Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Soup for Supper

When I made this soup, it seemed a quaint reminder of when it used to get cold this time of year, and one liked a bit of hearty soup for supper to help keep oneself warm. Though it wasn’t particularly cold outside, I happened to have lots of lovely red potatoes, many nice, large leeks, one honking huge head of Napa cabbage, and a soup recipe from the Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special cookbook. The days were getting shorter, even if they weren’t as cold as they have since become, and I was feeling a little under the weather, so soup it would be.

This soup is creamy but manages to remain light-feeling because the creaminess is provided by reduced fat cream cheese rather than cream. I also sneaked in some Gruyere cheese, which I love in cream soups with potatoes. The cheese brought along some additional richness, but not so much as to leave and oil slick on the soup. Its sharp, nutty flavor is subtle alongside the cabbage and the spices, but it’s definitely there, and is worth stirring in.

Speaking of the spices, the original recipe called for caraway, which is a no-brainer with cabbage as far as I’m concerned, but I also added some coriander seed to go along with it. I like the combination, and the coriander gives the stoic, storage-vegetable taste of cabbage and potatoes a bit of a citrusy lift. I coarsely ground whole spices, which I think results in the most flavor, and I didn’t mind the extra pop of spice that the little pieces gave to each spoonful.

I used Napa cabbage here, because that’s what I had, but the original recipe called for green cabbage. I think the Napa, which is leafier and less crunchy, may have cooked more quickly than regular green cabbage, but not so much as to require a major change in the recipe instructions. Savoy cabbage would probably also be good, although I find is flavor to be stronger, so be ready for that.

To save time and dish-washing, I used an immersion blender to puree the soup. It leaves behind some fibers and spice bits that the regular blender might pulverize, but I don’t mind if my creamy soup has a little substance as well. This was one of those simple recipes that I had a feeling I’d start making pretty often, especially if a bit of cabbage or a few potatoes need using up. If, however, I keep making it as long as that gigantic cabbage lasts, I might have my fill of the stuff until next winter.

Creamy Cabbage and Potato Soup
Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special

While I used chicken broth in this recipe, you could use vegetable broth or water to make the soup vegetarian.

2 tablespoons butter
2 cups thinly sliced leeks, white and light green parts, well washed
½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
4 cups chopped Napa cabbage (or other green cabbage)
2 cups sliced peeled potato
3 cups chicken broth (I used fat-free reduced-sodium)
3 ounces reduced fat cream cheese
½ cup (about 2 ounces) shredded Gruyere cheese
freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Melt the butter over medium heat in a Dutch oven or other large soup pot. Add the leeks and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cover and cook 10 minutes, lifting the lid to stir occasionally.

2. Pulse the caraway seeds and coriander seeds in a spice grinder (I use a coffee grinder) a few times until they are coarsely ground, or crush them with a mortar and pestle.

3. Add the cabbage and the coarsely ground spices to the leek mixture. Cover and cook about 5 minutes, or until the cabbage is well wilted, stirring occasionally.

4. Add the potatoes and chicken broth. Cover, bring to a boil and cook 25-30 minutes, or until all the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.

5. Remove the soup pot from the heat. Stir in the cream cheese and puree the soup, either with an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender.

6. When the soup is pureed, stir in the Gruyere cheese. Taste for salt and add more and black pepper to taste. Rewarm if necessary.

Makes 4-5 servings.

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