Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Creamy Fava Bean Soup with Mint

Does that photo of a simple (yet elegantly presented) soup get you excited? Not really? Well, it should! No, it's not a fudgy brownie or a tender scone, but it's been making me incredibly happy lately.

Since I made this Carrot-Curry Soup, I've been having a field day with my immersion blender. And to think I would never have purchased such a gadget if left to my own devices. It was actually given to me by the kitchenwares buyer when I worked in the corporate advertising office of Filene's, the venerable department store chain in the Northeast that has since been absorbed by Macy's. I worked as an assistant buyer there right after college, then moved to advertising and had to deal with buyers who loved to drive me crazy by changing the items, prices or photos they wanted to feature in the print ads and catalogues we produced.

Anyway, this little immersion blender was one of the many samples used for photo shoots that were always laying around the buying offices. This was about 6 years ago, and it's only recently that I've truly learned to love my blender. You can make pureed soups in a regular blender, in batches, but a hand-held model does the job in no time with less potential for mess.

So, I've been making pureed soups every chance I get. I did a nice one with celeriac which tasted vibrantly of celery (shocking), but it was an even duller green color than the picture above, so I didn't post it. The thing about soups like this is that you don't need a recipe after you try it once or twice--you can just choose any vegetables or legumes that take well to being pureed (anything too seedy, fibrous or stringy may not work; or it may need straining), combine them with herbs and spices of your choice, add some diced potato or cauliflower for incredible creaminess with a neutral flavor, and go crazy! I'm in love with the creamy texture I can create with just potato or cauliflower and not a drop of cream.

In this particular soup, fava beans add quite a bit of creaminess on their own, so I went with cauliflower instead of starchier potato as my thickener. The flavor is mild, like fava beans, and it's nicely underscored with fresh rosemary. Don't skip the sprinkling of fresh mint or drizzle of lemon juice; with such a simple soup, it's the little things that take it from basic to memorable. Mint is an incredible accompaniment to vegetables--it's a classic with peas, and I've been loving omelets with sauteed zucchini, goat cheese and mint. And finally, I always serve my creamy vegetable soups with either sour cream or yogurt swirled in. The cool tang elevates the other flavors, and it looks beautiful.

Creamy Fava Bean Soup with Mint

Whole Foods markets sell great frozen, shelled fava beans year round. If you can’t find frozen (or fresh), use lima beans. This soup gets its amazingly creamy texture from the pureed beans as well as cauliflower, which has a neutral flavor in this soup. Make it vegetarian--use vegetable instead of chicken broth.

Makes 4 main course servings

1 tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbs. fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 head cauliflower, trimmed and florets chopped into approx. 1-inch pieces
2 1/2 cups frozen, shelled fava beans, or lima beans
Juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon (2 to 3 tbs.)
Yogurt or sour cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently until onion is soft and golden. Add the garlic and rosemary and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add broth and cauliflower and season with salt and pepper; cover and bring to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes or until cauliflower is tender; add fava beans and cook for 5 to 8 minutes more, or until heated through and tender.

Remove pan from heat and puree using a hand held immersion blender (alternatively, puree in batches in a regular blender). Return to low heat, but do not simmer, or soup might splash out of the pot. Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice; taste and adjust seasoning and/or add more lemon juice, according to taste. Ladle into bowls and dollop with yogurt or sour cream and sprinkle with mint.

Here are some more soup recipes from the archives...I love them all.

Creamy Eggplant-Lentil Soup
Quinoa Soup with Spinach and Corn
Golden Split Pea Soup with Leftover Ham
Green Lentil Soup with Indian Spices and Coconut Milk (scroll down)
Vegetable Barley Soup with Poached Egg


Mandy said...

I get excited looking at your elegantly displayed soup. :D Maybe because I am a soup person. Having an immersion blender is definitely handy..It saves the trouble of cleaning the heavy blender bowl and blade after cooking. Plus it looks so cool. I am seriously envious.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

I love scones and brownies, Julie, but this fava bean steals my heart. I literally just finished shelling two pounds worth and can't wait to make them. I was thinking pasta or risotto, but now I'm thinking maybe soup. It's kind of chilly here today too.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

You worked at Filene's? I remember it well... especially the basement, justly famous as Boston's biggest discount store for many years. I think this soup looks luscious. I love my immersion blender and I think it's made me a better soup maker.

michelle @ TNS said...

i'm excited by the picture of soup. i'm also excited by immersion blenders, and by fava beans. and by year-round frozen fava beans, because that means i don't have to deal with the torment of shelling and peeling them.

Julie said...

Mandy: Yep, I'm definitely a soup person too, and I know I'm committed because I still manage to live in Florida and cook a lot of soup.
Susan: We haven't seen any fresh favas yet...when I get the fresh ones, I love to toss them with gnocchi, pancetta and a little cream; I also love them in risotto.
Lydia: yep, Filene's was my first "real job." Interestingly, the basement hasn't been owned by Filene's parent company (May Co.) for many years. It's owned by Federated, the parent of none other than Macy's! But the old one in Downtown Crossing in Boston is still there going strong even though the Filene's flagship above it is now being turned into condos.
Michelle: the frozen favas from Whole Foods absolutely rock. They're great quality, and I almost always have some in the freezer.

Emiline said...

This soup sounds so good- especially with the mint. The only fava beans we have around here are canned. I don't know how you feel about that.

I just saw your brownies! Holy cow!

maybelles parents said...

lovely. I love fava beans. thanks.