SOUP SATURDAY: PERSIAN BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP

In this sunny, gorgeous weekend, I’m thrilled to join the group event Soup Saturday. This month our assignment was designed by Kathy from A Spoonful of Thyme, and she chose International Soups as the theme. I considered visiting my home country, but for some reason lately  I’ve been absolutely mesmerized by all things Middle Eastern. Their spices, their sweets, their teas, they all fascinate me. After intense research, I went with a comforting butternut squash soup.

butternutsoup1

PERSIAN BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP 
(adapted from The Saffron Tales)

for the soup:
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
¼ tsp coriander seeds
¼ tsp cumin seeds
1 butternut squash, cut in chunks
2 dried limes
3 cups water
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons yogurt
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
salt and black pepper to taste

for topping:
Greek yogurt
pomegranate seeds (optional)
toasted sunflower seeds

Heat the sunflower oil in a large saucepan. Add the shallots and cook gently until soft and fragrant. Toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a small pan over low heat for a minute, then grind them with a pestle and mortar. Reserve. Add the butternut pieces to the pan with the sautéed shallot, then sprinkle the toasted ground spices, and stir well. Close with a lid and simmer for 5 minutes or so.

Pierce the dried limes with a fork a few times and add to the pan. Pour in the water, cover, and cook for around  20 minutes more, or until the squash is tender, easily pierced with a fork.  Meanwhile, prepare the seed topping by toasting the sunflower seeds in a small pan for a few minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool. When the squash is cooked, squeeze the dried limes against the side of the pan with a wooden spoon until they burst, releasing a lot of liquid. Remove the limes and discard them. Add the contents of the pan to a blender, and process until very smooth. With the blender running, add the butter, yogurt, and pomegranate molasses. Add salt and pepper, taste and adjust seasoning.

Ladle the soup into a bowl and top with yogurt, pomegranate seeds, and toasted sunflower seeds.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: This soup won my heart. I feel like hosting a dinner party simply to serve soup shots to my guests as they arrive, and this would be it. I find soup shots quite elegant, but of course they would be more appropriate on cold evenings, and those are ready to go into my rear view mirror. I am about to survive another winter, can you imagine the thrill of it?  Anyway, this soup uses one unusual ingredient, dried lime. Together with celery root, dried limes will scare little kids and impressionable adults. But be brave, hold one by one in your hand, go at them with the fork, and once they simmer, they release the most amazing citric flavor. Trust me, you need to bring dried limes to your kitchen.  And a mortar and pestle, while you’re at it. I normally would use a spice grinder, but adding the hot spices to the mortar while the smoke is still going up, then grinding them manually, is so rewarding! You catch the aromas as the spices grind, you can control how fine or coarse you want them. A perfect culinary experience.

If you’d like to see what other members of the Soup Saturday made for this month’s assignment, click on the link at the end of the post, I am looking forward to a tour around the globe in soup form…

persian-butternut-squash-soup

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SOUP SATURDAY: A NEW BLOG EVENT!

16114833_10211890414716031_5142216880039446529_nAs those who follow my site might remember, a blog event I participated for years – The Secret Recipe Club – recently came to an end. Some of the participants took matters into their own hands and came up with fun ideas to keep us connected and sharing recipes on a regular basis. With this post, I offer my first contribution to Soup Saturday, as launched by Wendy, from A Day In the Life on the Farm. We are all sharing recipes for healthy soups so if you’d like some serious inspiration, make sure to click on the link party at the end of this post. I loved the idea because if there’s one thing I should make more often, it’s soup. Any reason to make it more often sounds great to me.

To start things on a nice note, I will share not one but two recipes, both were a huge hit with us. I honestly don’t know which one would be my favorite. Phil leaned towards the second.  I wish I had made them on the same day to pour them in a bowl side by side,  making an Yin Yang kind of hybrid soup. I’ve seen that done before, it looks very stylish. Take a look at this version, for instance.

These are very low in carbs, especially the first one. The second involves some carrots (three for the whole batch), so it is slightly more fulfilling. Both are Paleo-friendly, in case you are interested…

asparagus-soup-2

ASPARAGUS SOUP WITH ADVIEH
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 bunch of asparagus, tough ends removed (about 1 pound)
1 leek, white part only, minced
1 tablespoon coconut oil (or olive oil)
1 cup baby spinach leaves, well packed
salt and pepper
1/2 to 1 teaspoon advieh (or a mild curry mix)
2 + 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup coconut milk
fresh lemon juice to taste

Heat the coconut oil in a large saucepan. Add the leeks and saute until translucent. Cut the asparagus, in 1-inch pieces, add to the pan and saute gently for a few minutes, until it starts to get some color. Season with salt and pepper. Add the advieh, is using, saute briefly stirring constantly, until the spice mix releases its aroma.

Add the water, close the pan, and simmer gently until the asparagus is fully tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer mixture to a blender (preferably high power), add the spinach leaves, and blend. The spinach will “cook” in the residual heat of the soup. Return soup to pan, add the coconut milk, simmer until heated through. Squirt a little lemon juice right before serving. Adjust seasoning, and…

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Advieh is a mixture of spices that varies a lot depending on the region, but usually contains turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, ginger and dried rose petals. I got mine not too long ago, and decided to give it a try. Good move by Sally. It turned out subtle, not at all as if you are swallowing perfume… I would define it as a floral curry. Quite unique, very flavorful. I find the idea of eating something with rose petals quite enticing…  don’t you?

carrotcaulisoup

LEMONY CAULIFLOWER & CARROT SOUP
(adapted from a recipe from Melissa Clark)

1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, diced
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
5 to 6 cups of water
1 teaspoons kosher salt, more as needed
1 tablespoon white miso
1 small head of cauliflower or 1/2 large one,
zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons lemon juice, more to taste

Rice the cauliflower in a food processor and reserve (you can also use the florets, in this case add them together with the carrots). Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the shallots and saute until translucent. Add coriander and a little salt, saute until fragrant.  Add carrots, saute briefly, add 5 cups of water  and the miso, stirring well until it dissolves. Simmer for 15 minutes, add the riced cauliflower and cook everything together for 5 more minutes (riced cauliflower cooks fast).

Remove the soup from the heat. Using an immersion blender, purée the soup until smooth, or transfer to a blender. Return the soup to the pan, over very low heat add the lemon zest and juice. Adjust seasoning, and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The original recipe from Melissa Clark has a higher proportion of carrots and uses more miso, which in my opinion overpowered the flavor of the veggies. I liked my revised version a lot more. You can barely detect the miso, but it adds a nice exotic flavor to it.  This soup was my lunch three days in a row, and if there was more, I would have it on day 4 again. Nothing better in a chilly day, I can tell you that.  I topped it with black sesame seeds, and a swirl of yogurt and Sriracha. That really took the soup to a higher level, I love to vary the amount of Sriracha at each spoonful, testing my limits. Of course, if you prefer a more tamed version, omit the hot sauce, but the yogurt is perfect with it.

 

low-carb-soups-from-bewitching-kitchen

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CREAMY ZUCCHINI MUSHROOM SOUP

Soup weather is here to stay. I should not complain, actually, so far things have progressed more or less smoothly. Anytime December catches me in my neck of the woods going for a morning run with no gloves, no hat, no growling, and wearing only a light long-sleeved shirt, I am a happy camper. Actually, happy jogger is more like it. But, let’s face it, things will get nasty soon enough and diving into a creamy bowl of soup feels like the right thing to do. I improvised this one using stuff I had in the fridge, not sure how it would turn out, but it was so delicious I had to share. The combination of zucchini with mushrooms might be a bit unusual, but worked very well… If you care to know, the soup is Paleo-friendly, low in carbs, and high in deliciousness.

Creamy Zucchini Mushroom Soup

CREAMY ZUCCHINI & MUSHROOM SOUP
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 onion, diced
salt and pepper (I recommend using a heavy hand for the black pepper)
za’tar (optional)
3/4 pound white mushrooms, sliced thick
3 medium zucchini
1 cup chicken stock
2 cups water
fresh thyme
2 handfuls spinach
1/2 cup coconut milk
toasted coconut flakes for topping (optional)

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan, when hot add the onion, season lightly with salt, pepper, and a little za’tar, if using.  Saute until onion is translucent, add the mushrooms, and cook them in medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. If the pan gets too dry, add another tablespoon of olive oil.  When the mushrooms are starting to get soft, add the zucchini, cook for a couple of minutes then add chicken stock and water. Mix well, cover the pan and let it simmer for about 12 minutes.

Turn the heat off, add thyme and spinach. Mix, transfer the contents to a blender.  Blend very well, being careful (hot stuff in a blender can be dangerous, do it in batches if necessary). Return the blended soup to the pan, add the coconut milk, warm it up in low-heat, taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve with toasted coconut flakes or any other topping you like.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments
: I am very fond of zucchini soup, and also love a nice creamy mushroom soup. Never thought of marrying both ingredients. When mixing zucchini with mushrooms you’ll enter a twilight zone of unappealing color that can be tricky to deal with. After all, part of the charm of zucchini soup is its beautiful green, but the mushrooms mess that up. That’s when the fresh spinach enters the scene. I use this trick often when I want to perk up the green color of a soup. The secret is to add it right before you blend the soup, and don’t add too much. You won’t be able to tell there is spinach in it because the zucchini and mushroom flavor is prominent. Use a nice blender, if you have a Vitamix put it to work for at least a couple of minutes.  You will have a gorgeous green soup, creamy, soothing, flavorful. It will be light but keep you satisfied, thanks in part to the fat from the coconut milk.  I had a bowl of this soup on a Saturday after running and felt like a million bucks after.  Two Aleve pills as a side dish probably did not hurt either.

Creamy Zucchini Mushroom Soup2
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YELLOW SQUASH SOUP

I generally dislike negativism, although admittedly I am not a very optimistic person.  I try to hide it well, though, and keep my assessment of everything that will might go wrong to myself. HOWEVER, the weather lately has pushed me to a dangerous edge, so I shall pout, whine, complain and be generally unpleasant to fellow human beings.  We have rain, then thunderstorms, then more rain. When there’s no rain, we have cloudy skies.  The temperature rarely reaches 75 F, but when that happens I am expected to be cheerful, walk around smiling. Not happening.  Given the bizarre meteorological situation I’m stuck with, I am blogging on soup. Soup. Hot and soothing. In May. I know, pitiful.

Yellow Squash Soup11
YELLOW SQUASH SOUP WITH TARRAGON AND LEMON
(slightly modified from Fer’s site Chucrute com Salsicha)

2 large yellow squash, cut in chunks
1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves, minced
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup heavy cream
dash of nutmeg
fresh chives for decoration

Heat the olive oil and butter in a pan, add the shallots and saute until translucent. Add the pieces of squash and cook for 7 to 10 minutes in medium heat.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.  Add the tarragon, chicken stock, and lemon juice.  Mix well, cover the pan and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.  Off the heat, add the heavy cream and nutmeg, transfer the mixture to a blender and process until smooth.  Alternatively, you can reserve some of the pieces of squash to add later, for texture.

Serve right away with chives (or fresh tarragon) on top.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: For those who don’t know, Fer is a Brazilian food blogger who’s been living in the US probably as long or even longer than me. She was also my number one inspiration to start the Bewitching Kitchen, so it feels special to blog about a recipe from her site… Fer shared a post about this soup not too long ago, but my intention was to make it in the fall, when the weather would be more appropriate for it.  However,  the universe conspired against me.  We are at the end of the month of May.  I’ve been unable to wear shorts or flip-flops. End of May.  I had to bring a jacket from storage on more than one occasion. I wore boots three times this month. So there you have it, Yellow Squash Soup for lunch.  At least I can testify that it’s delicious!  This soup will be a regular appearance at our kitchen, and in my next time – when October comes – I intend to use coconut milk instead of heavy cream, just because I think it will be awesome that way too.  If you are faced with adverse meteorological conditions, make this soup, it is bright yellow like the sun that should be shinning outside.

cartoon-calvin-grumpy

Note added after publication…. because I have great friends, I share with you a better cartoon sent to me by the one and only Gary…  yeap, that summarizes it all much better

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ONE YEAR AGO: Grilled Chicken with Tamarind and Coconut Glaze

TWO YEARS AGO: Chicken-Apricot Skewers

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ARE YOU AFRAID OF CELERY ROOT?

If I had to choose a word to define my childhood and even teenage years, fear would be it. To name a few of my fears: darkness, sleeping alone, mirrors, clowns, dolls, sleepovers,  odd numbers (don’t ask), heights, cockroaches. There were many more, but let’s keep it simple, shall we? Glad to report that just as my pickiness to eat, those fears are a thing of the past. Except heights and cockroaches. The former I still try to work on, cockroaches are out of question. I am talking about the tropical kind, with their scary dimensions and uncanny ability to fly across a room. I shiver just to think about them. Growing up, I don’t remember ever seeing  celery root in our home, but being the easily scared self I was,  I bet I would be afraid of it too. It does look like a large potato under the spell of black magic. Something that belongs in the setting of Hansel and Gretel’s tale (which as a matter of fact gave me nightmares for months after reading it as a child).

ingredients
But, don’t let celery root (aka celeriac) looks prevent you from enjoying it. Under that harsh appearance, lies a beautiful white entity, with a flavor vaguely reminiscent of celery, but much more complex.  Yes, it is a bit hard to peel, and if you are not careful a finger or two could be hurt in the process, but keep calm, peel on, and make soup before the weather gets too hot.  Too hot. What a silly statement. Sorry, sometimes I make no sense.

Parsnip&CeleriacSoupCELERIAC AND PARSNIP SOUP WITH TOASTED COCONUT
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium celery rib, diced
1 shallot, minced
1 large celeriac, peeled and cut in chunks
3 to 4 medium-sized parsnips, peeled and cut in chunks
salt and black pepper
dash of nutmeg
4 cups water
lemon juice to taste

Heat the olive oil in a pan large enough to accommodate all ingredients. Sautee the shallot with the celery until fragrant and shallots become translucent. Season lightly with salt and pepper.  Add the pieces of parsnips and celeriac, saute for a few minutes, moving them around.

Add water, making sure it cover the veggies. Bring to a boil, cook until parsnips and celeriac pieces are tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer the veggies with some of the water to a blender or food processor, blend until smooth. You might need to do it in two batches, being careful while processing hot liquids (using a blender keep the lid open and cover the top with a kitchen cloth).  Use only enough water to get the consistency you like.

Return the processed soup to the pan on low heat, adjust consistency with the reserved water if needed. Season with nutmeg, add a squeeze of lemon juice, taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve with coconut flakes (unsweetened) sautéed in olive oil or butter, lightly seasoned with salt, or with any other topping you like.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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This was a delicious soup, the lemon juice at the end does that citric magic I am very fond of. If I had a dollar bill for every time I use lemon juice in my cooking, I’d be rich. You can make this soup a bit more luscious adding a touch of cream if you want, or using chicken stock instead of water, but I often like to keep things simple and let the flavor of the veggies take the spotlight.  I am not quite sure about the nutmeg. I love nutmeg with cauliflower and in bechamel sauce, but I might omit it in this soup next time. Maybe I used too heavy a hand, I thought the flavor was a bit too strong. Anyway, if you make it, go easy with it and taste it.

Before I say goodbye, here is a small collection of recipes to help you lose any residual fear of celery root… just in case you need it  😉

SWEET AND SOUR CELERIAC SEPHARDIC STYLE, from Tasty Eats

CELERY ROOT, APPLE AND WALNUT SALAD from Cooking and Traveling in Italy and Beyond

CELERY ROOT LETTUCE WRAPS from The Wimpy Vegetarian

CELERY ROOT REMOULADE, from Kitchen Riffs

FRENCH LENTILS WITH CARAMELIZED CELERY ROOT, from Martha Stewart

POACHED EGGS OVER CELERY ROOT LATKES, from Fresh Start

POTATO AND CELERY ROOT ROSTI, from Martha Stewart

I hope you enjoyed this small tour on celeriac possibilities, and if you are a celeriac virgin, you will give it a try in the near future. Nothing to fear, I promise!

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SILKY GINGERED ZUCCHINI SOUP

For the last couple of months I became interested in the Paleo nutritional system, as most people who follow it appear to be very fit. It got me curious. It also did not hurt that Dr. Loren Cordain,  the man behind the Paleo approach is now part of our extended family: Phil’s sister recently married his uncle-in-law. Small world! Anyway, fully aware of my self-inflicted moratorium on cookbooks in 2015, I did what a sensible food blogger would do and bought some Paleo-oriented publications last November. As you can see, I have an amazing ability to outsmart myself.  If you have any interest in the subject, I highly recommend Well Fed2, The Frugal Paleo Cookbook, and Nom Nom Paleo Food for Humans. Don’t worry, the Bewitching won’t turn into a Low-carb, Paleo, Vegan, or “insert any diet system here” blog.  There will be bread, pasta, rice, couscous, a lot of meat, and sweets. Omnivore, and loving it! –  has always been my motto, and that isn’t changing. But the truth is that one can cook a ton of tasty stuff under the Paleo approach. Plus, it’s all reasonably low in carbohydrates and high in protein, a kind of eating I’ve favored for the past 4 or 5 years. This soup is a perfect example of deliciousness that is low in fat, low in carbs, and keeps me satisfied from lunch until dinner.  As you may notice,  I included a cheese crisp that would not be blessed by Paleo folks.  It would make this version Primal, I suppose. Still hanging around caves, but with a little more pizzazz, sipping the occasional wine from a coconut shell.

ZucchiniSoup

 

SILKY GINGERED ZUCCHINI SOUP OVERVIEW

The secret for this smooth and delicious soup is the use of ginger and coriander as background spices. The soup starts with a simple saute of onion and garlic, then ginger and coriander in powdered form are added, releasing their flavors in the hot oil. Next, zucchini pieces join the party, and the whole thing will be simmered for about one hour in your favorite type of broth (chicken, veggie, or beef).  When the zucchini is super tender, the soup is blended and ready to be enjoyed.

You can find the recipe in Melissa’s site with a click here.
It is also in her cookbook Well Fed2.

simmering

I’ve made this soup almost as many times as I made Mike’s Creamy Broccoli Soup. Sometimes I used chicken broth, sometimes a mixture of chicken broth and water.  A squirt of lemon juice right before serving is a nice touch too. Cheese crisps pair very well with the zucchini. To make them I followed the method that Mike described in his original post for the broccoli soup.  On the first photo of this post, I used a Cheddar type cheese, and in the photo below I went with Parmigiano-Reggiano.  I like Parmigiano better, because it releases less oil as it bakes, and has that unique sharpness that contrasts very well with the silky soup.

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I confess I was afraid of making the crisps from scratch, due to traumatic experiences of a distant past. At that time I tried making them on a non-stick skillet on the stove top, and ended up with a complete mess, pretty much inedible.

But preparing them in the oven was a totally different experience. First, place parchment paper over a baking sheet (or use Silpat).  Then add small amounts of shredded cheese of your choice separated by about 1-inch.  They won’t spread too much, but better safe than sorry.

cheese

Watch them carefully, because they will go from perfect to burned in a matter of seconds….

crisps

Carefully transfer them to a rack, so that they get crisp. You can use them right away, or store for later.
crisps_rack

You will find all sorts of uses for these crisps… This beautiful Mexican-Caprese was made by my beloved husband…  and embellished by the crisps…

TexMexCapreseDressing was avocado oil infused with basil (he used the handy cubes from Dorot), a little lemon juice for good measure.

But back to the zucchini soup: a real winner of a recipe. I normally make a batch in the weekend, and it becomes my lunch for three days in the following week. If I don’t  have cheese crisps I top it with toasted almonds, or a diced hard-boiled egg. Simple, and quite nutritious.

Before I leave you, I want to share the best text I’ve seen in a long time concerning healthy-eating. It is a well-written satire on the state of nutritional advice these days. Hilarious, but unfortunately quite close to our reality these days.  Enjoy it with a click here. A little quote as a teaser:

The ONLY way to eat is seasonally, locally and sustainably.  If you live in a place where snow falls and kills crops and animals starve you should eat snow and only snow.  To do anything else will cause immediate and untimely death”.  
(from Sarah Yates, A Little House in the Hills).

🙂

ONE YEAR AGO: Sweet Fifteen!

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CREAMY BROCCOLI SOUP WITH TOASTED ALMONDS

This soup was quite a revelation for me, because it tasted amazing even though it called for very few, humble ingredients. No need to search for black truffles in a jar to make it, although I must say the flavor was so complex that I wondered if truffles had been hanging out around that broccoli at harvest time. Nah…. Just my overly vivid imagination.  The inspiration came once more from Mike, the man behind The Iron You. I’ve been a reader of his blog for only a few months, but that is long enough to realize his taste in food matches ours quite well. On a side note, for those into special nutrition, this concoction is paleo-friendly and low-carb.

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CREAMY BROCCOLI SOUP WITH TOASTED ALMONDS
(modified from The Iron You)

1 ½ lbs broccoli cut into florets
2 tablespoons coconut oil (or olive oil)
1 leek stalk, thinly sliced
3 small celery ribs, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced (optional)
2 ½ cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon fine grain salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 (13.5 oz) can full fat coconut milk
dash of ground nutmeg
slivered almonds slightly browned in olive oil
.
Heat the coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add leeks, celery, garlic, a little salt and pepper, and cook, stirring every now and then, until softened, about 7 minutes.

Add broccoli florets, broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the broccoli florets are tender, about 15 minutes. Add coconut milk, give a good stir and cook for further 5 minutes. Add the nutmeg and mix well.
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Transfer the soup to a blender and puree in batches, or use an immersion blender if you prefer. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, maybe a little more nutmeg. If the soup is too thick add a bit of water; if instead it’s too thin cook until it reaches the desired consistency.
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Serve warm with sautéed almonds on top.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: For some reason I don’t make soups that often, but whenever I do, I feel quite virtuous…  I prepared this particular recipe early in the morning and had it for lunch after running. It was a bright sunny day, but quite cold, maybe 40 F with a little wind.  The soup was like a warm hug, soothing and energizing at the same time. I highly recommend it after a workout. There’s something about the creaminess offered by the coconut milk that will make you feel on top of the world.  Vivid imagination, you say? 😉

Mike, thanks for the constant culinary inspiration!

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