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From the food editor: A soup recipe for cold Florida nights

This always happens in January.

We endure (or celebrate, depending on who you are) 80-degree Christmases then watch as temperatures fall. As I write this, we're facing another weekend of high temperatures only in the 50s — balmy for the rest of the country, uncomfortably cold for this native Floridian.

One thing reliably helps kick-start the thawing process: warm foods.

It's time for a comforting soup recipe.

This week's suggestion is a light yet creamy soup that gets its flavor from caramelized onions, which take on a totally new flavor after being cooked down then pureed with leeks, garlic and shallots. A bit of cream and butter make this a luscious, hearty option for those nights when you're debating whether to put the heat on.

In that spirit, here are three tips that will up your soup game.

Add a cheese rind: This trick works best in a brothy homemade soup, since they tend to be naturally less flavorful. If you have fresh Parmesan cheese in the house, don't throw it away once you get to the rind. Instead, chuck that rind into your simmering pot of soup. (Hint: Some speciality stores even sell just the cheese rind. It never hurts to stock up.) It may dissolve completely as it cooks; if not, just remove it right before serving. Either way, it imparts cheesy goodness into your recipe.

Creamier soup without the cream: Let's face it: Creamier soups are usually superior to their non-creamy counterparts. But there are a couple of ways to thicken up your recipe without adding a bunch of cream. First, if you're making a more chunky soup like potato or tomato, simply remove a cup or two from the batch and puree. Then, add the pureed soup back to the pot, and, voila, thickness. A similar trick is to add a few hunks of stale bread, torn into pieces, then puree the soup a bit. Another option: Add yogurt in place of the cream. It also provides a nice tang.

Season, season, season: When making homemade soup, sometimes we have to work extra hard to make sure it's not bland. Especially if you're using storebought chicken or veggie broth, the final product could likely use some heavy seasoning. So make sure you're seasoning it throughout with salt and pepper, from the very first step of the process until the simmering action at the end. And be sure to taste your broth throughout, so you can adjust accordingly.

Contact Michelle Stark at mstark@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8829. Follow @mstark17 on Twitter.

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Creamy Caramelized-Onion Soup

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 ¼ pounds (3 to 4) leeks, white and pale-green parts only, rinsed well and coarsely chopped
  • 5 garlic, thinly sliced
  • 7 large shallots, about 14 ounces, thinly sliced
  • 2 large Vidalia onions, about 20 ounces, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
  • ¾ cup dry white vermouth
  • 4 cups homemade or low-sodium store-bought chicken stock
  • Coarse salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Instructions

  1. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks, garlic, shallots and half of the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are deep golden brown, about 25 minutes.
  2. Add vermouth, stock and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes. Let cool. Puree onion mixture in batches in a blender until smooth, about 3 minutes per batch. Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add remaining onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is very soft and golden brown, about 45 minutes. Cover, and set aside.
  4. Return onion puree to saucepan. Stir in cream. Reheat over medium heat, stirring, until heated through but not boiling. Season with salt, if desired. Serve, topped with caramelized onions. Serves 8.
Source: Martha Stewart

From the food editor: A soup recipe for cold Florida nights 01/25/16 [Last modified: Monday, January 25, 2016 5:07pm]
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