Cooking with Lady Smokey: Here Come The Soups!

Dolan & Ali Marie are big fans of these bowls from potter Robert Briscoe in Harris, MN.

I love soups. There is a line in the film Juno where the two main high school characters are referring to a friend at school who always smells like soup. I fear I may be that girl. I find soups to be so nourishing and comforting, sort of like a nice warm cup of tea. It is so nice to make a big pot of soup and have leftovers in the week that you can take to lunch or have a little bowl of as a snack. Since fall has just begun, I decided to feature a few lighter soups we have enjoyed lately. It doesn’t quite seem time for the hearty bean chilis just yet. All of these recipes make a nice start to a meal, a yummy lunch, or are great served with a crusty slice of bread, a cheese plate, or a simple green salad.

These first two were on my blog in the last few months but I really enjoyed both and wanted to share here, as well. They both feature veggies and herbs that you might still have hanging around your garden or be able to find fresh and local.

Basil Pea Soup
Serves 4-6
• 1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
• 1 Vidalia Onion, finely chopped (Any sort of onion will do just fine.)
• 2 cloves Garlic
• 4 cups Frozen Peas
• Juice of 1 small Lemon
• 1 tsp Sea Salt
• Freshly Ground Black Pepper
• 5 cups Vegetable Stock
• 1 cup Basil Leaves
• 1 cup Walnuts, lightly toasted
• Parmesan, grated for garnish (optional)

Heat soup pot on medium. Add oil. Saute onion until it begins to turn translucent. Add garlic. Stir. Add peas, lemon, salt and pepper. Stir. Cook for a few minutes to heat the peas and let the flavors coalise. Remove from heat. In small batches, blend the basil, walnuts, and the soup to puree. Be careful not to fill blender too full with the hot liquid as the heat can make the top of the blender come off and cause the hot liquid to splatter. So, be careful. Return to heat. Heat for a few minutes. Stir. Serve. I topped with some grated parmesan but this is purely optional.

This next soup I came up with to satisfy a craving of an old memory from years back when I lived in Atlanta. In the back of the old Rainbow Grocery in Decatur, there is a yummy natural foods cafe that used to (and probably still does) make a yummy tomato soup made with cashew butter. This is the best accompaniment to a grilled cheese sandwich that I know of!

Creamy Tomato Cashew Soup
Serves 4-6
• 1 cup Raw Cashews, toasted
• 1 cup Water
• 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
• 1 small Onion, finely chopped
• 2 Carrots, finely chopped
• 2 pieces of Celery, finely chopped
• 1 clove Garlic, finely chopped
• 32 oz jar Whole Tomatoes (or you can use fresh if you still have them around)
• 1-2 Tbsp Dried Herbs (I used an Italian blend from Frontier that I love but any would work- basil, rosemary, thyme, etc…)
• Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste

Toast the cashews. Cool. Blend in a blender with water. Set aside. Heat a soup pot and add oil. Add onions. Cook, stirring, for about 4 minute or so over medium heat. Add garlic, carrots, and celery. Cook for another few minutes. Add tomatoes. Stir and cook for about 10-15 minutes. Stir in cashew milk. Add herbs and seasonings. In small batches, blend the soup well in the blender and then return to the soup pot to heat through a few more minutes.

This next recipe came about from a couple of inspirations that all meshed together one fine day in early September. One, my friend and coworker had been sick and made her cousin’s Chicken Noodle Soup with egg noodles. She brought it to work and it smelled so good. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, especially those egg noodles which I have not had in so long.

Secondly, I was feeling kind of blah myself as I shopped for groceries that afternoon and was craving a warm, healing soup. I wanted to keep it all veggie (although, I did end up using chicken stock because I thought the soup I came up with needed it but you can easily just use water or vegetable stock). For years, I have been wanting to make a garlic soup. I have a friend who used to make one that was so delicious and rich. I think he used coconut milk. I wanted a healthier soup though. So, I combined some of my current favorite mediterranean flavors, the egg noodles, lots of garlic, and came up with this lovely soup below. I don’t always like arugula so I’m not exactly sure why I chose to use it here but it totally worked. If this soup doesn’t make you feel healthy and happy well, then, I don’t know what will.

Garlic Soup With Egg Noodles
Serves 4-6
• 2 big heads of Garlic
• a little Olive Oil
• ⅓ cup chopped Fresh Herbs (Rosemary, Italian Parsley, Oregano, Thyme)
• 1 cup finely grated Parmesan Reggiano (or a combination or Reggiano and Grana Padano), ½ cup set aside
• 2 Tbsp Butter
• 8 cups Stock
• Juice of 2 lemons
• 4 oz Egg Noodles
• Arugula
• Sea Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Cut the top off one of the heads of garlic, place in a little ramikin, pour a little olive oil over and stick it in the oven for about 45 minutes. Remove. Let cool. Peel and crush all the cloves or garlic from the other head. Chop finely. Set aside. Chop all herbs together. Once the roasted garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze out each clove from the outer paper and mix the roasted cloves with the herbs. Chop together.

Grate the cheese. Mix half of the cheese with the herbs and reserve the other half to top each bowl of soup. Heat a soup pot on the stove on medium heat. Add the butter and once it is melted, add the chopped fresh garlic. Stir and once it starts to get thick and bubbly, add the lemon juice. Stir. Add the stock. Stir. Cook on medium for a few minutes. Add the herb/roasted garlic/cheese mixture. Stir. Bring to a low boil. Add the noodles and cook for 4-5 minutes. Place arugula in the bottom of a bowl, ladle soup into the bowl, and top with a sprinkle of cheese. Serve.

Mushroom soups are usually full of cream and beef broth and quite heavy. I wanted a lighter one with lots of herbs. I love the taste of sherry with mushrooms and by adding some Comte cheese on top as a garnish, it almost gave this one a French Onion Soup flavor.

Mushroom Leek Soup
Serves 4-6
• 1 tsp Ghee
• ½ White Onion
• 1 Carrot, chopped
• 2 Celery stalks, chopped
• 6 Mushrooms, quartered
• 3 Garlic Cloves, crushed
• 1 small bunch Fresh Italian Parsley
• Sea Salt
• White Pepper
• Water
• 2 Tbsp Ghee
• 2 Leeks, sliced thinly (white part only)
• 1 lb Mushrooms, sliced thinly (I used Baby Bellas and Crimini)
• ½ cup or so Cooking Sherry
• ¼ cup Fresh Herbs, chopped (Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Oregano)
• Sea Salt
• Cooked Brown Rice or Barley

To make the broth, saute the onions in ghee until they began to soften. Add the carrots and celery. Stir. Cook for a few minutes. Add the mushrooms, garlic and parsley and cook for a few more minutes. Add salt and pepper. Add 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for half an hour or so. Meanwhile, heat a large soup pot and add the ghee. Add the leeks and stir. Add the mushrooms and stir. Add the sherry, herbs, and salt to taste. Stir. Once they have softened, place a colander over pot and pour the broth in (straining the veggies and discarding). Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 10 minutes or so. Optional- place a little brown rice or barley in the bottom of a bowl and ladle the soup over.

Here in Nashville, we just had the annual Americana Music Festival and Awards which means we had more than the usual amount of bands- from all over the globe- playing showcases all over town at the same time… it is a bit overwhelming. Some years I try to get out and see as many as I can and then some years I feel sort of numb with indecision. Either way, however, I always learn about many new bands and new albums from the last year. One band that has been creating quite a buzz around our neighborhood for a few years now won emerging artist and song of the year, was the husband and wife team of Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst known as Shovels & Rope. Cary Ann is from Nashville but the two now reside in Charleston, S.C. Their album is titled, O’ Be Joyful, and the song which won them song of the year is this one titled, Birmingham. It makes me really happy. Enjoy.