Taste the soup!

I love a last moment to shine. On this chilly, rainy Spring day I thought about split pea soup on the way to work. I don't like hot soup in the summer. I just can't do it. Maybe some tortellini with broth, but no chicken noodle, no kale cold remedy soup, no spicy Asian broth-y pho-like anything.

Forgive the horn tooting, but I am a master soup blender/puree-er. In a professional kitchen, when you are first relegated to the salad station, after you prep your station you get to do the tasks no one else will do. In some cases not even the illegal immigrant hires will do these tasks. Peel grapes. Surgically remove veins from raw foie gras, puree soup. Not "make" soup mind you - this is after another chef has crafted the soup it gets passed to you. First you puree the soup with a home-depot version of a hand blender, then into the almighty Vita Mix blender, strain through a chinois "chino fino" in kitchen Spanish, using a ladle to press the solids. Depending on the soup sometimes you'd have to repeat this ordeal. White gazpacho was the worst. Trying to get stale bread and almonds smooth was an uphill battle. If I never see another chestnut again I'll be OK. Later on in my past career I never worked the grill station that put out the soup so I never got to make soup and pass it to an alternate peon, but I relished being done with those tasks when I took on hot appetizers & risotto.

Translating this skill to my home cooking life, I especially love soup during a week when I'm trying to only spend $50 on groceries for 7 days, when it's cold, and when there is an odd leftover. I can build an amazingly fast soup with a rotisserie chicken, some boxed stock, carrots, spinach and pasta (a MacGuyver recipe!) but I adore pureed vegetable based soups. One I make repeatedly - sweet potato with caramelized onions. I roast sweet potatoes, slice and caramelize a load of onions, and combine them with some stock in the food processor. Swirl in some apple butter and it's an elegant first course. Simmering some vegetables with onions, maybe garlic, and stock and then pureeing is the method for any veggie soup. This works for cauliflower, mushrooms, peas, asparagus, parsnips, and carrots. For carrot soup I like to throw in a load of ginger and big scoop of peanut butter, and garnish with wasabi peanuts. Easy. Cheap. When I want a garnish for cauliflower soup I slice up some Aidell's chicken apple sausage. For tonight's split pea I made a quick ham stock with the Easter Ham bone, sauteed onions in olive oil, added the split peas, stock and herbs with a bay leaf wrapped around it and puttered around facebook while it simmered. Then I pureed it, put it back in the pot, and added some leftover ham and shredded carrots because peas and carrots are funny together.

Maybe this summer I'll work on some cucumber soups (garnish with curry-coconut sorbet??) but I am retiring the soup portion of my dijon colored Le Creuset 6 QT until the fall.