Monday, November 29, 2010

Light Cream of Celery Soup: a change of pace after Thanksgiving

There are two major problems I find after the Thanksgiving weekend passes: 1) all the feasting and indulging in rich food is beginning to catch up with you 2) you filled up your refrigerator with a huge turkey and all the trimmings and now its gone and you're stuck with a hodge-podge of ingredients that don't quite make up a meal...or at least a meal that doesn't look like more leftovers. I found myself in this predicament today as I stared into the now-bare-looking fridge. I had some celery and spinach that would be past their prime soon and a few pounds of potatoes that needed some attention, but these ingredients didn't look too appetizing on their own. I was really needing some carrots and peppers or something that could really round out the nice soup and salad meal that I was envisioning. It's days like this that I eagerly turn to my Mollie Katzen books as she always has great recipes that use simple ingredients to make something delicious - always helpful in utilizing lots of veggies!
As I thumbed through her soup book I already had a recipe in the back of my mind that I had come across numerous times while performing this same ritual. Found it! "Light Cream of Celery", yep, that's the one! I scanned the recipe and it fit the bill perfectly: it would use up some celery and potatoes real fast and provide a meal that wouldn't be rich and Thanksgiving-y.
This soup was very fast and easy to prepare, especially since I could be sloppy with my knife cuts knowing it was all going to be turned into mush anyways. Within two hours I had a nice, simple, wholesome meal on the table with my warm soup, spinach and greens salad, peaches and yogurt, and crackers with nut butter for something more filling. My parents really enjoyed the change of pace and especially liked trying small bowls of soup with different toppings including Parmesan cheese, crackers, plain yogurt, tortilla strips, green chili sauce, horseradish, and croutons. My mom said the soup reminded her of Christmas, gazpacho, split pea soup, and leek soup. How she got all that out of Light Cream of Celery I'll never know, but as long as she liked it, whatev.

Light Cream of Celery

- 2 average person's fist-sized potatoes, peeled and diced (I used 3 smallish potatoes)
- 4 cups chopped celery
- 3 cups of water (I added a tsp of vegetable stock concentrate to round out the flavor)
- 1 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 to 2 Tbsp butter (I used 2 because I had the perfect-sized chunk, but it would have worked just as well with less)
- 1 cup finely diced onion
- 1 cup finely diced celery
- 1 tsp celery seed (I used 2 tsp for some more flavor)
- 1 cup milk, warmed (I used 2%, warmed in the microwave for 1 min)
- white pepper to taste
- 4 to 5 Tbsp sour cream, half and half, or heavy cream, optional (I left this out because I had no more room in my pot and served plain yogurt on the side instead, still very good!)
- minced chives, parsley, celery leaves, to garnish (or the fun options that I mentioned above!)

(I added the celery tops and leaves to my 4 cups because they also contain flavor and their texture won't be noticed once its all pureed so it's a great way to utilize the whole vegetable with no waste!)

1) Place potatoes, 4 cups of celery, water, and salt in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until the vegetables are soft (5-10 min, depending on particle size and the strength of your stove)
 2) Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium-sized skillet and saute the 1 cup of onions and the 1 cup of celery. Season with the celery seeds and some salt and pepper if you like.

 3) Puree all the ingredients in a blender or food processor in as many batches as needed and return to pot and heat to low.

 4) Stir in the cup of milk and the optional sour cream/heavy cream.

 5) Serve warm with your choice of garnishes and enjoy feeling light once again!

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