Blog - Soups
The cooler weather of fall always brings me to soups…and I really enjoy all types: creamy purées, thick lentil soups, chunky vegetable soups, clear consommés and so on. But in my opinion, the king of all cold weather soups has to be the famous Tuscan ribolita. It is a thick, stick-to-your-ribs soup filled with healthy vegetables, beans and potatoes. It is excellent when first prepared, but like the name suggests (ribolita means to re-boil), the soup improves in flavor when reheated, which makes this soup perfect for keeping around a couple of days
Most ribolita soups you will encounter are somewhat different than the original…either lacking in vegetable variety or packed full of tomato puree and cheese. My version below is very similar to the actual DOC designated recipe, which was officially declared on the 24th of May, 2011 at the Florence Academy of Italian Cuisine. The designation followed a long research period with some of the finest restaurants in Florence participating. The concluding recipe implied most restaurants in Tuscany do not serve the real version, but mere impostors.
It doesn’t take very much time these days to search for and find soup recipes made in a pressure cooker. In fact, you can even search within this blog from just a few months ago and locate my marvelous Caramelized Carrot and Ginger Soup, adapted from “The Modernist Cuisine.”
So why is there a sudden spike in popularity amongst soup enthusiasts in using pressure cookers? Well, I think the answer is simple; pressure cookers cook soups quickly and create unmatched flavors. That’s the bottom line…and that’s all that should matter.
My two newest soups this fall are based on a couple of regulars: Curried Pumpkin and Orange and Creamy Pumpkin and Chestnut.
I always seem to get an urge to make something with carrots whenever the first hint of spring emerges from the cold winter soil. This year, carrot soup filled my mind. But, I wanted to make a carrot soup which really represented the taste of carrots stuck firmly in my memory – a distant recollection of pulling carrots out of the ground in the garden I planted.
The idea of caramelizing the carrots seemed like a good place to start, but I didn’t want the roasted notes to overpower the flavor of the carrots. Plus, roasting the carrots in the oven adds to the overall sweetness – something I wanted to avoid. So I settled on a different technique of caramelizing the carrots, which I found in the wonderful book, “The Modernist Cuisine” (also great stuff on the web). After reading the recipe, I was convinced that using the pressure cooker would achieve something different – caramelized carrots without drying them out. But, I wasn’t too thrilled with their recipe because I felt it was more complicated than necessary. I wanted simplicity…and elegance.
I decided to add the ginger to the recipe, which I felt would balance the overall sweetness of the carrots…and after tasting the results, I was pleased with the slight tickling in the throat from the ginger…but the soup still lacked acidity. My response was simple. I felt inspired from a favorite Moroccan style salad of carrots and oranges, so I added the orange juice to just give the soup enough acidity to create a nice balance in the mouth.
I also replaced the butter with olive oil and added a splash of sherry wine (I used an Oloroso). And that was it…the total time in making the soup was about 45 minutes and the results…well, I think this is one of the best soups I have made…or even tasted.
I think this version of sweet corn and garlic soup is one of those perfect seasonal recipes which I look forward to each year. The combination of plenty of fresh garlic with fresh corn ooze a delightful sweetness in your mouth, which is balanced nicely with a slight acidity from the tomatoes and a bit of heat and smokiness from the Spanish paprika. I also added a touch of turmeric to preserve a nice yellow color. I elected to use masa harina (typically used to make tortillas) to create a sort of roux with the olive oil and onions and to highlight the corn flavor in the soup. I think this is really important in this soup, but you can feel free to use whatever flour you like to help bind the soup.
The garnish is really rather simple as I sautéed fresh summer chanterelle mushrooms (try to use the smaller ones and keep them whole) with some chopped onion and a few tablespoons of the fresh corn kernels.
One final tip… If you are just using water, which is what I often do in making this soup, then enhance the flavor slightly by boiling the corn cobs (after removing the kernels) for about 20 minutes.
This recipe will make about 2 liters
1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
4 Tbl. olive oil
1 red onion, sliced
2 tsp. pimenton de la vera (Spanish paprika)
½ tsp. turmeric
4 Tbl. masa harina
1 tomato, chopped
5 ears fresh corn
2 ½ liters water or vegetable broth
salt & pepper
Boil the garlic cloves to soften them and to make them milder in flavor. Place the cloves in a small pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, and cook for 3 minutes. Drain and repeat 4 more times. After cooking the garlic cloves, place them in a small blender with 2 Tbl. olive oil and puree until very creamy. Reserve. Remove the corn from the ears and reserve. In a large pot, heat the remaining 2 Tbl. of olive oil over medium-high heat and cook the red onions, stirring often until wilted and soft. Add the reserved garlic puree, the paprika, and the turmeric. Mix well, then add the masa harina and stir until well incorporated. Add the chopped tomato and reserved corn, then half of the liquid. Stir well, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot. When the liquid begins to boil, add the remaining liquid and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring often. Purée the mixture in a blender (Careful!…only fill the blender half-way and hold the top down with a towel before turning on the blender), then strain into a clean pot, making sure to press out all of the liquid. Re-heat the soup, check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper and serve hot.