Nathalie Dupree’s eggplant, coriander sand peanut soup

Redolent with the flavors of the East, this soup relies on coriander seed, cilantro and other spices for its underlying flavor. A hot pepper or additional cayenne pepper can be added for a final boost. We’ve even added a tad of bottled pepper sauce at the last minute.

Cilantro is one of those herbs not everyone enjoys eating, as some people finds it tastes soapy. If there is any chance anyone will be served who can’t eat it, set some aside without the cilantro. Or find another herb such as parsley or oregano, for instance, to add as a garnish. It will still be good.

Ingredients

1/4 cup cooking oil

1 medium onion, very finely chopped

1 pound eggplant, peeled and chopped into ½-inch cubes

1 teaspoon salt

1 hot chili, seeded and minced, to taste (optional)

1 slice of ginger the size of a quarter, very finely chopped

1 teaspoon ground cumin seed

1/8-1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (optional)

1 teaspoon ground coriander seed

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

14-1/2 ounce can of diced fire-roasted tomatoes

4-5 cups chicken or vegetable broth

3/4 cup creamy or chunky natural peanut butter

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/3 cup coarsely chopped cilantro, lightly packed

1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts and optional cilantro or herb leaves for garnish

Directions

Heat two tablespoons of the oil in a heavy pot over medium high heat. Add onions and sauté, occasionally stirring, for about 5 to 10 minutes until very soft, browned and slightly caramelized. Remove onions from pot and set aside.

Add the eggplant, stirring to coat with oil. If necessary, add one or two more tablespoons of oil. Stir and cook eggplant until slightly tender (about 10-15 minutes). Remove eggplant from pot and set aside.

Add the remaining one tablespoon of oil to the pot, then add ginger and chile powder and saute for 30 seconds, adding oil as needed. Add ground cumin, coriander and turmeric. Stir and cook for another 30 seconds, and then add onion back to the pot. Add canned tomatoes, including their juice; broth and reserved eggplant to onion mixture. Stir to combine and increase heat. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to simmer.

Measure 3/4 cup of the peanut butter into a separate bowl. Pour a ladleful of hot soup on the peanut butter. Stir or whisk the peanut butter and hot liquid till creamy and peanut butter is completely emulsified. Add peanut butter mixture into rest of soup, stirring over heat to combine.

Bring to a boil, stirring, then reduce heat and cook, covered, over medium heat, covered, for 35-45 minutes or until eggplant are tender. Remove from heat.

Taste, stirring in an additional 1/4-1/2 cup peanut butter, if necessary for taste or thickness, and stir in cilantro and lemon juice. Serve right away or refrigerate up to four days or freeze. It is better the next day. Garnish each bowl with peanuts and cilantro. Add a little hot sauce or hot pepper if needed in the kitchen or at the table.

Substitutions or additions: Add shredded spinach to the bottom of each cup and pour the hot soup on top to thoroughly heat the spinach but not overcook it. Fresh or frozen green peas would be welcome. Add at the end so they do not overcook. Use chunked zucchini or yellow squash in addition to or instead of the eggplant. Add shredded chicken, ham or cooked pork. A handful of cooked spaghetti cut into pieces or another cooked pasta like macaroni works well. Up the quantity of spices if more than 2 cups of another ingredient are added. Add 1/2 to 1 cup of stock or even water if more liquid is needed. Use less stock if a hearty “stoup” is wanted.

Fire roasted tomatoes and roasted spices, available in most grocery stores, add flavor to this soup, but are not crucial. If none are available, canned tomatoes can be roasted on a sheet pan in a hot oven until lightly charred.

Confetti Soup

Cathy Nutatis’ confetti and cheese soup

My neighbor Cathy Nutatis developed this recipe, starting out with a recipe for a cheese called calico soup: She likes this one more. She grates the cheese herself as pre-grated cheese has a different texture and taste. The bell peppers give the soup a pimento-cheese flavor.

Ingredients

4 tablespoons butter

2 carrots, thinly sliced

2 celery stalks, thinly sliced

1/2 to 1 red bell pepper, diced

1/2 green bell pepper, diced (optional)

1/2-1 medium onion, diced

1-2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped

1/4 cup flour

4 cups chicken broth

2 cups frozen or fresh broccoli florets, defrosted and patted dry

1 cup half-and-half or whole milk

6 ounces American cheese, shredded

6 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

Hot sauce, to taste

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

Directions

Melt the butter in a heavy 6-quart pot. Add the carrots, celery stalks, peppers, onion and garlic and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft. Sprinkle in the flour, stirring until incorporated. Add the chicken stock, turn up heat, and stir until all is incorporated and bring to a boil. Add the broccoli florets, and cook a few minutes. Remove from heat to add the half-and-half or milk, as well as the cheeses, stirring until cheese is melted.

May be made ahead to this point and refrigerated up to several days, covered. Reheat carefully over low heat to prevent the cheese from separating and being stringy. Taste before serving and add hot sauce, salt and freshly ground pepper as needed.

Substitutions and additions: If two half peppers are not what’s in your refrigerator, use a whole pepper of only one kind or substitute jarred. Without bell pepper it will have a richer taste. For a sharper cheese taste, omit the American cheese and use only cheddar. Gruyere will offer a milder soup with a lighter look.

Frozen broccoli, spinach or English peas can be added. If using fresh broccoli, cook a few minutes longer. Spinach and green peas, whether fresh or frozen, cook in almost the same amount of time, and should be added at the end to avoid overcooking. Shredded cooked chicken, ham or pork can be added. A little cooked macaroni would help make this a filling meal.

Lauren Furey’s creamy cauliflower soup

Cauliflower has a natural velvetiness when caramelized and blended, so cream is not needed. Save some of the sautéed mushrooms and parsley for a garnish, drizzle with olive oil, and now it is a soup fit for company! This can easily be served as a filling starter or entrée, especially if you add protein. If feeding a vegetarian, omit the prosciutto and top with cannellini beans.

Ingredients

1 medium cauliflower, stem removed, cleaned, and florets finely chopped

1-2 tablespoons olive oil or butter

1 leek, cleaned, trimmed of the dark green part, and finely chopped

1-1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, cleaned, thinly sliced and divided

1 tablespoon. fresh ginger, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

4 slices prosciutto or pancetta, thinly sliced, with one reserved for garnish (optional)

1 orange, zested and juiced

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth (low sodium or unsalted)

1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

1/4 to 1/2 cup Comte or parmesan cheese, grated, for garnish

1 tablespoon. olive oil for garnish, optional

Parmesan rind for the broth (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread chopped cauliflower on a lightly greased baking sheet for 20 minutes, flipping after 10 minutes. Reserve several pieces for garnish.

While the cauliflower is roasting, heat olive oil or butter in a 2- or 3-quart pot. Add leeks, mushrooms and ginger. Cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Reserve a few mushrooms for garnish.

Add cauliflower, garlic, optional prosciutto, orange zest and 2-3 tablespoons of orange juice. Sauté until tender and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes.

Add the stock and parmesan rind to the pot, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until the rind has melted. Add parsley.

While the soup gently simmers, pan fry a slice of sliced prosciutto until crisp, then chop into little pieces for a crispy garnish, if desired.

Puree soup with an immersion blender or high quality blender. Serve and garnish with cheese, reserved mushrooms, prosciutto and parsley. Drizzle with olive oil.

Substitutions and additions: Swap out the prosciutto for thin country ham, roasted chicken or roasted pork, thinly sliced. Add roasted broccoli florets, whole or chopped; garnish with cooked ribbons of carrots.

Reach Hanna Raskin at 843-937-5560 and follow her on Twitter @hannaraskin.

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