Tips for Rookie Cooks

Soups. The second part

Spring Leek, Pea, and Lettuce Soup

Who would have thought that lettuce would be so delicious cooked and puréed into a soup? Light and refreshing, it will delight your guests and the surprise factor will give them something to talk about, too.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium leeks (white and pale green part only), trimmed, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced
  • 5 cups (loosely packed) romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 3½ cups chicken or vegetable broth, plus additional to thin soup if desired
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼–½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ½ cup half-and-half

In a large, heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and leeks and cook until leeks are soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in lettuce and peas and cook, stirring, until lettuce wilts, about 3 to 4 minutes more. Add broth, salt, pepper, and sugar and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Using an immersion blender (or in batches in a countertop blender or food processor), purée the soup until smooth. If using a blender. Just before serving, reheat and whisk in half-and-half. Taste.

Make it ahead

  • The soup can be made a couple of days in advance up to and including the puréeing. Store. Before serving, reheat over medium heat until warm, and add half-and-half

Cilantro-Spinach Soup with Crunchy Croutons

This light, refreshing soup is a great way to get your cilantro fix without having to fuss with destemming or chopping those tiny leaves. We recommend making your Homemade Croutons, but a good-quality store-bought variety will work fine, too.

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼–½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium potatoes (about 1¼ pounds), chopped
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 pound fresh spinach leaves
  • 1 cup (tightly packed) fresh cilantro (leaves and stems)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • crème fraîche, sour cream, or plain yogurt, for garnish Homemade Croutons, for garnish
  • 3 green onions, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced, for garnish

In a stockpot, heat oil over medium-high heat. When oil is hot but not smoking, add onions, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently until onions are soft and translucent (10 to 12 minutes). Add potatoes and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until potatoes are soft (15 to 20 minutes). Add spinach. If you can’t fit it all in the pot at once, add it in handfuls, letting one bunch cook for a few seconds before adding the next. When spinach is wilted, after 3 to 4 minutes, add cilantro. Using an immersion blender (or in batches in a countertop blender or food processor), purée the soup until smooth. Stir in buttermilk and reheat if needed. Taste. Ladle soup into serving bowls, garnish with a dollop of crème fraîche, sour cream, or yogurt, and sprinkle with a few croutons and sliced green onions.

Make it ahead

  • The soup can be made one day ahead up to and including the puréeing and stored, covered, in the fridge.
  • Before serving, heat over medium heat and then add buttermilk and taste for seasoning.

Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Truffle Oil

There’s no better way to kick off a winter meal than with a cream-of-something soup. In this case, the something is roasted cauliflower, whose rich, nutty flavor is a perfect starter to a steak or pork dinner. A drizzle of truffle oil provides a whole lot of flavor—and sophistication.

  • 1 head cauliflower (about 1½ pounds florets), cut into small chunks
  • 1 medium yellow or white onion, cut into wedges
  • olive oil or olive oil spray
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon truffle oil, plus more for garnish

Spread cauliflower and onion on a baking sheet and brush, drizzle, or spray with olive oil to coat thoroughly. Roast in preheated oven for 35 to 45 minutes, stirring once about halfway through, until cauliflower is tender and beginning to brown. In a stockpot, combine the cauliflower, onion, and broth. Using an immersion blender (or in batches in a countertop blender or food processor), purée the soup until smooth. Heat soup over medium-high heat to just below boiling. Stir in the salt, pepper, cream, and truffle oil. Taste. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish each with an extra swirl of truffle oil. Serve immediately.

Make it ahead

  • The soup can be made a couple of days in advance without adding the truffle oil. Store, covered, in the fridge until ready to serve. Before serving, reheat over medium heat until warmed, and continue following instructions.
Roasted Tomato-Curry Soup

Roasting the tomatoes, along with garlic and curry powder, gives an unexpected twist to a standard favorite.

  • 3 pounds Roma tomatoes, halved, stem ends removed
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 8 medium cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons curry powder
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • ½ cup half-and-half or heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (from about 1 lemon)
  • Whole cilantro leaves, for garnish

In a large baking dish, toss tomatoes, onions, and garlic with olive oil, salt, pepper, and curry powder. Roast in preheated oven for 40 to 50 minutes, stirring occasionally until vegetables are very soft. Working in batches, place vegetables and their juices in a blender or food processor with the broth and blend until smooth. (If you prefer to use an immersion blender, simply place the roasted vegetables, their juices, and the broth in a large pot and blend it there.) Pour into a large pot, bring to a simmer over medium heat, and stir in half-and-half or heavy cream and lemon juice. Taste. Serve hot, garnished with cilantro leaves.

Make it ahead

  • The soup can be made a couple of days ahead up to and including the blending and stored, covered, in the
  • fridge. Before serving, heat over medium heat and continue following instructions

Change it up

  • Substitute fresh thyme leaves for the curry powder and garnish with minced parsley.

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