ripest tomatoes you can find and get ready to peel ‘em.

 

As I mentioned, peeling the tomatoes makes a HUGE difference in the final texture and taste of the soup. And tomatoes are easy to peel after you quickly blanch them and shock them in ice water.

Wanna see how to do it?

Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil.

Cut a small ‘X” on the bottom of each tomato with a sharp paring knife…

…and drop them into the boiling water for 30 seconds.

As soon as the time is up, transfer the tomatoes to a large bowl of ice water.

After the tomatoes chill in the bowl for a minute or two, their skins should slide right off.

Core each tomato and roughly chop them, reserving all the juice and seeds.

Next, grab the bell pepper and cucumber.

Lay the pepper on its stem-end and cut around the seeds and core…

…like this:

Chop the slices into a medium dice. (If your blender isn’t very powerful, chop the peppers into even smaller pieces.)

Peel the cucumber…

…and reserve a third of it to garnish the finished soup.

Roughly chop up the rest of the cucumber. Again, if you’ve got a wimpy blender, hack the pieces smaller.

Next, dump the shallots, cucumber, bell pepper, cilantro, and tomatoes into the blender, and…

 

…blend until puréed. Make sure to cover the lid with a towel to reduce splashes and splatters.

While the blender is whirring away, cube and de-seed the watermelon.

Once the veggies are liquefied…

…add the watermelon, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. 

 

Blend until smooth.

Voilà!

 

Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Refrigerate the soup in the blender cup for at least 4 hours or until it’s fully chilled.

The ingredients may separate a bit while resting in the fridge, so when you’re ready to serve, stick the soup back on the blender base and blitz it again to re-combine everything. And while you’re at it, dice up the reserved cucumber.

Ladle the gazpacho into chilled cups and top with a drizzle of olive oil, cucumber, and fresh cracked pepper.

It’s summer in a bowl.

Quick Pressure Cooker Bone Broth

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There’s nothing I like more than a nice steaming mug of bone broth to get me through the cold winter months. It warms me from the inside out and it’s so good for you: check out why in these great posts by Mark’s Daily Apple and Balanced Bites.

I have a recipe for simmering bone broth in the slow cooker and my mom routinely makes a pot on the stove but sometimes I just want a bowl RIGHT NOW. If you haven’t guessed, patience ain’t one of my strong suits.

Enter the pressure cooker

According to foodie scientist, Harold McGee:

A pressure cooker is a special pot that seals tightly and traps hot steam to build the pressure and temperature.

In other words, stocks and stews that normally take hours to cook are finished in just 1/3 the time in a pressure cooker. I don’t use my pressure cooker for everything but I do love stewing braised veggies and meaty bone broths in it. Why? Because these dishes just turn out better and faster. It’s quite remarkable how pressure cooking can transform meaty, collagen-filled cuts like oxtail and cross shanks into fork tender cuts in less than an hour. 

(Although the new generation of pressure cookers are safer than the old ones, please read your instruction manual carefully and check out these helpful tips from Mr. McGee. You do need to babysit the pot and you can’t wing it.)

I’ve got great pressure cooker recipes for Welsh Beef Stew and Phở that I share in my iPad cooking app, but here’s a simple recipe for a flavorful bone broth that’ll be ready in less than an hour. And, yes, it does gel in the fridge. Just throw in a few chicken feet or joint bones and your broth will be all jiggly.

Here’s what to gather to make 8 cups of broth:

  • 2 medium leeks, cleaned and cut in half crosswise (I buy the pre-trimmed ones from Trader Joes’s)
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into three pieces
  • 2.5 pounds of assorted bones (I use a mixture of chicken and pork bones from the freezer or cross shanks and oxtails)
  • 8 cups of water (enough to cover the bones but not more than 2/3rd the capacity of the pressure cooker)
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of Red Boat fish sauce (much better than salt, IMHO)

Here’s how to make the broth:

Dump the veggies in the pressure cooker (make sure it’s at least 6-quarts)…

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…toss in your bones (frozen is fine)…

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..cover with water (make sure you don’t fill more than 2/3rds capacity!)…

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…add vinegar…

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..and fish sauce.

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Lock on the lid and turn the dial to high pressure. Place the pot on a burner set on high heat. Once the indicator pops up showing that the contents of the pot have reached high pressure, immediately decrease the temperature to the lowest possible setting to maintain high pressure (low is normally adequate).

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Set the timer for 30 minutes (I let it go for 50 minutes if I’m cooking meaty shanks or oxtails).

When the timer dings, turn off the burner and remove the pot from the heat. Let the pressure release naturally (10-15 minutes). 

Remove the lid…

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..skim of the scum (if you desire)…

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..and strain the broth.

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I don’t parboil the bones to decrease the scum because I’m lazy. Plus, there really isn’t that much left after you strain it.

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Faster and more flavorful than other methods. Really.

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(Don’t have a pressure cooker? Then check out my Slow Cooker Bone Broth recipe!)

Chilled Cream of Avocado Soup with Dungeness Crab

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Want a refreshing and creamy soup that’s totally satiating? Well, go grab your blender and this meal will be in your belly in about 15 minutes. I like the consistency of this soup to be thick — almost puree consistency — so I use Aroy-D coconut cream. For a thinner soup, use coconut milk or dilute with extra water. 

If you want to get all Martha Stewart on your friends, serve this soup as an amuse bouche in Chinese porcelain soup spoons at your next party. You’ll look like a culinary rock star and no one will be the wiser.

Here’s what to assemble to feed 4 people:

  • 1 medium Dungeness crab, cooked in boiling salted water (or 1 cup of canned crab meat)
  • 2 large Haas avocados, peeled, pitted and roughly diced
  • 1¾ cups coconut cream or coconut milk
  • Kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon Ancho chili powder
  • ¼ cup water
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • Freshly-ground black pepper

Here’s what to do:

Break out your cooked dungeness crab, and…

…get all the meat out.

Alternatively, you can crack open a can of crab, but what’s the fun in that?

Refrigerate the crab meat until chilled.

Throw the avocado chunks in a blender, along with 1 cup of the coconut cream, a generous pinch of salt, and a dash of Ancho chili powder.

Purée until you get a thick avocado slurpee.

Transfer to a bowl, add the water and the remaining coconut cream, and stir until smooth.

Press some plastic wrap on the surface of the liquid, seal tightly, and chill in the fridge for an hour. If you don’t want to use plastic, be prepared for some serious discoloration.

When ready to serve, add 1-2 tablespoons of the lime juice, some freshly-ground black pepper, and another pinch of salt. Adjust the seasonings to taste.

Take the crab meat out of the fridge, and season it with some of the remaining lime juice, salt, and pepper. Ladle the creamy, cool soup into chilled bowls and top with a generous dollop of crab.

Yum!

Garbage Soup

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I’m hesitant to even write a “recipe” for garbage soup because it changes every time I make it.

In a nutshell, I look in my crisper to find veggies that are past their prime and simmer them with some broth, sauteed alliums, and canned tomatoes until they’re nice and tender. That’s it.

The combinations are endless but I always try to throw in:

  • carrots and other root vegetables
  • onions, leeks, or shallots sauteed until translucent in some sort of fat
  • a 14-ounce can of diced fire-roasted tomatoes, drained
  • chopped greens (spinach, chard, cabbage, kale, etc.)
  • canned or homemade broth

If I’m feeling fancy, I’ll throw in:

  • a ham hock
  • parmesan rind
  • couple bay leaves
  • fresh herbs

Here’s a typical example of how I make garbage soup:

I chopped up some leeks, green garlic, turnips, carrots…

…half a cabbage…

…and drained a can of fire-roasted canned tomatoes.

I had recently made some beef bone broth so I took it out of the fridge. Normally, I just use the organic chicken stock from Costco.

I melted a couple tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a large soup pot and sauteed the green garlic and leeks until soft.

I tossed in the carrots, turnips…

…and tomatoes with a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

I poured in the broth…

…added the cabbage…

…and turned up the heat to high so the soup would come to a boil.

Once the soup was boiling, I turned down the heat to low and simmered it (partially covered) for about 30 minutes or until all the vegetables were nice and soft. I adjusted the seasoning with salt and pepper and then ladled up some bowls.

Once you’ve made a batch of garbage soup, you can doctor it by adding leftover meats or pan-fried sausage. It’s a great way to clear out your fridge for more veggies!