Food Ideas: Single Vegetable Soups

1024px-Chilled_asparagus_soup

By stu_spivack (chilled asparagus soup) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Single-Vegetable Soups are what I call my soup creations that use just one vegetable and seasonings. They tend to be pureed soups with very clean flavors that put the focus on the vegetable. For the same reasons, some might consider them boring.

I love soups. Some evenings, that’s all I feel like eating. Most of the times I don’t have all the ingredients for making a mixed soup. I had to come up with recipes with the ingredients on hand. I could throw a bunch of vegetables together and create something but those tend to be unpredictable. I decided that the best strategy was to stick to a single vegetable and try to make a soup out of it.

I wanted to share some of my tips and suggestions for creating some simple soups.  My goal is to always let the flavor of the vegetable be the most prominent. I enjoy beets so I also enjoy a beet soup but for those who don’t, a soup like this might be the too beet-y to enjoy. Therefore I recommend sticking to vegetables that you otherwise enjoy eating.

Broth– I do not use any broth/ bullion in my single vegetable soups. They tend to add their own flavors that I find takes away from the star ingredient. Using water is one option but a tip I learned from a friend was to concentrate the vegetable flavor using the same vegetable. This step take some additional time and is optional but it does give the soup a more richer flavor. I have learned to use any unused parts of the same vegetable and create a quick broth instead of using water. For example, using the tough ends of asparagus or the tops of leeks. Use anything that you might otherwise throw away. I boil this in water for about 20 minutes along with salt and garlic and/or onion. Strain and use the liquid for the next step.

Alliums (Onions, garlic, leeks, chives, etc…)– I love onions and garlic and use them in pretty much anything I make but my single vegetable soups are a dish where I have to be careful about being over-enthusiastic with them. These are strong, powerful flavors and can easily overwhelm the dish. My policy is always to use only one or the other. With a mild flavored vegetable like asparagus, I stick to onions/ green onions. If you have a stronger tasting vegetable or a very bland one (eg. potatoes), garlic is the way to go.

Dairy– Dairy should always be the last step and there should be very little heat added once you add dairy. Remember that cream or milk are not your only options. Consider mixing in yogurt, sour cream, or ricotta. If you don’t want a creamy soup but want that smooth flavor, a knob of butter works great. You can also experiment with some cheese.

Spices– People often like to add a few spices to make the soups a little more flavorful. A curried soup is an example. I do not care for very many spices in my soup. I do like parsley and find it to be a very versatile herb that goes with many vegetables. I am also a nutmeg lover and try to add it to as many foods as I can. I have found that it works surprisingly well with some of the heavier soups. I recommend that you remove a small part of the soup and experiment with you spices before adding it to the whole pot.

Acid– There is something to be said for “brightening up” the flavor of soups. If the vegetables are usually cooked for long tend to lose that “freshness.” Lemon is always a friend. If the vegetable is naturally slightly sweet or if the soup is going to be creamy, consider adding a few drops of lemon juice. A few drops of vinegar is another alternative. I find milder ones like rice wine vinegar to be the best suited.

Texture– Even if you are going to puree the soup, do consider adding a little texture. In the case of asparagus, it might be a few tips that you set aside. Other additions I like to make include crispy potato skins or roasted seeds when making a squash soup.

I think one of the main reasons I like soups is because I get to enjoy whatever produce is in season. I am looking for as many ways to consume the vegetables as they become available. Right now, I am working on tomatoes. I am constantly experimenting with various combinations of ingredients. Some turn out better than others but keeping it simple has ensured that none of them have been complete disasters.

My most recent favorite creation was an asparagus soup. Here is a quick description of what I did.

  • Use the tough ends to make a broth along with a little onion.
  • Set aside a few tips of asparagus spears.
  • Cook the rest of the asparagus in the “broth” along with some onions. Season it and puree it.
  • Added the reserved tips and heat for a few minutes. Add a few drops of lemon juice.
  • Folded in some yogurt and a little bit of parmesan.
  • Topped with chopped parsley.

Are there any single vegetable soups that you particularly love?