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Food + Cooking

Smooth Soups

Puréed soups are purely and intensely flavorful, and they show off whatever seasonal vegetables you have on hand.

My friend Adam called me in a tizzy, as he does from time to time when he’s cooking dinner. “I have people coming over in an hour and I didn’t make enough food. I have broccoli in the fridge. What can I serve them that’s made from broccoli?” Fielding phone calls from Adam (or any of the half-dozen people who call me with similar questions) is like some perverse challenge out of Top Chef or maybe Trivial Pursuits. Tonight, though, I had an easy answer: “Dude-make a puréed broccoli soup. It’ll be great.”

Puréed soups are purely and intensely flavorful, and they show off the all those cold-weather vegetables sitting in piles right now at the farmers’ markets to especially good effect. They’re easy and flexible—you can use leafy greens or something more substantial like squash, carrots, or cauliflower. Kids will eat them, too. I make them all the time and can’t imagine getting tired of them.

Start by peeling an onion and slicing it. (I use a super-fast “sauté slice,” cutting each half of the onion lengthwise as thinly as possible.) Sweat the onion in a soup pot in butter or oil over medium-low heat with a little salt and a few grindings of black pepper. Remove the unappetizing bits (tips and tails, tough skins, etc) from your vegetable and cut it into roughly equal-sized pieces without getting too fussy. (You can roast the vegetable at this point for a flavor that’s less pure but deeper and sweeter.) Put the vegetable in the pot when the onion is soft but not yet brown and cover with water or homemade vegetable or chicken stock. Bring everything to a simmer and let the vegetables cook until they’re soft but not mushy. Blend in a blender or food processor until it’s blended: this can be a good couple minutes if you want it perfectly smooth, or less if you like chunks. That’s it; you’re done. Taste it and serve it.

The soup and a loaf of crusty bread makes a great quick meal, and if you’re feeling more ambitious you can gussy things up in any number of ways—deglaze the pot with a little delicious wine or spirit when the onions are done, add an interesting herb (sage to a squash soup, say), strain the soup through a chinoise for a silky texture, lash in some cream for richness, or top the bowl with something interesting (crème fraîche or herb oil, croutons with goat cheese melted on top, deep-fried herb leaves, or whatever gets you going). Plain or fancy, according to your mood, fast enough to whip together in a pinch, and delicious in any guise.