Cashew Cream of Leek, Zucchini and Parsley Soup

Serve up

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Serve onions on top for garnish with some finely chopped parsley.

I just picked up a great cook book in Vancouver (Mouthwatering Vegan, Over 130 Irresistible Recipes For Everyone). I read it from front cover to back cover like I have done so with all of my cookbooks and magazines. I love reading recipes to learn from common techniques and ratios of ingredients, especially so for soups!

I decided to make this super easy soup for a chilly rainy day. It fancied me because it had leeks – they are something that I want to use more in my cooking.

The Verdict of Zucchini Leek and Cashew Cream Soup?

This soup is very nice and healthy indeed. At first I found the soup quite bland when I tried it, but when we added garlic and then truffle salt at the end, bam – it was to die for! Also, the addition of caramelized onions as a garnish was a good idea…I went back for more onions when I got halfway through my bowl of soup! I wished that I caramelized more onions though – perhaps next time!

This soup freezes well and is very much so truffle salts best friend! I would make it again next time!

Zucchini Leek and Cashew Cream Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 leeks, chopped
  • 2 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 or 3 sprigs parsley
  • 1/2 cashew cream (1/4 cup of cashews and 1/2 cup water)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
Zucchini Leek and Cashew Cream Instructions Soup:
  1. In a large sauce pan, heat the oil.
  2. Saute leeks and garlic for 3-4 minutes on medium heat.
  3. Add zucchini and sauté for 4 more minutes.
  4. Add vegetable broth, bring to a boil and simmer for 20-30 minutes over low heat.
  5. Blend using an immersion blender, or in batches in a blender (be very careful when blending hot liquids!), until soup is smooth.
  6. Return soup back into pot to reheat, add salt and pepper
  7. Soak 1/4 cup of cashews in water for 20 minutes, drain and blend in blender with 1/2 cup of water.
  8. Add cashew cream to soup, keep soup in pot on very low/simmer.
  9. Fry up onions until they are slightly caramelized.
  10. Add finely chopped parley to soup pot and stir (leave a little for garnish)
  11. Ladle soup in bowls.
  12. Serve onions on top for garnish with some finely chopped parsley.
  13. Sprinkle a small amount of truffle oil and/or truffle salt.
  14. Enjoy!
Original Soup Recipe: from a book I just purchased: Mouthwatering Vegan, Over 130 Irresistible Recipes For Everyone, by Miriam Sorrell.

What I Changed From Original Recipe:

  • Used truffle oil and truffle salt after soup ladled in bowls
  • Used fried caramelized onions as garnish with parsley
  • Added 2 cloves of garlic
  • Adjusted leeks and zucchini to 3 and 2

Oh ya, I made a great accompaniment with the soup – Tomato Onion Phyllo Pie, here’s a recipe that was my inspiration: http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/tomato-onion-phyllo-pizza. So delish and so easy!

Soup Mistress Rating for Zucchini Leek and Cashew Cream Soup:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (4.75/5
Presentation: (4/5) 

Taste: (4/5) 

San Francisco and Napa Valley – A Souper Duper Culinary Crawl

For the last week and half I have been in San Francisco, Napa Valley and then to San Mateo for work. It has been a wonderful culinary experience and a souper duper time. And especially so, because I had a partner in crime who likes food close to or a tad more than I! For probably half of our meals, if a soup fancied me on the menu, I just had to try!

Below is a list of soups I tried during the past week and half. I ranked them from the highest in taste. I definitely have no major complaint about any of the soups. The choices of restaurants were fine choices indeed in the first place, so no run ins with dud soups what-so-ever.

  1. French Onion Soup (Bouchon Cafe)
  2. Spring Suppa (A16)
  3. Asparagus Soup (Auberge Du Soliel)
  4. Beer Crab Soup (Kingfish Restaurant)
  5. Panna Cotta Chilled Carrot Soup (French Laundry)
  6. Tofu Soon Dobu (Sesame Korean Cuisine)
  7. Tom Yum Pak (Lemongrass Thai Cuisine)
  8. Wild Mushroom, Farro and Thyme Soup (Foreign Cinema)
  9. Potato Leek Soup (Cindys Kitchen)

Rank #1: Bouchon Bistro: Soupe a L’Oignon

A perfect afternoon in Napa Valley first started with a quick stop at Bouchon Bakery for a coffee and Monkey Bun and then over to Gotts for a lighter lunch. Shortly after sitting outside at a picnic table eating some mighty fine tacos from Gotts, we headed for a superb tour at a winery. After our wine tour we found ourselves back in Yountville at Bouchon but instead at the Cafe for second light afternoon snack!

We had the Soupe a L’Oignon (French Onion Soup) and Moules au Safran (Mussels) with French Fries with some nice white wine (can’t remember what wine exactly, but I’m pretty sure it was a local one).

Bouchon Bistro
6534 Washington Street, Yountville, CA, 94599
http://bouchonbistro.com

The Verdict of Bouchon Cafe Soupe a L’Oignon?

The onions were probably one of the best carmelized onions I had in an French Onion Soup. I asked the bartender if there were any special secrets to the soup. He said that the onions were first dredged in flour then caramelized slowly with red wine. I’m betting that they used some mighty fine red wine to caramelized these sweet babies in.

The soup had a lot of onions, and the bread in the soup kept it’s texture and not to mushy unlike some french onions soup may be guilty of.

The Gruyere cheese was the super star of the dish, I do wish that they used way more of it and had it oozing over the side of the bowl so that I could have peeled the crispy browned cheese off. I was sharing the soup – I do believe that my culinary partner in crime ate more cheese than me when I wasn’t looking! Doh!

Soup Mistress Rating for Bouchon Cafe Soupe a L’Oignon:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (2.5/5)
Presentation: (3.5/5) 
Taste: (4.5/5) 

Rank #2: A16: Spring Zuppa

A16
2355 Chestnut Ave, San Francisco, California
http://www.a16sf.com

The Verdict of A16 Spring Zuppa?

The soup was not your stuffy high end soup with heavy cream. It had a wonderful tasty and delicate broth. Actually probably one of the top broths I’ve had. It had very thinly sliced asparagus morsels and oh so fine crispy fried croutons. The herbs seemed very fresh, and they definitely used some fresh English Peas – oh my, I liked how they popped in my mouth! The soup seemed simple yet very elegant and oh so tasteful. It seemed as though the soup is an au natural for your tastebuds. No need to glamourize and heavy it up with fat and cream! I am guessing that the broth was a vegetable base – the roasted spring onion oil gave a really good depth to the broth that a meat based broth may have done. Brilliant. Overall, my tastebuds felt very satisfied with A16s Spring Zuppa and my hips didn’t feel guilty what-so-ever.

Soup Mistress Rating for A16 Spring Zuppa:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (4.5/5)
Presentation: (3/5) 
Taste: (4.5/5) 

Rank #3: Auberge Du Soliel: Asparagus Soup

Auberge Du Soliel
180 Rutherford Hill Road
Rutherford, California
http://www.aubergedusoleil.com

The Verdict of Auberge Du Soliel Asparagus Soup?

The soup was wonderful and the swirls of oil and cream were a very fine touch to the eye as for taste. Seasoned just right and no complaints. I do wish that there were a tad more morsels of asparagus in the soup.

Ok, I must confess. I didn’t take much notes of this soup nor did I pay attention to the exact  ingredients. Perhaps my culinary dropout mishap was because I went on a wine tour prior and my attention to detail was impaired due to alcohol and the breath taking view sitting on the deck looking down at the hills and vines. Best view ever of our trip dining for sure!

All I remember is that I really loved this soup (and it deserves this rating) and the grilled artichokes were awesome!

Soup Mistress Rating for Auberge Du Soliel Asparagus Soup:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (3.5/5)
Presentation: (4/5) 
Taste: (4/5) 

Rank #4: Kingfish Restaurant: Crab and Beer Soup

Kingfish Restaurant
201 South B Street, San Mateo, CA, 94401
http://www.kingfish.net

The Verdict of Kingfish Restaurant Crab and Beer Soup:

For my first spoonful, I thought this soup was very strong and had too much of a bold taste. Thinking that it was the beer itself in the recipe that made it so. But after my second and third spoonful, it really grew on me. I loved how it also was bitter yet spicy. I think when my soup came to life is when my chardonnay arrived to join the party. Somehow the wine tamed the bold taste and the really complimented it a ton. The soup had wonderful crab pieces and even some whole claws. Yum! I would order it again.

I loved the little drops of oil in the soup, I do wish that the soup had a dollop of creme fraiche and that they used chives instead of green onions though!

Soup Mistress Rating for Kingfish Restaurant Crab and Beer Soup:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (3/5)
Presentation: (3.5/5) 
Taste: (4/5) 

Rank #5: French Laundry: Panna Cotta Chilled Carrot Soup

The French Laundry
6640 Washington Street, Yountville, California
http://www.frenchlaundry.com

The Verdict of French Laundry Panna Cotta Chilled Carrot Soup:

This is one of the many dishes we were treated to above and beyond the tasting menu at the French Laundry last week. My culinary partner in crime seemed to have a good connection with Thomas Keller indeed. I felt like royalty and oh so lucky!!

Wonderful eye candy – the best of my soups for presentation by far for the week! It’s where culinary presentation meets performance art! Loved how we first got a peek of the Panna Cotta in the bottom and then experienced the server pouring the chilled soup over top. This beautiful tiny serving looked so delicate yet had the flavour of many garden fresh carrots! The soup was so velvety good and had just the right amount of sweetness and I think it had a tiny dash of curry. I loved digging down and getting the Panna Cotta with a pop of fine herbs (I think there were some finely chopped chives).

This is one chilled soup I would love to recreate at home – and yes, even making my own Panna Cotta may be in store! Thomas Keller’s establishment is top notch indeed, no wonder it can take months to get a reservation there! Check out their kitchen below – a sparkling perfection!!

Soup Mistress Rating for French Laundry Panna Cotta Chilled Carrot Soup:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (3.5/5)
Presentation: (5/5) 
Taste: (4/5) 

Rank #6: Sesame Korean Cuisine: Tofu Soon Dobu

Sesame Korean Cuisine
1355 Broadway
Burlingame, CA 94010

 

The Verdict of Tofu Soon Dobu :

This is the first of a Korean Tofu soup I ever tried. A very good friend of mine introduced me to this kind of cuisine. We were first served the small dishes, which is also known as Banchan. Then shortly after our bubbling hot soups arrived in little clay pots, the server walked away and we kept talking for a few minutes. Just as I was ready to dig into my yummy looking soup the owner came up and explained that the new server messed up and she needed to make the pots all bubbly again for us. And poof! they were taken away just as I was salivating at the smell of the broth!

Doh! What? Why?…. The new server forgot to crack in an egg in each of our bowls!

It was well worth the extra minutes of wait because when the owner came back, she had two eggs in her pocket with our bubbling soups and cracked the eggs in right away. Nice touch!

I stirred in my egg and watched it cook then dug in!

OMG, who needs meat and seafood?! This soup was very good with tofu and I loved how eating the Banchan between spoonfuls made a great marriage. I especially loved the pickled components because they brought out the soup broth even more.

I’m now going to keep a look out for this sort of soup back in Vancouver. Surprised that I never experienced before.

Soup Mistress Rating for Tofu Soon Dobu :

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (4.5/5)
Presentation: (3/5) 
Taste: (3.75/5) 

Rank #7: Lemongrass Thai Cuisine: Tom Yum Pak

Lemongrass Thai Cuisine
2348 Polk Street, San Francisco, California
http://www.lemongrasssf.com

The Verdict of Lemongrass Thai Cuisine Tom Yum Pak?

We didn’t scope out this place before hand, but just stumbled across it after walking up and down very steep hills in the Russian Hill area of San Francisco.

Two thumbs up for this soup. The broth was sweet and tangy just like any Tom Yum broth should. But the choice of the veggies and the way better than average broth made this stop so very delightful and unexpected!

Soup Mistress Rating for Lemongrass Thai Cuisine Tom Yum Pak:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (4.5/5)
Presentation: (3/5) 
Taste: (3.75/5) 

Rank #8: Foreign Cinema: Wild Mushroom, Farro and Thyme Soup

Foreign Cinema
2534 Mission Street, San Francisco CA 94110
http://www.foreigncinema.com

The Verdict of Foreign Cinema Wild Mushroom, Farro and Thyme Soup?

Foreign Cinema is a very neat restaurant nestled in a yet to be gentrified neighbourhood. When we first got out of the cab, I thought we were taken to the wrong place. But once we entered, the entrance was quite elegant with a red carpet and then we entered a large bustling place!

We decided to have the Wild Mushroom Farro and Thyme Soup for one of our appies. It was a good soup, but I was puzzled about the absence of mushrooms. There was no hint of mushrooms per se, but I am guessing it was a part of the broth perhaps? Loved the Farro and the broth was very tasty and seemed light and healthy (good in my books btw). The use of the thin crusty bread was elegant and it kept its crispiness quiet good. Kudos to the kitchen to split the one order up in two bowls. That was very nice of them!

The use of fresh thyme made the soup and I think another green herb (larger than thyme) was used, but I couldn’t pinpoint what it was.

Soup Mistress Rating for Foreign Cinema Wild Mushroom, Farro and Thyme Soup:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (4.5/5)
Presentation: (3/5) 
Taste: (3.5/5) 

Rank #9: Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen: Potato Leek Soup

Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen
1327 Railroad Avenue, St Helena, CA
http://www.cindysbackstreetkitchen.com

The Verdict of Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen: Potato Leek Soup?

This soup was good tasting, but seemed plain jane to me when comparing to the rest of soups above. Not really any wows from myself. Nothing outstanding stood out for me. It most likely had cream, butter and the use of chives is expected.

One dish that did blow the soup away that is notable from Cindy’s was a wonderful Rabbit Tostada with red chile salsa, black beans and feta. I felt really naughty since my diet is usually 90% vegetarian with some sort of bacon.

Soup Mistress Rating for Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen: Potato Leek Soup:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (3.5/5)
Presentation: (3/5) 
Taste: (3.5/5) 

Soup Artwork in Sonoma – Green Garlic and Potato Leek Soup at El Dorado

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Just this past weekend, I had the liberty to go for a beautiful drive to Sonoma when visiting San Francisco. This is one very cute town and I would love to go back and stay at least one night and do more wine tastings in town.

After trying and buying some wonderful wine at Bryter (www.bryter.com) in the Historic Sonoma Plaza we ventured on over to the Eldorado Hotel (www.eldoradosonoma.com) for some lunch.

It’s like soup art!
I ordered their Green Garlic and Potato Leek Soup. It  had smoked salmon, crispy fingerling potatoes, lemon pearls and creme fraiche.This was a very nice soup and probably the best looking soup I have ever been served up even though some soup was on the edge of bowl (just ignore that)! It’s like soup art! Just check out the creme fraiche lines in the soup picture above. I would like to try to do that in a soup in the future.

The Verdict of Green Garlic and Potato Leek Soup? The creme fraiche gave the soup a velvet taste, yet not too rich. I really loved how tiny the chives were chopped and how the chef fried up the fingerling potatoes. If I was to come back to Sonoma I would try the restaurant again for dinner for sure in a heart beat!

Stirring up Carrot and Saffron Soup at The Cookshop in Vancouver

Chef Alan Storimans

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Chef Alan Storimans was very passionate and instructed us how to create a few dishes.

Just right before the Christmas holidays I had the liberty to attend a cooking class at The Cookshop in Vancouver. The evening theme was Tuscan Participation and I had a wonderful time.

Chef Alan Storimans was very passionate and instructed us how to create the following dishes:

  • Carrot soup with saffron, sour cream and chives
  • Yukon gold potato gnocchi with pesto, lardons and extra virgin olive oil.
  • Handkerchief pasta, fire roasted tomatoes, spinach, baby shrimp, sea scallops, herb pan butter sauce
  • Goat cheese ravioli, wild smoked salmon chive cream sauce
  • Sweet honey ricotta cannoli

This week I remade the carrot soup recipe at home with some minor modifications, and I do love it. It is the first time that I have cooked a soup with saffron. I think saffron along with the chives are the superstar ingredients of this soup. Saffron’s aroma is often described by connoisseurs as reminiscent of metallic honey with grassy or hay-like notes, while its taste has also been noted as hay-like and sweet. Read more about Saffron on Wikipedia here.

Ingredients for carrot soup with saffron, sour cream and chives

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup leeks (light green and white part), chopped
  • 3/4 cup white onion, chopped
  • pinch saffron threads
  • 4 cups carrots, thinly sliced
  • 4 and 1/2 cups of low sodium vegetable stock
  • dash salt and pepper
  • 6 teaspoons sour cream
  • 1/4 cup chives, finely chopped

Cooking Instructions for carrot soup with saffron:

  1. Heat olive oil in heavy pan over medium-high heat. Add leeks and onions; cook 5 minutes, or until onions are softened.
  2. Add saffron and carrots and cook for 4 more minutes
  3. Add stock and bring to a boil, reduce heat, and gently simmer 35 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Working in batches, puree the soup in a food processor or blender until smooth.
  5. Return soup to saucepan over low heat. If soup is too thick add more stock and cook just until heated through (do not boil). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. To serve, ladle hot soup into bowls and top with sour cream and chives. Serve immediately.

What I changed from original carrot soup with saffron recipe:

  • replaced butter with olive oil
  • used more leeks just because I love them
  • used low sodium vegetable stock instead of chicken stock

Soup Mistress Rating for Carrot and Saffron Soup:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (4.5/5)
Presentation: (3.5/5) 
Taste: (4/5) 

Pink Beet Soup for Breast Cancer Awareness in October

Pink Beet Soup

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Completed Pink Beet Soup for Breast Cancer Awareness Month


October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. I am sure many of us have close friends or family members who had to deal with breast cancer. October is a time to:

  • support the cause with fundraisers by participating or donating (learn more on Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation’s site)
  • reflect on and support those who are currently fighting it, those who had survived breast cancer and those we lost from it
  • remind your female friends and family to do self-checks and get yearly mamograms. Early detection is very important in the fight against breast cancer.

One of my childhood friends, Michelle Cuthbertson-Jackson is a huge advocate of early detection and educating the young (she lost her mother to breast cancer). Michelle’s young daughter even knows what mamograms are – she calls them “mommy~grams”. Just recently, Michelle asked me for ideas on a soup that would represent Breast Cancer Awareness and one that has lots of antioxidants.

The first thing I thought of was beet soup with a low-fat cream base for the pink color, but I had to do my research to validate possible ingredients within various beet soup recipes that are deemed good antioxidants.

So what are antioxidants?

The National cancer institute fact sheet on antioxidants and cancer prevention fact sheet reads:

Antioxidants are substances that may protect cells from the damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals. Free radical damage may lead to cancer. Antioxidants interact with and stabilize free radicals and may prevent some of the damage free radicals might otherwise cause. Examples of antioxidants include beta-carotene, lycopene, vitamins C, E, and A, and other substances.  (Source link)

I checked out many beet soup recipes, and the one that looked most enticing to me was Bob Blumer’s recipe that I will be tweaking a tad and adding some ingredients. Here’s some information on each of the ingredients I will be using in respect to antioxidant properties:

  • Onions, leeks and garlic – are all part of the Allium group, which have phytochemicals that have excellent antioxidant activity, including the ability to neutralise potentially harmful free radicals. Cancer preventative effects. Research has indicated that onions and garlic may have a role in the prevention of a wide range of cancers. The sulphur compounds in onions have proved to be strong anticarginogens. This is thought to be partially because they increase the activity of the body’s own detoxifying enzymes, which remove potentially cancer-causing substances. Flavonoids have also been shown to activate detoxifying enzymes.
    (Source link -PDF)
  • Beets – Beetroot are a rich source of potent antioxidants and nutrients, including magnesium, sodium, potassium and vitamin C, and betaine. (Source link)
  • Potato – all potatoes contain a good level of antioxidants; however, the pigmented varieties contain higher levels than paler-fleshed varieties (Source link)
  • Lemon juice – Citrus fruits including lemons, grapefruits and oranges, are loaded with antioxidants. (Source link – PDF)
  • Spices (clove, cinnamon, ginger and herbs (thyme) – are typical spices high in antioxidants (confirmed in vitro) (Source link)

Beet Soup – The perfect pink soup for Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-½ cups onion, chopped
  • 1-½ cups leek, chopped
  • 2 cups celery, chopped
  • 2 teaspoon chopped ginger, finely chopped
  • 3 gloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 6 cups red beets, peeled and chopped into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 2 cups potato, peeled (but keep peels on if new potatoes) chopped into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 6 cups low sodium vegetable stock
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • dash salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1-3/4 cups goat plain yogurt (reserve ¼ cup for garnish)

Cooking Instructions:

1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in onions, leeks, celery, ginger and garlic; cook until soft but not browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in beets and potatoes, and cook for 1 minute.

2. Stir in vegetable stock, cinnamon stick, nutmeg, clove, thyme clove and dash of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; then turn down to a simmer right away and cover until the beets are tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat, and allow to cool slightly (about 10 minutes). Remove and discard cinnamon stick, thyme sprig and cloves.

3. Add lemon juice, yogurt (1-1/2 cups only – leave ¼ cup for the swirl garnish) and soup to food processor, and pulse until liquefied (do it in batches if needed).

4. Return soup to saucepan, and gently heat through.

5. Ladle into bowls, and garnish with an outline of the breast cancer logo (add yogurt in Ziploc and cut a tiny hole on corner and then draw out the ribbon in the soup)

Original Recipe that I tried and adjusted: http://www.foodnetwork.ca/Recipes/Appetizer/Potatoes/recipe.html?dishid=6162

What I changed from original recipe:

  • change beets to chopped – didn’t roast them but cooked them slowly on simmer
  • added 3 gloves of garlic
  • added 2 teaspoon chopped ginger
  • added 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • added 1 cinnamon stick
  • added 3 cloves
  • added thyme sprig
  • used vegetable stock instead
  • didn’t sieve the soup – if you puree it long enough it is really smooth
  • replaced cream with goat yogurt and changed it from ½ cup to 1-3/4 cup (you can use any plain yogurt)

Soup Mistress Rating for Pink Beet Soup Recipe Makeover:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (4.5/5)
Presentation: (4.5/5) 
Taste: (5/5)