Thursday, April 23, 2009

Creamy Celery Root Soup with Swiss Chard

Here is the perfect dish for the current meteorological moment. This soup is rich and warm on a cold day, but it's full of fresh spring flavor. As gnarly and uninviting as celery root looks, it has the bright, herbaceous taste of, well, celery. Simmered in a quick soup with some potatoes to make it extra creamy, it is equal parts light and satisfying.

I love making pureed soups with my trusty hand blender. A regular blender works fine too. You can build a fantastic soup using all sorts of different veggies--no recipe required. Use this recipe to get the hang of it, then create new soups whenever the mood strikes. Here are some tips on getting it right:

1) Build flavor with aromatics - Start your soup by sauteeing garlic, onions, shallots, ginger, dried herbs, fresh or dried chiles, or spices in some oil. Any combination of these is great. If you feeling fancy, add a splash of wine and reduce it before you add the broth (I love dry Sherry for this--it keeps in the fridge forever).

2) Pick blendable veggies - I love chunky soups too, but the idea here is smooth and creamy. Artichokes and asparagus need to be pushed through a sieve to remove all the fibrous bits that won't puree. Carrots, potatoes, eggplant (discard the skin), fava beans, mushrooms, peas and cauliflower get smooth without straining.

3) Add something starchy - I prefer Russet potatoes, but white rice or Cannellini beans can also be used to thicken and add a stick-to-your-ribs quality to healthy soups without using cream.

4) Do a fun garnish - I had a jar of vacuum-packed roasted chestnuts on hand, which were a great complement to the mellow celery root. However, you can also use chopped olives, a dollop of pesto, chopped onion, roasted and chopped nuts, yogurt or sour cream, diced sun-dried tomatoes...and a fresh herb is always right.

5) For more inspiration, take a look at these soups: Carrot Curry Soup, Creamy Eggplant-Lentil Soup, Creamy Fava Bean Soup with Mint.

Do you ever make soup on the fly? Is it still soup weather where you live? Share recipes in the comments!

Creamy Celery Root Soup with Swiss Chard

My supermarket, to my grateful amazement, stocks these fantastic chestnuts year round (we're talking the roasted and shelled European type, not water chestnuts). If they are not available, try any of the garnish ideas mentioned above (walnuts would be nice), or just stick with parsley. Use a vegetable peeler to peel the celery root (also called celeriac), then trim any veins of skin running through the flesh with a paring knife.

Serves 4

2 Tbs. olive oil, divided
1/2 white onion, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
Pinch of coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
Dried red pepper flakes to taste
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
2 Tbs. chopped Italian parsley, plus additional for garnish
1/4 cup dry Sherry (optional, but encouraged)
5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 celery root, peeled and chopped into 3/4-inch pieces
1 1/2 medium Russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 3/4-inch pieces
Cooking spray
1/3 cup chopped roasted chestnuts (optional)
1 bunch Swiss chard (8 to 10 leaves)
1/2 lemon

Heat one tablespoon of the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the onion and shallot, season lightly with salt (broth will add additional salt) and pepper, and cook until soft and lightly browned. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, thyme and parsley and cook for 1 minute. Add the Sherry, and simmer until reduced by about three-quarters. Add the chicken broth, celery root and potatoes; raise the heat and cover to bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until vegetables are very tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium-low heat and coat with cooking spray. Add the chestnuts and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Heat remaining oil in the skillet and add the Swiss chard. Season with pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, 4 to 5 minutes.

Remove soup pot from heat and puree with an immersion blender until very smooth. Alternatively, you can puree in a blender, working in batches. Return pot to low heat and stir in the Swiss chard. Add lemon juice to taste. Check seasoning. Ladle into bowls and top with chestnuts and parsley leaves before serving.


Anonymous said...

That looks delicious and so appropriate. Glad to have found your blog :)

Jen said...

Your recipe and tips are great! I was up late last night simmering a pork stock. I think I just made it weather-wise...We're on the cusp here.

Daniel said...

Really impressed by your soup recipe rules of thumb. It's great to read a recipe on a food blog, but you've gone a step beyond and explained how to make your OWN recipes.

That's the cooking equivalent of teaching a man to fish. Great post.

Casual Kitchen

RecipeGirl said...

Great tips. I got one of those little hand blenders for Christmas & I love it.

The addition of Swiss Chard & roasted chestnuts sound wonderful in this soup!

Julie said...

Rebekka: Thanks for your comment!
Jen: Pork stock...yum. What cut(s) of meat did you use?
Daniel: Thanks, that's so nice!
Recipe Girl: It's definitely useful if you love soup.Thanks for your comment!

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I would like to savor this delightful soup. It is bursting with flavor and its nutritional value is quite good.

victorinox knives said...

that sounds like a delicious combination! i'll have to try it!