Recipes from SoCal culinary guru Pamela Salzman’s new cookbook
Words by PAMELA SALZMAN
Soups are cozy, warm hugs in a bowl. I prepare them at least twice a week during the school year, and I make sure there are leftovers for easy portable lunches. What I like best about soups is their digestibility and how they lend themselves to versatility. Plus, I can generally add riced vegetables and/or leafy greens to almost any soup (more nutrients). Soups can absolutely be a full, balanced meal unto themselves with the inclusion of hearty legumes, small amounts of animal protein, or fiber-rich whole grains.
You would be surprised how much depth of flavor you can create in a short amount of time. For these quicker-than-usual soups, I rely on good homemade stocks, a gentle saute of aromatic vegetables to start, and my arsenal of herbs and spices. If you tend to be short on time most days, consider cooking a double batch of soup or stew and freezing one for another time.
These recipes are meant to be flexible, for you to adapt to your tastes and what’s in your fridge, as well as your budget. If you are on a limited budget, planning meals, learning how to adapt recipes, and having a strategy for stretching leftovers, can make the difference between cooking a wholesome meal from scratch versus ordering more costly and less healthful takeout. And, regardless of budget, we can all benefit from cooking at home more.
As I always say to my students, recipes are just road maps and guidelines. If you don’t have an ingredient or two, there is likely a perfectly good substitute. But it’s good practice to follow a new recipe exactly the first time you make it, unless you feel very comfortable making substitutions that you have made with success before. You can always tweak the recipe to suit your taste the next time you make it.
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CREAMY TOMATO SOUP (serves 6)
My husband’s favorite comfort food is tomato soup and grilled cheese. He inevitably asks for it on the first chilly day of the year. Most tomato soups contain heavy cream or thickening agents to add body; my secret ingredient here is cooked white beans that, when pureed, add creaminess and protein. This is one of the easiest soups you’ll ever make and beats canned tomato soup every time.
- 2 tablespoons unrefined, cold- pressed, extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, ghee, or vegan butter (or use all oil, but butter really makes the soup)
- 1 medium-size onion, chopped
- 2 small carrots, peeled if desired and diced
- 2 (18-ounce) jars crushed tomatoes or tomato puree
- 2-1/2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more if your stock is unsalted
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1-1/2 cups cooked white beans, such as cannellini or great northern, or 1 (15-ounce) can, drained and rinsed
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade
Heat a medium-size pot over medium heat and add the olive oil and butter. Add the onion and carrots and sauté until the onion is tender and translucent, about 6 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper to taste, and stir until fragrant, about 5 minutes.
Add the white beans and stock, bring to a boil, and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes.
Puree the soup in the pot using an immersion blender, or in batches using a regular blender. Taste for seasoning and serve.
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CREAMLESS MUSHROOM SOUP (serves 6)
I had the privilege of teaching a culinary retreat in southwest France many years ago and this recipe was part of the menu. I felt strongly about demonstrating and sharing recipes that would highlight the local produce, yet still keep true to my style of cooking. So, instead of pouring a quart of heavy cream into this soup, I used cooked and pureed leeks, onions, and mushrooms. The result? A very creamy and luxurious soup that feels rustic and elegant at the same time. This soup always gets rave reviews and tastes as if you slaved over the stove for hours instead of minutes.
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or unrefined, cold-pressed extra- virgin olive oil
- 1/2 large onion, diced
- 1 large leek, washed, white and light green parts sliced
- 2 medium-size carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 medium-size celery stalks, diced 3 garlic cloves, chopped finely
- 1 large sprig thyme
- 2 pounds whole cremini or white mushrooms, wiped clean with a damp paper towel, sliced
- 5 to 6 cups (depending on how thick you like your soup) chicken, vegetable, or mushroom stock
- 1 tablespoon shoyu, tamari, or coconut aminos
- 1 to 2 teaspoons sea salt (depending on saltiness of the stock)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Optional accompaniments: minced fresh chives, vegan Kite Hill cream cheese, creme fraiche, truffle oil, a few sliced, sauteeed mushrooms
Melt the butter over medium heat in a large stockpot with a capacity of at least 5-1/2 quarts. Add the onion, leek, carrots, celery, and garlic, and sauté until the onion is tender and translucent, 7 to 8 minutes.
Stir in the thyme and mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the stock, shoyu, salt, and pepper to taste and simmer, covered, for 20 to 30 minutes.
Remove the thyme sprig. With an immersion blender, puree half of the soup (or all of it, if you want a smooth soup) in the pot or carefully puree in batches in a blender. Taste for seasoning. Serve with the suggested accompaniments.
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HARISSA VEGETABLE STEW (serves 6)
Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients here; it’s mostly spices and things that take no prep. Harissa is a spicy Moroccan condiment made from chile peppers and layered with cumin, coriander, and caraway seeds, along with other possible ingredients. Harissa can be made from scratch, but many brands are available that make preservative-free versions packaged in glass. That’s a convenience I’m into! This recipe is a huge hit with my students—with this kind of flavor, it’s easy to see why!
- 2 tablespoons unrefined, cold- pressed, extra-virgin olive oil, ghee, or unsalted butter
- 1 onion, chopped finely
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped finely
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 1 teaspoon harissa, or more to taste
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1-1/2 teaspoons sea salt (more if using unsalted stock)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 7 cups chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 cup uncooked medium-grain white rice, bulgur, or quinoa
- 1-1/2 cups cooked white beans or chickpeas or 1 (15-ounce) can, drained and rinsed
- 2 (3-inch strips) lemon peel plus the juice of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup unsulfured golden or green raisins
- 2 cups leafy greens, such as spinach, baby kale, and/or baby Swiss chard
- Fresh cilantro and/or flat-leaf parsley, for garnish (optional)
- Turmeric-Greek yogurt for garnish (optional)
Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, carrots, and celery. Sauté until tender and translucent, 6 to 7 minutes. Add the harissa, tomato paste, cumin, paprika, turmeric, salt, and pepper to taste and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the stock, cinnamon sticks, bay leaf, rice, beans, lemon peel, and raisins. Bring to a boil, partially cover, and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Remove the bay leaf, cinnamon sticks, and lemon peel. Stir in the lemon juice, greens and cilantro, if using. Serve with turmeric-Greek yogurt, if desired.
Text and recipes excerpted from Quicker Than Quick: 140 Crave-Worthy Recipes for Healthy Comfort Foods in 30 Minutes or Less (Hachette Go, $28) by Pamela Salzman.
Feature image: Creamless mushroom soup, as seen in PAMELA SALZMAN’s latest cookbook.
April 30, 2020
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