Friday, June 11, 2010

Overture to Summer - A Fruity Celery Cream Soup

English peas were gone from the market this week. Boo!
And with the departure of the peas came steadily increasing temperatures. No mistaking it's summer in southern California.
But I’m not quite ready for the arrival of tomatoes, corn and peppers, the grilling and the pies. I was thinking about what I could make that’s fresh but not so clearly summer. And then I saw the celery – beautiful thick stalks of a delicate green – tall and refreshing. Almost like a cool drink.

So I went home with my celery and made that cool drink (not with celery, I might add). Then I made this soup: a fruity celery cream soup – very light on the cream and the green, but very bright on flavor with the “sweet” addition of a tart green apple.

This soup is very low on drama - just look at the finished picture - and the soup is really quick and easy. Always a summertime plus.

The Broth
This soup would love a light chicken broth - the kind made at home with some fresh chicken and clove studded onion. If you use best store-bought, try thinning by half and heating for 15 minutes with that clove-studded onion. Vegetable stock can also work, but take care to avoid an overly spiced brand.

The Ingredients

1 small head of celery
2 onions
2 green apples
2 - 3 med. Yukon Gold potatoes
1-2 cloves garlic
1 tsp. dried tarragon
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup whole milk
2 tbsp butter or olive oil

Making the Soup

Prep all the vegetables. The celery stalk can be cut whole, on a slight diagonal, into 3/4 inch chunks. Everything else is fine in small pieces: the soup will be pureed, so the shapes don't matter to begin.

Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil/butter just until they are softened and begin to scent. Then add all the vegetables, stirring to coat nicely. Sprinkle on a little salt and pepper, finishing with the tarragon. Let the vegetable simmer 3 minutes to develop flavor.

Don't deny the senses - the aromas are heaven, and the veggies look pretty good, too:

Now add the broth and bring to boil. Allow to simmer 25 minutes and check potatoes and celery for doneness - soft but not mushy is the rule - and check the salt and pepper. Off the heat, puree with the soup, but not too much. A few small chunks help to separate the flavors as you're eating - then return to the pot. While still off the heat, stir in the cup of milk.

This soup is best served not quite hot, with a few pretty leaves from the top of the stalk and and a side of apples:

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