Sunday, January 30, 2011

Tomato Soup with Pancetta (& a Grilled Cheese): Comfort Food for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

After partaking of Melt, (a fairly new food truck here in Hawaii that offers variations of grilled cheese sandwiches and a daily soup for dipping) a few weeks ago, I have had grilled cheese and tomato soup on the brain ever since.

Bacon Melt & Tomato Soup (with pickled veggies) from Melt

Enter the fact that it is Potluck week at I Heart Cooking Clubs and I decided to try a home version using Giada's Tomato Soup with Pancetta. I thought the recipe sounded interesting with it's pancetta and onion and it's use of rye bread as a thickener for the soup. This recipe had lots of varying feedback on the Food Network--usually based on whether people liked the bread or not. Being me, and wanting the soup for the more specific purpose of dipping, I used Giada's recipe as a base and made several adaptions.
  • I added 3 smallish cloves of garlic (I needs me my garlic in soup) ;-)
  • To make the soup a bit thicker, I reduced the chicken stock to 4 cups from 6
  • For more tomato flavor, I added 1 box of Pomi tomatoes plus another 1/2 box I had in the freezer & I added 2 Tbsp of tomato paste.
  • Giada does not have the soup pureed in the recipe but for dipping purposes, I pulled out my immersion blender and went for it.
  • I skipped the topping of the mascarpone cheese and sour cream to save my self-imposed dairy allowances for the grilled cheese sandwich and not mess up my dunking.
For the sandwich, I kept the soup's flavors by using some of the marbled rye pan bread I got for the soup (not a lot of choice in rye bread here but this was a good bread), adding a thin layer of pancetta, a little basil and then added smoked gouda and a little smoked mozzarella.

The soup and sandwich combo made a delicious meal--ultimate comfort food.

The recipe for the soup can be found at the Food Network
here. (My changes are all in red above)

Tomato Soup with Pancetta
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
(Makes 6 Servings)

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 ounces pancetta, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
3 (3/4-inch-thick) slices rustic rye bread (each about 5 3/4 by 3 3/4 inches), cubed
6 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juices
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup sour cream

Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the pancetta and saute until crisp and golden, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the bread and toss to coat with the pan drippings. Saute until the bread is crisp and golden, about 5 minutes. Add the broth, tomatoes, basil, oregano, and crushed red pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the flavors blend, about 10 minutes. Season soup with salt and pepper.

Stir the mascarpone and sour cream in a small bowl to blend. Ladle the soup into bowls. Spoon a dollop of the mascarpone mixture atop the soup and serve.

Notes/Results: The soup was thick, rich and tasty with layers of flavor from the rye and the pancetta and paired with the sandwich well. I think, based on appearance, I would likely puree the soup as a rule in this one--it looked better and I enjoyed the texture more than with the chunks of disintegrating bread--but I am sure some of that has to do with the type and texture of the bread you are using. Sure bread in soup and bread on sandwich means a lot of starch and bread in this meal, but it adds to the flavor and the "dunk factor" with its texture. This soup is easy to make and I would make it again with my changes.

You can check out what the other IHCC peeps chose as their Potluck dishes by going to the post here and checking out the links.

Let's head to the Souper Sundays kitchen, where we have some fabulous dishes waiting, some new friends to meet, and old friends to catch up with.

Speaking of old friends, I am honored to have one making her first appearance at Souper Sundays this week--Ruth from Once Upon A Feast and founder of Presto Pasta Nights--one of my favorite weekly blog events. The cold weather is inspiring Ruth to make comfort food like... "like some hearty soup. My dad's favorite was beef & barley soup, but mine were her split pea or lentil soups with lots of short ribs. And then I found this recipe for Mushroom, Beef, Barley AND Lentil Soup.... need I say more?" Welcome Ruth!

And we have 5 other soup loving friends new to Souper Sundays here this week!

First up is # Héni from Simplicity's Table by the Sea, joining us from her kitchen by the Mediterranean Sea with a sunny Chourba Aâdess Rouge. Héni says, "Today, I am presenting one of my all time favourite winter soups that not only is healthy, low calorie but vegan also! Red lentils, the ones I have used in this soup are the most common type of red lentil is the Red Chief. It's a lovely orange in its dried form, but it turns golden when cooked. These lentils cook faster than others. They're best in purées or soups. Red lentils are mostly used in Indian, Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisine."

Next, joining us from chilly New York City is Maria of Kali Orexi, (Greek for good appetite) who made classic Italian Wedding Soup. She says, "It was a balmy 6 degrees outside when we woke up this morning. The day’s high temp registered at 22 degrees. It’s freezing here in New York to say the least. And when it’s freezing we cook and eat soup … and lots of it. I had some ground beef out defrosting so I clicked on over to and did a search for soups. The first to catch my eye was an Italian Meatball Soup referred to in Italian as Minestra Maritata. Little meatballs, greens, small pasta shapes … "

And we have Champa from Versatile Vegetarian Kitchen who shares a healthy Vegan Tomato Soup. Champa says, "My younger one loves soup. Give some soup with bread or as is, she is a happy person. But, there is a catch to it. It has to have tomatoes in it. I have made pumpkin soup, butternut squash soup which, she will taste once and leave it. But serve her this tomato soup or Roasted red bellpepper soup, she is a happy girl. I made this especially for her and is the reason for not using any herbs."

Another new face and tomato lover is Claire from Chez Cayenne blogging from Houston Texas and with Creamy Tomato Basil Soup. Claire says, "This is a recipe that I've been making variation on for years. It's one of the richest tomato soups out there, thanks to the balsamic vinegar. To neutralize the acid in the vinegar, you add some baking soda, which makes the soup foam up briefly like a science experiment, so it's a fun soup to make, too"

Our final new face is Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook, joining us from New York with unique Shiruko --Japanese Mochi and Azuki Bean Dessert Soup. Susan says, "The (mochi) texture was crispy, crunchy, and light, not unlike puffed rice. I finished each bowl with the lightest rub of dried green mugwort from my fingertips. Mugwort is a distinctively hued herb not unlike green matcha tea, that is used to blend into soft mochi and noodles for novel color and subtle aroma and flavor. A member of the artemesia family, mugwort has many culinary and medicinal uses throughout Europe and the Far East, and has been ascribed with magical properties. While I cannot vouch for its fanciful characteristics, I do believe that a steaming bowl of shiruko can comfort the soul and lift the spirits. If that isn't magic, I don't know what is."

Welcome to Souper Sundays to all of you and I hope to have you back soon! ;-)

My buddy girlichef continues her quest for the best tortilla soup with this beautiful bowl of Good Neighbor Tortilla Soup from "The Good Neighbor Cookbook." girlichef says, "I think what really sets this version apart is the extent to which the flavors are built and developed. Bone-in chicken breasts poached in chicken stock for a fortified, double-strength chicken punch. Charred veggies lend smoky, earthy undertones. ... There's just so much flavor...and goodies...packed into each spoonful that it's hard to dismiss. Yes, there are chiles in it, but they are mild pasillas. They add the depth without the fire. Join me in a warm bowl of Tortilla Soup?"

Debbi of Debbi Does Dinner... Healthy & Low Calorie is back this week with a Green Chili Chicken & Lime Soup and says, "I've made this soup a number of times and each time it seems to get better and better. I often cook a bunch of chicken and have bags of portioned cooked, shredded chicken in the freezer. I cooked the rice early in the day so when it came time for dinner, this was able to be thrown together very quickly. Very healthy and incredibly tasty!!"

Tigerfish from Teczcape - An Escape to Food made a simple Clear Daikon Soup and says, "About simplification of already-simple dishes, I also attempted to make a clear daikon soup one day, without the chicken. Some green onions and Japanese Dried Ebi (Shrimps), that was it. With a few ingredients, this is not a soup big and bold on the flavors. But if you wish for something light, it may just be it."

Corina from Searching for Spice has a restorative Poached Salmon in Noodle Soup. She says, "My husband has been feeling unwell with a nasty cold and I keep feeling like a sore throat is coming on so my aim tonight was to make something soothing that would make us both feel better. With lots of garlic, ginger and chilli as well as super-healthy salmon, this dish was just what we both needed. ... It’s delicious, filling and healthy. What more could you want on a cold winter’s night?"

Lindsey from Enjoying Healthy Foods has a Paleo Chili with Cauliflower (No Beans) about which she says. "Like I said yesterday, hubby was out of town this past weekend and out the door was my diet. I ate grains and I had dairy and my elbows broke out and my body ached and I got sick. It is hard cutting out such BIG ingredients. I am still learning and I am still making mistakes. READ SET GO --- Another Chili recipe with 3/4 vegetables 1/4 meat!!!! Yes - I have made another chili --- NO ALMOND BUTTER this time!!! :)"

Julie from Little Bit of Everything made a healthy Tomato Chickpea Soup. She says, "It's a delicious version of tomato soup. The rosemary adds a nice earthy fragrance to the tomatoes and the chickpeas give it some substance. I brought my rosemary plant in for the winter and so far it's doing pretty well. I've found the fastest way to chop rosemary is to snip it with kitchen shears, much quicker than trying to chop with a knife. I almost always have some homemade chicken stock in the freezer, so I used it in place of the veggie stock."

My pal Joanne from Eats Well With Others has two dishes to share this week, chili and a salad. For her Pork and Black-Eyed Pea Chili she says, "Make this chili. This chili, which is smoky spicy stick-to-your-ribs-but-not-to-your-thighs delicious. It will win you brownie points. And chocolate points. And take-you-out-to-a-Michelin-starred-dinner on V day points. Yes, I know. I love you too."

About her Roasted Pumpkin, Wild Rice and White Bean Salad with a Ginger Sunflower Seed Dressing Joanne says, "I first encountered this salad on 101 Cookbooks but then doctored it up to suit my needs. I added white beans, because they are beautiful. I added ginger because the dressing tasted a little...well...boring without it. And I doubled it so that I could at least pretend that I was bringing it to share with other people. Sometimes, I can be selfish in such an altruistic kind of way."

Denise from Oh Taste N See is here with Boraani Esfenaaj – Iranian Spinach and Yogurt Salad and says, "Boraani Esfenaaj is the Iranian version of the Indian raita. Most often served with meat and rice dishes as a a side, it is a cool and refreshing salad of spinach and yogurt. Boraani means salad in Iranian and Esfenaaj means spinach. It is a very simple preparation where you saute the spinach, cool it and mix it with yogurt."

We have one hearty sandwich from Roz at la bella vita, this Cobb Salad in a Wrap. Roz says, "There aren't many people who don't like a loaded, classic Cobb Salad. Today I prepared a lower- calorie version of the Cobb salad in the form of a turkey wrap! It was a perfect low-cal substitute and thoroughly flavorful and filling. My husband looked at it and said, "I find it hard to believe that this wrap is low-cal!" Well, it is! This wrap is going to make some encore appearances in my lunch boxes, that's for sure!"

Another fantastic turnout this week. Thanks to everyone who joined in and another big welcome to our new friends. If you have a soup, salad, or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on my side bar for the guidelines and details.

Have a happy, healthy week!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Tropical Oatstacks (with Mixed Dried Berries): A Healthy, Unique Cookie Treat From Mark Bittman

I have had Mark Bittman's "The Food Matters Cookbook: 500 Revolutionary Recipes for Better Living" sitting beside my bed, covered in post it notes tabs marking recipes I want to make for the past couple of months, but sadly had not cooked anything from it. Today I wanted something sweet, a banana muffin or maybe a healthy-ish oatmeal cookie, so I opened up the book and finally settled on a compromise with Bittman's Tropical Oatstacks.

Bittman says, "Different and amazingly good cookies that fall somewhere between banana bread and macaroons. The not-to-sweet oatstacks contain no sugar except for the natural sugars in the bananas, but if you have a real sweet tooth, you can roll the mounds of dough in sugar before you bake them. These are good vegan too: Just substitute vegetable oil for the butter." Sounded pretty good to me. ;-)

Since I am a huge fan of Bittman and his "Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating" so I knew that I would like the follow-up cookbook. Bittman continues his philosophy of consuming a plant-heavy diet, full of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains and unprocessed foods.

Bittman has 5 basic principles for healthy, conscious eating--all of which I support:
  1. Eat fewer animal products than average.
  2. Eat all the plants you can manage.
  3. Make legumes and whole grains part of your life.
  4. Avoid processed foods.
  5. Everything else is a treat--and you can have treats daily.
It's a sane way of looking at your diet and taking care of yourself, your health and the planet. For example--here's some of what he says about Desserts: "Desserts are treats, but that doesn't mean you have to throw all of the Food Matters principles out of the window in order to indulge. On the other hand, most of us don't want constant offerings of super "healthy" or vegan desserts. So what you have here is a meeting on middle ground: satisfying desserts made from real food, but completely from their traditional counterparts in that fruits, whole grains and nuts are the primary focus. To the extent that butter (and other dairy) and sugar are included, they're in supporting roles."

The recipes are the usual Bittman--simple and easy to adapt to your taste or what ingredients you have in your pantry. With lots of supporting material on cooking seasonally, setting up a pantry, making meals vegan, etc. it is a useful tome for anyone looking to eat mindfully. Another Bittman winner for me that I will be pulling out often to cook and get ideas from.

Tropical Oatstacks
Adapted From "The Food Matters Cookbook" by Mark Bittman
(Makes 2 to 3 Dozen)
Time: About 30 minutes, plus time to cool

4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pans
3 large ripe bananas
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped cashews or macadamia nuts
1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 baking sheets with a little butter.

Put the bananas in a large bowl and mash them well with a fork or potato masher. Stir in the melted butter and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix together the oats, nuts, shredded coconut, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the banana mixture and stir until just combined.

Drop tablespoon-sized mounds of dough about 3 inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake, rotating the pans as necessary, until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool for about 2 minutes on the sheets before using a spatula to transfer the cookies to a wire rack to finish cooling. Store in a tightly covered container at room temperature for no more than a day or two.

Notes/Results: A soft and tasty little cookie full of good banana flavor. I did make a vegan version, using half of an Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Stick. I also wanted a bit of color in them, so I added 1/2 cup of mixed dried berries, which was nice. Not too sweet, tender and chewy--a couple of these little cookies make a great snack with a cup of tea. Bittman says to store them at room temperature for just a day or two, but I found that they freeze pretty well too. I will make these again--they would be fun with cacao nibs or dark chocolate chips in them too.

I thought I should send these delightful little bites of guilt-free goodness to the Alex at A Moderate Life's Tackling Bittman Blog Hop this week. My pal girlichef is hosting this month and also giving away a copy of this must-have book--follow this link for all of the details.

Happy Weekend!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Osso Buco a la Milanaise from Emeril for January's "Great Osso Buco Quest"

Last month I declared that I would celebrate my love for osso buco, that meltingly tender dish of braised veal shanks by having a monthly throwdown of sorts. Starting with the Food Network, I am making an osso buco each month to determine my favorite. I also said I was coming up with a rating and ranking system, however my week got crazy with meetings plus writing and giving a large presentation today. I am tired to the bone and so the rating system will come next month. For January's selection I decided to go with Emeril's Osso Buco Milanaise. Emeril has several osso buco or osso buco-related recipes on the Food Network site. This one seemed simple for a busy week and outside of the veal shanks and fresh pasta, I had all of the ingredients in the panty and fridge.

You can find the recipe at The Food Network here.

Osso Buco a la Milanaise
Recipe courtesy Emeril Lagasse
(Makes 6 Servings)

2 1/2 pound veal shanks, cut into 1 1/2-inch thick sections
salt and pepper
flour, for dredging
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup chopped carrots
1/4 cup chopped celery
1 cup white wine
1 cup chopped tomatoes, with juices
3 cups brown stock
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
2 garlic cloves
chopped parsley and lemon wedges, for garnish

Generously season the veal shanks on all sides with salt and pepper. Dredge lightly in flour, shake off excess. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Brown the shanks on both sides until golden, you may need to do this in batches.

Remove all the shanks from the Dutch oven, and add the onions, carrots, and celery, cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the wine, tomatoes, stock, bay leaf, thyme, and garlic. Place the seared shanks back into the Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Adjust seasonings, and serve with chopped parsley and lemon wedges.

Notes/Results: Good--extremely easy and low-fuss to make. Emeril's version is not my favorite osso buco to date. Although, I will wait to rank the recipes next month once I have the official ratings system, I will say that out of the recipes of the 3 other chefs that I have made so far (Mark Bittman, Mario Batali, and Giada Delaurentiis), Bittman still gets first place. Emeril's version was colorful and very tender, but lacked some of the flavor the other recipes had. Maybe more garlic was in order--although I did toss in an extra clove. The lemon added brightness to the dish which helped somewhat and I managed to enjoy it--it's osso buco for Pete's sake--it would be hard not to enjoy it. ;-) Emeril has a few more chances to rate higher with his other recipes as I wok my way through them.

I am sending this freshly-made, slowly cooked comfort food goodness to Roz's weekly event at La Bella Vita. Go by and take a look at all the wonderful recipes and fresh ideas.

Happy Aloha Friday!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Kinoko no Chawan Mushi (Savory Steamed Egg Custards with Mushrooms) for Cook The Books: "Untangling My Chopsticks"

Our current selection for Cook The Books, the virtual foodie book club hosted by Rachel, The Crispy Cook, Johanna of Food Junkie Not Junk Food and yours truly, is "Untangling My Chopsticks: A Culinary Sojourn in Kyoto" by Victoria Abbott Riccardi. I first read this book several years ago and enjoyed it so I was happy when Rachel picked it as our December-January selection. Having spent time in Japan several years ago for work, I fell in love with the country, the food, and the people, so this book brings back great memories for me.

Author Victoria Abbott Riccardi wasn't finding fulfilment in her advertising career so she left New York and went to Kyoto to study kaiseki--the precise, delicate ritual of cooking the food that accompanies the Japanese tea ceremony. Her year in Japan teaches her about the culture, the food, and the symbolism involved in every step of the preparation of each small dish. Along the way she learns about the history and people of Japan. Abbott Riccardi writes in a very descriptive manner that transported me back to the time I spent there. The book offers a glimpse of home life in Japan and makes one want to drop everything and follow her path. (Although I lack the precision, grace, patience and ability to be a successful kaiseki chef.) ;-)

For my Cook the Books dish I wanted to make one of my favorites, Chawan Mushi, a savory steamed egg custard. I first had this dish in a small onsen (hot springs resort or inn) in Hakone, Japan. Every dish we were served with our dinner and again with our breakfast the next day was beautifully presented in delicate bowls, plates, and even in a tiny wooden birdcage. Having occasional textural issues with my food, I first looked upon the slightly quivering egg custard suspiciously, but taking a bite and feeling the silky smooth texture on my tongue, I was pleasantly surprised. Breaking through the custard I found little bites of shrimp and vegetables inside, like little treasures. I was hooked. It is a simple dish but one I continue to look for on the menu of Japanese restaurants and one I have always meant to try making it at home but have never got around to it.

Abbott-Riccardi mentions chawan mushi in "Untangling My Chopsticks" (which coincidentally she also enjoyed in an onsen in the book), saying "Pale yellow chawan-mushi also appeared in a lidded glass custard cup. With a tiny wooden spoon we scooped up the ethereal egg and dashi custard cradling chunks of shrimp, sweet lily buds, and waxy-green ginkgo nuts." She includes a recipe for it in the book as well that sounds delicious, but I wanted to try a version I had tagged to make in a cookbook that a friend gave me that has been sitting on the shelf, "Harumi's Japanese Home Cooking: Simple, Elegant Recipes for Contemporary Tastes" by Harumi Kurihara. Harumi has been called "the Japanese Martha Stewart" and has her own homemaking empire in Japan. Her version is not traditional but it sounded both simple and delicious with its mushrooms and flavorful sauce.

Harumi says,"This is my own simple version of the traditional Japanese savory steamed egg custard--chawan mushi. Usually small pieces of chicken, shrimp and vegetables are added, too, but here I use only nameko mushrooms. Also, although not traditional, I think this sauce really compliments the chawan mushi."

Kinoko no Chawan Mushi (Savory Steamed Egg Custards with Mushrooms)
"Harumi's Japanese Home Cooking" by Harumi Kurihara
(Serves 4)

For the savory teamed egg custards:
1 tsp Chinese soup paste or mix of chicken and beef stock
3/4 cup hot water
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups nameko, enoki or button mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup chopped spring onions or chives to garnish

For the sauce:
a little granulated chicken stock powder
2 Tbsp hot water
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
a little chili oil (la-yu)--to taste

To make the custards: In a bowl, dissolve the Chinese soup paste in the hot water and leave for a few minutes until cool. In another bowl beat the eggs, add the stock, then mix well and strain through a sieve to remove any stringy bits.

Divide the mushrooms between 4 small cups and pour the egg stock on top.

To steam: In a steamer bring some water to a boil. Turn down the heat and place the dishes in the steamer. Cover with a tea towel and then with the lid, and steam for 12-15 minutes until cooked. The custard should be firm to the touch.

Make the sauce by dissolving the chicken stock powder in the hot water, then mix in the other ingredients until blended.

When the custards are ready, remove from the steamer and pour a little of the sauce onto each one. Garnish liberally with the spring onions or chives. Serve piping hot and eat with a spoon.

Menu Planning Note: Chawan mushi is great as a small side dish. It works well with all Japanese dishes, but goes particularly with strong flavored recipes.

Notes/Results: Silky, creamy, savory and delicious. The sauce works well on the custards but isn't really necessary--they have enough flavor on their own. I used a combination of nameko and enoki mushrooms and used a vegetarian stock base for both the custards and the sauce. I steamed the custards in some small teacups in my Dutch oven on a steamer rack. So easy that I don't know why I haven't been making them before. I will make these again, trying different combinations of ingredients.

"Untangling My Chopsticks" was a fun re-read for me and a well-written memoir for foodies and those with an interest in International travel and culture. Thanks to Rachel for a great pick. Rachel will be rounding up all of the entries on the Cook The Books site after the end of the month, so stop by and check out what dishes everyone was inspired to make.

Love foodie books? Love cooking? Come join us at Cook the Books. The deadline for this selection is this Friday, January 28. I am hosting our February-March book and taking us tropical with "An Embarrassment of Mangoes: A Caribbean Interlude" by Amy Vanderhoof. (Deadline is Friday, March 25). You can get all the CTB details here.

I am also sending my little Chawan Mushi to the Hearth 'n Soul Blog Hop where you will find lots of delicious food cooked from the heart.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Creamy Curried Cauliflower Soup for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

Another recipe from Whole Foods. I was attracted by the words "creamy" and "curried" in this one, and of course the curried sunflower seed topping. Isn't it funny the words and things that pull you into a recipe and make you want to try it.

I like that it uses an alternative, non-dairy milk and the puréed cauliflower instead of cream to achieve the creamy texture. (The recipe calls for almond milk, but I had a pack of coconut milk opened and thought it would be an even better choice.) This is a satisfying soup with lots of flavor--perfect for a cooler evening or a lunchbox

You can find the recipe at the Whole Foods website here.

Whole Foods says, "Curry powder and almond milk conspire here with the cauliflower to produce a full-flavored blended soup that's creamy on the palate without including any actual cream. The toasted sunflower seeds on top are a beautiful touch both floating in the bowl and crunching in the mouth."

Creamy Curried Cauliflower Soup
Courtesy of Whole Foods Market
(Serves 4)

1/4 cup raw sunflower kernels
3 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk, divided (I used coconut milk)
3 teaspoons mild curry powder, divided, more to taste (I used about 5 total)
1 cup chopped yellow onion
3 cloves garlic, chopped
5 cups (about 1 pound) cauliflower florets

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

In a medium bowl, toss sunflower kernels with 1 teaspoon almond milk and 1 teaspoon curry powder. Spread out on a small parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake, tossing once or twice, until toasted and fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes; set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 1/2 cup almond milk in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add cauliflower, remaining 2 teaspoons curry powder and almond milk, cover and simmer until cauliflower is very tender, about 40 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with more curry powder if you like.

Working in batches, carefully purée in a blender until smooth. Transfer to bowls, garnish with sunflower seeds and serve.

Nutrition Per serving: 140 calories (60 from fat), 7g total fat, 0.5g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 200mg sodium, 16g total carbohydrate (6g dietary fiber, 5g sugar), 6g protein.

Notes/Results: Creamy, filling and good with nice curry flavor. There was a lot of feedback on the recipe about the amount of curry--many people food it too much--on the other hand, I added an extra teaspoon and a little more and thought the level as good. I think it depends on your tastes and the quality/flavor of the curry powder you use. The coconut milk adds extra flavor too--although I am sure the almond milk called for or soy milk would be fine too. Rather than drag out the blender, I used my immersion blender and puréed the soup in the pot. The curry-toasted sunflower seeds are a fun topping, adding additional flavor and a touch of crunch. The soup tastes even better reheated the next day. This is a simple but flavorful soup that I will make again.

We have a good-sized crowd in the Souper Sunday kitchen this week--let's take a look and see what they brought to share.

Graziana from Erbe in Cucina is here with a spiced Ethiopian-Style Legumes Soup and says, "Whenever I can, I like to cook legumes instead of buying canned ones, because they taste better and I can also create some interesting variations, like this lentils and peas soup with ginger. I defined it Ethiopian-Style because it's inspired by mit’in shiro, a traditional Ethiopian dish prepared with different types of pureed legumes and many spices."

My pal Heather of girlichef is here with two fabulous soups. First up her inventive and speedy Lazy Girl's Cassoulet about which she says, "While cassoulets traditionally employ only white beans, I had some cooked light red kidney beans that I also needed to use up. So, added to some white butter beans, those became the beany portion of my base. Obviously I would use my duck meat...but I also had some Italian sausage (although loose, and traditionally link sausage is used), so I had my meats. I knew I wanted to add some healing veggie power to the mix. Take all of that and some of the glorious golden duck fat...and what do you get?" Delicious comfort food of course!

About her next soup, hearty Sopa de Lentejas con Chorizo, (Lentil Soup with Chorizo) girlichef says, "Sweet Mely from Mexico in My Kitchen shared a pot of soup the other day that just planted itself in the path of anything else that tried to make its way into my cerebral cortex. I did things a little differently, due to what was on hand and personal cooking habits, but stayed pretty true to the way Mely made it. The main difference is that I used some split red lentils in place of regular lentils. The batch of chorizo I used was pretty spicy this time, but if it hadn't been, I knew I'd be stirring in some crushed red chiles. Also, I love finishing a hearty legume soup with a drizzle of good vinegar."

Debbi of Debbi Does Dinner... Healthy & Low Calorie made a batch of Chicken Chickpea Soup and says, "This soup was fantastic! I just want to make another enormous pot and eat it for weeks. Seriously, it was that good. Excellent as it was the first night, it was enormously better the next day, as many soups tend to be. The bacon flavor was much more pronounced after sitting in the frig. The other awesome thing was that it was super duper filling. One cup of this and you're good to go. Seriously, make this soup, get your fuzzy slippers, sit by the fire and enjoy."

Please join me in welcoming Lindsey from Enjoying Healthy Foods, making her first appearance at Souper Sundays with a flavorful Mulligatawny Soup with Venison. Her soup is chock full of ground venison, parsnips, carrots, onion, apple, coconut milk and spices. Served with roasted Brussels sprouts, it makes a filling and warming meal. Lindsey says, "We are working on another version of the soup and it is going to be GREAT!" Thanks for joining us this week Lindsey!

Julie of Little Bit of Everything has Slow Cooker French Onion Soup to share and says, "With the recipe from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker cookbook recipe as my inspiration, I created my own version. Most recipes call for dry white wine, cognac or brandy, I decided to use leftover champagne. I think it added a wonderful depth of flavor. The recipe in Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker cookbook cooks the onions for 10 - 12 hours, adds the wine and broth and cooks 1 -2 additional hours. I felt the soup would have a better flavor if the broth cooked longer. I also thought the original recipe was lacking in some spices, so I chose to add bay leaves and thyme. Give this soup a try! It is almost, if not as good, as French Onion Soup cooked on the stove."

Lovely Simona from briciole joins us with Zuppa di Fagiolina del Trasimeno (Cowpea of Lake Trasimeno Soup). She says, "I ate the soup as is, while my husband's portion included a serving of toasted and cooked hulless oats (in the photo, you can see the oats before being added to the soup). As usual with me, the soup was rather thick, a feature that can be adjusted by adding water to reach the desired density. I really liked the result: the vegetable medley complements well the flavor and texture of fagiolina, a legume that is indeed "tenero, burroso e particolarmente saporito" (soft, buttery and flavorful)."

Kim from Liv Life made a classic Chicken Tortilla Soup and says, "A boring afternoon of errands was turned into a much more enjoyable afternoon of catching up, card games and Chicken Tortilla Soup. Chopping onions and sautéing chicken I enjoyed the banter and laughter of my family. Filled with aromatic spices, black beans and a hearty broth the soup is thickened perfectly with corn tortillas and then topped with my favorite goodies - sour cream, avocado, cilantro and a bright squeeze of lime. Our bodies warmed by the soup and our hearts warmed with an afternoon of simply being together, we decided that soup is indeed good food."

Libby from The Allergic Kid has a hearty Pumpkin Chili to share and says, "When I first heard the words "pumpkin" and "chili" used together, I was skeptical. The sweet and silky addition to my regular turkey chili has converted me, though, if for no other reason than I no longer feel guilty if I don't have a green vegetable on the side. Everyone gobbled it down with enthusiasm, and The Kid very specifically requested that the leftovers be put in his lunchbox the next day."

Spencer ("The Mouse") from Live2EatEat2Live Blog adapted a colorful Carrot Soup and says, "Ran across this recipe for carrot soup. I kind of followed the recipe (at least the spirit of the recipe), except that I skipped the garlic and onions, and added a pinch of turmeric and a small nub of ginger. We also had a bottle of akvavit that was sitting in the back of the refrigerator (a friend had given us a bottle as a souvenir from Denmark years ago). I thought the liquor had flavors that would compliment the carrots (caraway, cardamom, cumin, anise, lemon, orange, or fennel), I added a splash to the cooking water."

Zibi from Fresh Slowcooking capped off a cold afternoon of snow shoeing with this healthy Slow Cooker Chicken Soup with Kelp & Ginger. She says, "This fresh, fragrant chicken soup is packed with nutrition. Chunks of chicken, slices of kelp, diced carrots, onions and lots of ginger! Make it in your slow cooker so it’s ready to warm you up when you come in from the cold.I filled our bowls with soup and instantly we felt like we were wrapped in a warm fuzzy blanket by a fire."

Shri from Tiffin Carrier Antic/que's! made a Plantain and Adzuki Beans Soup and says, "This is another version of Olan served in Southern Malabar, made with Plantains and Red Azuki Beans. This dish is part of the traditional Kerala feast repertoire.The traditional Olan recipe does not use any onions, garlic or cummin. North Kerala/ Malabar Sadya dishes, do not use any onions or garlic. This hearty, meatless soup works for winter and reminds one of many dishes from South America and the Carribbean."

Reeni from Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice created an Easy Curry Corn Soup and says, "Sometimes I get a hankering for a hot bowl of soup for lunch and nothing but homemade will satisfy me. Only a quick and uncomplicated soup will do, one that can be ready in a half an hour. This curry corn soup fills the requirements nicely. It's fast, flavorful and super delicious. Naturally sweet and succulent corn is paired with spicy curry powder giving it an earthy sweetness that is followed by a warm creeping heat in the back of your throat that slowly makes its way to your belly."

Pam from Sidewalk Shoes used some of her vast collection of chicken carcasses to make this Green Chili with Crispy Corn Tortilla Chips and says, "So, when I saw this recipe in Fresh Every Day: More Great Recipes from Foster's Marketby Sara Foster, I was all over it. It called for 4 cups of cooked chicken, which in Pam-carcass-speak, translates to 2-3 carcasses. I used two. It also called for 6 cups of chicken stock, but since I was using carcasses, I just used water. It was good. Mighty fine. My only qualm is that it didn’t call for all the usual garnishes…sour cream, cheese, avocado…stuff I associate with this kind of green chili. But if you look at the picture with the pile of Monterey Jack on the top, you’ll see I felt free to add my own."

Nicole from Cocoa and Coriander: Nico's Tiny Kitchen has both a soup and a salad to share this week. About her Lentil Soup with Yam and Kale she says, "I am currently obsessed with kale ... and the current obsession began with this very soup. This soup is simply wonderful because it has kale, a green that I find holds it's texture better than other greens when stewed. And wonderful because it is loaded with lentils, another current obsession. The recipe comes from Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice where Reeni's version features chickpeas rather than lentils. ... The flavor of this soup is incredible ... I want to make it again and again."

About her creative Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Cantaloupe Salad with Roasted Garbanzo Beans over Quinoa Nicole says, "...I decided to substitute a winter vegetable in this spring salad: Brussels sprouts! I haven't had Brussels sprouts since Thanksgiving and I can't remember the last time I roasted them. I love how sweet they are roasted! This was a very light but filling and healthy dinner with great flavor. ... The spiced chickpeas contrast very nicely with the sweet cantaloupe and the nutty quinoa is great with the caramelized brussels sprouts. It is very simple, but that is often refreshing."

My friend and fellow Cook the Books host, Rachel, The Crispy Cook joins us this week with Broccoli and Mushroom Sandwich Melts. She says, "Tuna melts and avocado melts are treasured comfort foods in our house, but the other day when the larder was failing me (no tuna in the pantry and my avocados were hard as rocks) I came up with a great new recipe for us that will go in our sandwich pantheon. I sauteed up some broccoli florets and sliced mushrooms in garlic and oil, flopped some on some bread, covered it with grated Cheddar and into the toaster oven it went. A scrumptious surprise!"

Back for her second week and this time with a sammie is Ann from Apples and Twinkies with these Grilled Chicken with Pineapple Sandwiches. Ann says, "I love the idea of sandwiches on Saturday nights. I never know who will be here or what time everyone is going out. ... But, I like to keep it kind of healthy. Just because it's the weekend doesn't mean you have to eat badly. So, I made a chicken sandwich - a healthy chicken sandwich from Cook This, Not That. This Grilled Chicken with Pineapple Sandwich is a teriyaki-glazed chicken breast with juicy grilled pineapple. I served it on a roll with Swiss cheese slices, red onion, and pickled jalapenos. It was a big hit with the family."

So many wonderful recipes this week--many thanks to everyone who joined in. If you have a soup, salad or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on the sidebar for all of the details.

Have a great week!