roasted cauliflower to thicken soup

a healthier cream of mushroom soup

I’ve been craving some good old fashioned cream of mushroom soup for weeks.

 a healthier cream of mushroom soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

When I was growing up I had two working parents, so a lot of my afternoons were spent at my grandmother’s house out in the country in upstate New York. We always ate really well (too well, probably) at Grandma’s house, and lunch was always a big deal. Soup and sandwiches was a pretty popular lunch time menu, but I hated tomatoes when I was young so mushroom soup (from a can of course) was how I rolled.

I don’t know what kid likes mushrooms but not tomatoes, but what can I say. I was a weird kid I guess.

a healthier cream of mushroom soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

When I think of all the gorgeous tomatoes that I missed out on, grown in the bright sunshine of my grandfather’s garden, it makes my heart ache. What was wrong with me? What a sad boring life I led.

One of my great grandmother’s favorite lunches in the summer was a thick-sliced fresh tomato sandwich on white bread with a little mayonnaise and a generous sprinkle of salt. I, however, usually opted for velveeta grilled cheese (baked, not fried) with a bowl of cream of mushroom soup.

Mushroom soup has always felt like a perfect comfort food ever since.

a healthier cream of mushroom soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

I recently dug around for recipes to satisfy my mushroom soup cravings, but I was stopped dead in my tracks by how heavy most of them sounded. I’m sure you know by now that I’m not shy about using real butter and cream, but Jeez Louise! One recipe, from my best-friend-in-my-head Ina Garten, called for a whole stick of butter, a cup of half and half, and a cup of heavy cream!

I knew there had to be a way to make a silky, creamy, rich & hearty cream of mushroom soup without using that much dairy and fat, but was having a hard time figuring it out. Then a friend at work reminded me that I already know the perfect secret ingredient!

a healthier cream of mushroom soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

Aaaaaaaaawwwwwhhhhh! Look at how that beauty glows! Can you hear the angels singing?

a healthier cream of mushroom soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’ve already used this trick before, when making corn chowder this summer, and I guess I somehow just forgot about it. When I was whining about how heavy and fattening homemade cream of mushroom soup was, my friend was like, why don’t you just do that roasted cauliflower trick?

Duh!

Roasting cauliflower in the oven, rather than boiling it with the rest of the soup, keeps it from tasting cabbage-y, and once pureed super smooth, it adds an unbelievably silky texture that you’d truly never guess didn’t come from cream thickened with a roux. I don’t even understand how or why this works so well, but it really does.

a healthier cream of mushroom soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

I wasn’t intending to make a vegetarian or vegan cream of mushroom soup, just a lighter version, so I went ahead and kept the chicken stock and (some of) the butter. I also intended to add in just a bit of milk or cream at the end, but once the roasted cauliflower was pureed in, I realized I didn’t even need to. With that in mind, I now realize that it would be really easy to make this soup vegan if you want to. Just substitute olive oil or coconut oil for the butter, and vegetable (preferably mushroom) stock for the chicken stock. Since cauliflower is the only thickening agent, this soup also happens to be totally gluten free!

a healthier cream of mushroom soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

This soup is just what the doctor ordered. It’s so earthy and rich and… mushroomy. Using three varieties of flavorful mushrooms makes sure that every bit packs a serious punch. White wine adds a luxe floral note, fresh thyme compliments the woodsy earthiness of the mushrooms, and fresh parsley finishes the soup with bright green herbal flavor. While this recipe is healthier than most, I would never call it a “diet” or “light” recipe because it tastes way too good to be “health food”, and because it does still call for a good bit of butter and olive oil.

Thanks to the pureed roasted cauliflower, this soup feels every bit as rich and satisfying as you could hope. Some of the mushrooms are pureed too, but I like to reserve a few so you get some meaty bites of them every so often. You can use an immersion blender or a standing blender to puree the soup, but I will say that a standing blender seems to get the soup just a bit more smooth and silky. I used an immersion blender though, because it works almost as well and just seems safer, easier, and less messy.

a healthier cream of mushroom soup | Brooklyn Homemaker

A Healthier Cream of Mushroom Soup

2 Tbsp olive oil (divided)
1 small head of cauliflower
salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp butter (or coconut or olive oil if desired)
2 1/2 pounds mixed mushrooms (I used cremini, portabello, & shiitake)
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken stock  (or vegetable or mushroom stock)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 400 F. Roughly chop cauliflower into large florets. Toss in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and arrange in an even layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, roughly chop your mushrooms, removing and discarding any thick woody stems (especially the stems of portabello and shiitake). Heat butter and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat in a large thick-bottomed pot. Once the butter is sizzling, add the mushrooms and thyme, lightly season with salt and pepper, and stir to coat. Cook the mushrooms until they have released most of their liquid. Remove two cups of the cooked mushrooms, letting liquid drain back into pot, and set aside.
Add the onions and the garlic, and cook for about a minute. Add the white wine, chicken stock, and half of the chopped parsley. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and add the roasted cauliflower.
Using an immersion blender or working in batches with a standing blender, purée the soup until completely smooth and silky. Return the pot to the stove, add the reserved cooked mushrooms and remaining chopped fresh parsley. If the soup is too thick, add a bit more stock to thin to the desired thickness. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary and bring back up to a simmer before serving.

Advertisements

vegan sweet corn chowder

Sad sad sadness. Summer is nearing the end.

vegan sweet corn chowder | Brooklyn Homemaker

It’s still hanging on, but not for long. One good thing about this time of year though, is…

vegan sweet corn chowder | Brooklyn Homemaker

CORN!

I seriously love fresh sweet corn at the end of summer. Something about that sweet earthy bursting crunch.

vegan sweet corn chowder | Brooklyn Homemaker

While grilling the whole ear and just rubbing it in salted butter might be the very best way to enjoy corn, there are so many things you can do with corn when it’s in season. One of my ultimate favorite things to do with corn in the late summer is take a whole mess of fresh vegetables and make up a sweet, thick, creamy, earthy chowder.

vegan sweet corn chowder | Brooklyn Homemaker

I think my love of corn chowder really took root a few years ago when I was unemployed for a short time. I used to work for a fundraising walkathon called AIDS Walk New York, and while I absolutely loved being involved with them, they could only offer me work for about six months out of the year. This left me scrambling to find work waiting tables or slinging lattes for the other six months, over and over until I was finally able to find a full time permanent position somewhere else.

vegan sweet corn chowder | Brooklyn Homemaker

One year, a great friend of mine found herself unemployed at the same time that I was laid off from the walkathon. We spent a lot of time together helping each other look for work and prepare for interviews, and trying to keep our spirits up with plenty of food. We actually spent so much time cooking and eating together that we started referring to ourselves as the unemployment supper club.

We would regularly try to find recipes that seemed rich and filling while being relatively affordable. One of my favorite recipes we ever made was a corn chowder that was super thick and rich and decadent with tons of cream and butter and bacon. One of my favorite things about the recipe though, was the unexpected number of vegetables the recipe called for, including sweet potato and red bell pepper. Every year since, I’ve made a variation of this recipe at least once every summer, but this year I thought it might be interesting to see if it would be possible to lighten it up, lose the cream and butter and bacon, but keep it every bit as thick and creamy and decadent.

vegan sweet corn chowder | Brooklyn Homemaker

The only problem with trying to make a chowder without cream or butter is the issue of thickening it. A while back i made a soup with roasted cauliflower and tomatoes, and when I decided to puree it I was shocked at how thick it got, so I thought it couldn’t hurt to try that trick again. Its amazing what a roasted and pureed head of cauliflower can do for a soup. It thickens it up like a dream, but it also imparts a velvety smooth creaminess that you’d expect had come from a boatload of butter and flour. Roasting the cauliflower helps release some of it’s moisture ensuring maximum thickening potential, but also concentrates it’s earthiness, adds toasty brown depth, and curbs it’s cabbagey flavor in a way that changes it from utilitarian thickening agent to “secret ingredient” that no one would suspect if they weren’t told.

I will admit that the flavor of this chowder is quite different from the one I used to make years ago. While the flavors of bacon and butter are definitely not present, they don’t at all feel like they’re missing. If you’re a regular reader you know I’m not afraid of butter or bacon, but I promise you won’t miss them. This soup is bursting with fresh late summer flavors. It’s sweet and earthy and rich and hearty and unbelievably thick and creamy. This is a soup to satisfy carnivores and vegans alike.

vegan sweet corn chowder | Brooklyn Homemaker

Vegan Sweet Corn Chowder

1 large head of cauliflower, cleaned and roughly chopped
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt, divided
1 tsp ground pepper, divided
3 or 4 ears of sweet corn, stripped *see note (or 1 lb frozen sweet corn)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 lb (2 medium) yellow waxy potatoes,  peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
1 lb (2 medium) sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
6 cups vegetable stock, divided
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 400. Toss cauliflower with 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp salt, & 1/2 tsp of pepper. Spread cauliflower evenly on a parchment lined baking sheet, and roast for 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a heavy bottom stockpot over high heat, and sautee corn for 5 to 8 minutes or until it’s just beginning to brown. Remove from pan and set aside.
Turn pot down to medium-high and heat last tbsp of olive oil. Add onions, celery, carrots, bell pepper, 1 1/2 tsp salt, & 1/2 tsp pepper. Sautee for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add potatoes, sweet potatoes, and sautee 5 minutes more. Add 4 cups of stock, thyme sprigs, & browned corn kernel. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
While soup simmers, puree roasted cauliflower in a strong blender with remaining 2 cups of stock. After soup has simmered for 30 minutes, stir in pureed cauliflower. Simmer for 10 minutes more. Scoop out 2 cups of soup, cool slightly, and puree in blender with 1 tsp cider vinegar. Stir back into soup, taste, and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary. (If you want soup thicker, puree another cup of finished soup.)

*cooks note: To remove corn kernels from a fresh ear, I hold the ear upright against a cutting board and shave down with a sharp knife, rotating the ear until it’s shaved clean. For this recipe I also scraped off the remaining starchy corn milk with the butt end of the knife and added it after sauteing the kernels.