And soups are surprisingly easy to make. If one can boil water and chop vegetables, one can surely make soup. This may explain why soup is one of the oldest forms of cookery. At some point, one of our distant ancestors, the proverbial “cave man,” got tired of eating tree bark and sipping water from a stream. He perhaps took that bark, maybe even a few veggies and herbs, and put them together in an earthen pot on that new-fangled invention called “fire” and—voila—soup was born! M.F.K. Fisher liked soup and devoted a whole chapter to it. Here’s what she had to say:
The natural procession from boiling water to boiling water with something in it can hardly be avoided, and in most cases heartily to be wished for. As a steady diet, plain water is inclined to make thin fare, and even saints, of which there are an unexpected number these days, will gladly agree that a few herbs and perhaps a carrot to two and maybe a meager bone on feast days can mightily improve the somewhat monotonous flavor of the hot liquid.
—M.F.K. Fisher, How to Boil Water.
Wise words indeed! (And if she thought there were food “saints” in her day, she’d be downright shocked by today’s gastronomic high priests and priestesses!)
And while making soup is a relatively fuss-free endeavor, there are some basic tips one should keep in mind. Here are some good ones from Harold McGee’s Keys to Good Cooking:
- Rich soups can benefit from a counterpoint of acidity. For example, vegetable purees can benefit from the savoriness of a little bacon or tomato or parmesan cheese, soy sauce, fish sauce, or miso.
- To thicken soups with flour or starch, always pre-disperse the thickener in a roux or slurry to prevent lumpiness.
- Add uncooked ingredients in stages to a simmering soup to avoid over- or under-cooking them. First, add whole grains, firm carrots, or celery, then more tender onions or cauliflower, pieces of chicken great or white rice or pasta; at the last minute, add delicate spinach, fish, or shellfish.
- Take care not to overheat the soup when adding protein, in order to avoid curdling. You can also use starch or flour to keep proteins from coagulating or curdling.
So one evening, with fall in the air, I put on some holiday music and fired up the fireplace and made soup. (OK, I don’t actually have a fireplace, but I have a great app that plays one on my flatscreen.) The best part was getting to use the immersion blender to puree. Damn thing sounds like an engine on a jet fighter!
Copyright © 2013 Chris Terrell
The Finished Product!
Here’s the recipe:
Roasted Cauliflower and Carrot Soup with Sumac
1 large head of cauliflower
2 cloves of garlic
1 small yellow onion
1 1/3 lbs of carrots
1 tablespoon of coriander (ground)
1 tablespoon of sumac
1/2 tablespoon ancho chili powder
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 qt of vegetable stock
1/2 cup of dry white wine
3/4 cups of water
salt and pepper to taste
Break apart of the cauliflower into florets and toss with olive oil and salt and pepper and spread out onto a sheet pan and roast in an oven at 425 degrees for about 30-40 minutes.
While the cauliflower roasts, dice the onion and mince the garlic. In a stock pot, place the butter and a tablespoon of the olive oil, along with some salt and pepper and sauté the onions until soft, about 10-15 minutes. Add garlic and cook for about 1 minute until fragrant.
Add the carrots to the stock pot, along with the vegetable stock, wine, and water and bring to a boil. Then add the roasted cauliflower and reduce the heat. Cook on medium for about 35-40 minutes until the carrots and cauliflower are tender.
Puree the soup with an immersion blender until puréed. (This is fun!) Add coriander, sumac, and ancho chili powder Salt and pepper to taste.
Serve into bowls and add a table spoon of heavy cream to each and mix. Serve immediately.
NOTE: You can also take whole coriander and roast and then grind in a mortal and pestle.