Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Chive Oil and Espresso Salt

A few weeks ago I had the most amazing cauliflower soup. It was rich, creamy, and silky smooth. I instantly wanted to make it myself, but I was convinced my immersion blender would not be up to the task. I thought I would definitely need an industrial strength restaurant blender to get a puréed soup that smooth, and I was not really in the market for one of those.

Even with some nagging doubts, I decided to give it a whirl (ha). After cooking the bejeezus out of the cauliflower, I busted out my trusty blender and puréed the soup, and then puréed it a little more, and then even a little bit more. And guess what? Silky smooth! I was impressed and a little astonished. Good job, blender. With the soup done, I focused on garnishes, just for fun.

The original recipe called for fried capers, but I goofed and forgot to pick them up at the  store. So I took a cue from the restaurant soup and topped it with seemingly exotic espresso salt. After scouring the internet for espresso salt recipes and coming up empty, I decided I could probably handle this one on my own. I combined relatively equal amounts of ground espresso and grey sea salt, rubbing the mixture together with my fingers until it looked and tasted good. Voila.

And then I served the fanciest-looking weeknight soup ever. A creamy cauliflower purée topped with fresh chive oil and espresso sea salt. Fancy looking, but ridiculously easy. I promise.

Creamy cauliflower soup with chive oil and espresso salt

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Creamy Cauliflower Soup

Soup

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large (4 lb.) head of cauliflower, chopped into small florets, or 6 cups frozen chopped cauliflower
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup half and half or whole milk
  • salt and pepper to taste

Chive Oil

  • 1/4 cup chopped chives
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Espresso Sea salt

  • 1 tsp. ground espresso
  • 1 tsp. coarse sea salt

Heat olive oil and 1 Tbs. butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and a pinch of salt and stir until softened, about 5-6 minutes. Stir in cauliflower and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer until cauliflower is soft, about 25 minutes or so.

While cauliflower is cooking, make the garnishes. To make the chive oil, combine chives and olive oil in a small food processor or blender until well-combined. You can keep it slightly chunky or puree until completely smooth. To make espresso sea salt, stir together ground espresso and salt until well-combined. Set aside.

Once the cauliflower is soft, remove the soup from the heat and puree with an immersion blender until completely smooth. (You can also puree it in batches using a standard blender, but an immersion blender is relatively inexpensive and makes killer soups with ease. I highly recommend getting one.)

Place pureed soup back over low heat and stir in half and half, remaining 2 Tbs. butter, and salt and pepper to taste. Heat and serve immediately, garnished with chive oil and sprinkled with espresso sea salt.

Source: Slightly adapted from How Sweet It Is.

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Hearty Winter Minestrone

There’s really not much to say when the wind-chill is 46 below. And the frost has left a feathery trail eight feet high, all the way to the top of the porch door. And you have to worry if the antifreeze in your windshield wiper fluid is capable of functioning in this kind of cold. Not that it matters, since you won’t be going anywhere.

There’s not much to say, except that it is absolutely, definitively, without a doubt, soup weather.

So if you are blessed to be in a region experiencing the polar vortex, or winter storm Hercules, or heck, if you just caught a matinee of Disney’s “Frozen,” warm yourself up with a big pot of minestrone. Any soup that starts with sautéed bacon and then adds piles upon piles of hearty vegetables is a guaranteed winner. And since Gabe and I are a two-person household, this big batch of soup has lasted us for days.

Just in time to jet off to California, where I can almost guarantee it’s not soup weather. Phew.

Hearty winter minestrone

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Hearty Winter Minestrone

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 4 oz. bacon, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup dry vermouth
  • 28 oz. canned, diced tomatoes
  • 6-8 cups unsalted chicken or turkey stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup uncooked orzo
  • 15 oz. canned navy beans, drained and rinsed
  • 8 oz. fresh baby spinach leaves
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • freshly grated parmesan, for serving
  • homemade or store-bought pesto, for serving

Heat olive oil in large dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 6-8 minutes. Stir in the onion, carrots, celery, butternut squash, garlic, and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat for about 8-10 minutes, or until vegetables have begun to soften. Stir in dry vermouth and cook for 2 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes, 6 cups of chicken stock, bay leaf, 1 Tbs. salt, and 1 tsp. pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Stir in the orzo and simmer for another 10-12 minutes, or until orzo is al dente. Remove the bay leaf from the pot and stir in the navy beans. If the soup seems too thick, add more stock. Cook for another few minutes, until the beans are heated through. Stir in the baby spinach and cook for a few more minutes, until the spinach is wilted. Taste the soup and add more salt and pepper if desired.

Serve in individual bowls with freshly grated parmesan and a dollop of fresh pesto on top.

Serves 8.

Source: Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Foolproof by Ina Garten.

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili

For the most part, Gabe and I have similar tastes. There are only a few foods I can’t stand that make him question why he’s marrying me (and/or if I’m actually American): ketchup, donuts, and kidney beans. But sharing your life with someone means making small adaptations, and one of those little changes is how we make our chili. Sans kidney beans. Plus sweet potatoes.

I got this recipe years ago from a dear friend and hadn’t tried it yet because Gabe didn’t like sweet potatoes. Lo and behold, he’s now a sweet potato fanatic and I’m still not eating kidney beans, so this recipe was perfect for us. I’m going to ignore the fact that my food aversions are strangely more entrenched than his and call it a win-win.

Also, as you gaze at this hearty, delectable chili, you’re getting a sneak peek of an upcoming recipe. I’m clever like that. Enjoy!

Sweet potato and black bean chili

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 Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbs. chili powder
  • 4 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground chipotle
  • pinch of cayenne
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 15-oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-oz can diced tomatoes with chiles
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • accompaniments: limes, avocados, cheese, sour cream, etc.

Heat olive oil in large dutch oven over medium heat. Stir in onion and sweet potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions start to soften, about 6 minutes. Stir in garlic, chili powder, cumin, chipotle, and cayenne. Cook, stirring frequently, for one minute or until garlic is fragrant.

Stir in chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in black beans and tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Cook for an additional 5 minutes and add salt and pepper to taste.

The chili is great as-is, or you can serve it with lime wedges, sliced avocado, shredded cheese, sour cream, etc.

Source: Slightly adapted from Eating Well via Melanie Dethlefsen. 

Butternut Squash Tortellini in Garlic-Sage Broth

Once upon a time in a land far, far away, a national government stopped working. And federal employees found themselves sent home without pay. This was bad news all around, but it was slightly mitigated by the fact that at least one food blogger acquired a  sous-chef for a lovely afternoon cooking session.

And that was how my sister found herself not working for a great senator from the state of Minnesota, but perched at my kitchen island, folding dozens of butternut squash tortellini. Thank you, furlough.

I initially served this tortellini with cranberries, pecans, and a brown butter sauce, but I wasn’t a huge fan. (I don’t think I’ve fully grasped the concept of brown butter yet.) I much prefer this pasta lightly covered with a warm, garlicky broth, so the butternut squash flavor can shine. The sage lends a touch of sophistication to the dish, but it’s still comfort food at heart.

If you need a refresher course in how to fold tortellini (it’s fun, I promise!) click here.

Butternut Squash Tortellini in Garlic-Sage Broth

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Butternut Squash Tortellini in Garlic-Sage Broth

Butternut Squash Tortellini

  • 1 pound peeled butternut squash, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/8 tsp. dried nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup whole milk ricotta
  • kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 recipe homemade pasta, or 1 package wonton wrappers

Garlic-Sage Broth

  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbs. flour
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 4 sage leaves
  • kosher salt
  • freshly grated parmesan

Make the tortellini filling: Preheat oven to 375° F. Toss together squash, 1 Tbs. olive oil, basil, oregano, and rosemary on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake until squash is soft, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Stir in shallot and garlic, and sauté until soft, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Puree baked squash, shallots, and garlic in a food processor until smooth. Stir in nutmeg, ricotta, and salt and pepper to taste.

Roll out fresh pasta and slice into squares, or use wonton wrappers. Place 1 tsp. filling on each square and fold. (For more in-depth instructions, see here.) Reserve 24 or so tortellini and freeze the rest.

Heat a large pot of salted water to boiling.

Meanwhile, make broth: Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in stock and sage leaves and bring to a boil. Once the stock is boiling, remove the sage leaves. Continue to boil until the stock has reduced to about 2 cups, about 10 minutes, and add salt to taste.

When the broth has 4-5 minutes remaining, add the tortellini to the boiling water and cook until al dente. Spoon tortellini into bowls. Top with broth and freshly grated parmesan.

Serves 4 first courses or 2-3 main courses.

Source: Tortellini adapted from Giada De Laurentiis. Broth adapted from Alice Waters, via Valleybrink Road.

Chilled Spring Pea and Mint Soup

Sometimes I feel there’s this imaginary divide in my brain between “regular” cooking and “fancy” cooking. Regular cooking is the sort of throw-it-together meal that happens on a busy weeknight, like sandwiches or quesadillas, while fancy cooking involves an extensive ingredient list or a dish that I would be more likely to order at a restaurant than make myself. For whatever reason, chilled soup always seemed to be fancy cooking for me. Do people actually make cold soup, or is it just something to be served in tiny little cups as an amuse bouche at the beginning of a rather expensive meal?

Surprise! It turns out chilled soups are nothing more than regular soups with an ice bath thrown in for fun. I made this lovely, fragrant pea soup this week and served it for dinner with a homemade baguette and ricotta cheese. It was a quick and easy meal that certainly felt special. Plus, we dined al fresco, which is “fancy cooking” for outside on the balcony in the late evening sun.

Chilled spring pea and mint soup

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Chilled Spring Pea and Mint Soup

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 lb. fresh or frozen peas
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in shallots and cook for 2-3 minutes, until soft. Stir in peas and sauté for 2 minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes. Stir in mint leaves, then blend using an immersion blender until smooth. (You can also use a regular blender, just do it in batches.) Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour soup into a bowl over an ice bath and cool, stirring occasionally. Finish chilling soup in the refrigerator, then serve.

Serves 6.

Source: Williams-Sonoma Cooking for Friends.

Nutrition facts (per serving): 130 calories, 4.9 g fat, 17.1 g carbs, 4.2 g fiber, 4.5 g protein.

Tortellini Soup

When I was a kid, I preferred tortellini swimming in alfredo sauce to any other version. And while that dish still has its place (like yesterday’s lunch with my baby sister), here’s a hearty, satisfying, and much lighter way to prepare tortellini.

This soup is warm and cozy, perfect for freaking cold January days. And February days. And those extra-special chilly days when you welcome a bleary-eyed and hungry friend back to Minnesota after a long vacation in Bangkok and Abu Dhabi. Poor guy. We gave him hugs and fed him soup. Warmed the body and warmed the soul.

Tortellini Soup | Lingonberry Jam

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Tortellini Soup

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes, with juices
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 9 oz. cheese tortellini, store-bought or homemade
  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach, loosely packed
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • parmesan cheese, for serving

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for another minute. Stir in oregano, tomatoes, and broth. Bring to a boil and add tortellini. Cook according to package instructions. One minute before the tortellini is al dente, stir in spinach. Taste soup and add salt and pepper accordingly. Serve with freshly grated parmesan.

Serves 4.

Source: Annie’s Eats.

Nutrition facts (per serving, with 1 Tbs. parmesan): 230 calories, 11.4 g fat, 22.7 g carbs, 3.0 g fiber, 10.6 g protein.

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

Hello? Hello? Is this thing on?

Ahem. Yes, I’ve been away for a bit. A long bit. But I have some really good excuses. Like… completing my master’s degree and moving across the country. Since my last blog post, Gabe and I celebrated Hanukkah and Christmas, he started a new job, and I set up our new home while actively searching for employment. We spent one night on the floor, one night in a hotel, and seventeen nights on an air mattress in an almost-empty apartment. Uffda.

Once the moving truck with all our worldly possessions finally arrived, I rejoiced at the fact that our apartment looked like this instead of like this. And to celebrate the return of my kitchen and firmly establish Minneapolis as our new city, I made the coziest meal I could think of: creamy tomato basil soup with grilled cheese.

It was warm. It was delicious. We were home.

Creamy tomato basil soup | Lingonberry Jam

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Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

  • 4 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 can (28 oz.) whole, peeled tomatoes (drained)
  • pinch cayenne
  • 2 oz. neufchâtel cheese
  • 1 Tbs. dried basil (or 3 Tbs. fresh)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, 10-12 minutes. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in stock, tomatoes, and cayenne, and bring to a boil.

Turn heat down to low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Add cheese and stir until mostly melted (there may still be small chunks). Puree using an immersion blender until smooth and creamy. Stir in basil and add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 6.

Source: A Lingonberry Jam original

Nutrition facts (per serving): 150 calories, 10.2 g fat, 12.0 g carbs, 1.8 g fiber, 4.6 g protein.