Roasted soups burst with intensified taste

October 22, 1997|By Perla Meyers | Perla Meyers,EATING WELL

So maybe roasting isn't the first word that comes to mind when one thinks of making soup. But this technique is essential for any cook who wants to create luscious, satisfying dishes -- soup or otherwise -- without resorting to high-fat ingredients.

Oven-roasting a soup's basic components, be they rich winter squash and pears or end-of-the-season plum tomatoes, removes moisture and intensifies the ingredients' inherent sweetness. During the roasting process, the sugars caramelize in the dry heat, forming a rich, golden-brown crust.

Roasting teases out a vegetable or fruit's best nature, making it more than it ever was.

A well-made soup doesn't require a lot of time, skill or expense. With the simple act of roasting, a cook can coax the richest imaginable soup from even the most humble ingredients.

Curried roasted-squash and pear soup

Makes about 8 cups, for 6 first-course servings

1 butternut squash (1 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4 -inch cubes

6 ripe but firm Bartlett pears, peeled, cored and cut into 3/4 -inch cubes

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup finely chopped shallots

1 tablespoon packed dark-brown sugar

1 cinnamon stick (2 1/2 -inches)

2 teaspoons curry powder, preferably Madras

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, defatted

2 tablespoons slivered fresh mint or cilantro leaves

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

On a large baking sheet with sides, toss squash and pears with 1 tablespoon oil and granulated sugar. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with water.

Roast squash and pears for 30 to 40 minutes, or until both are tender. (Add a little more water if necessary to prevent burning.) Remove any pears that are done before squash. Measure 1 cup pears and cut each cube in half; set aside.

In a food processor or blender, puree squash and remaining pears until smooth. (Add a little chicken broth if necessary.) Set aside.

In a Dutch oven or soup pot, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Add brown sugar, cinnamon stick, curry powder, cardamom and coriander. Stir for 2 minutes more.

Add reserved squash-pear puree and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 25 to 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Discard cinnamon stick. Add reserved pears and simmer until heated through. Ladle into warmed soup bowls and garnish with mint or cilantro. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 230 calories, 3 grams protein, 5 grams fat (0.7 gram saturated fat), 43 grams carbohydrates, 565 milligrams sodium, 5 milligrams cholesterol, 6 grams fiber.

Roasting sweetens this yellow pepper soup; basil cream makes a bright, fresh contrast.

Roasted yellow pepper soup with basil cream

Makes about 5 cups, for 4 first-course servings

3 large, whole heads garlic

2 tablespoons plus 2 3/4 cups water

6 large, yellow bell peppers

3 medium onions, sliced

1 tablespoon olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

basil cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil 2 baking sheets with sides, or coat them with nonstick spray. Pull papery husks off garlic. Slice the tip off each head to expose cloves. Place on a square of aluminum foil and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons water. Pinch edges of foil together to seal.

Stem, halve and seed bell peppers. Arrange cut-side down, along with garlic packet, on 1 prepared baking sheet. On the other, toss onions with oil and spread evenly over baking sheet.

In upper third of oven, roast bell peppers and garlic for 30 to 45 minutes, or until pepper skins blacken and garlic is tender. In lower third of oven, roast onions for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until golden. Let cool.

Remove skins from bell peppers and squeeze garlic flesh from skins. In a blender or food processor, puree bell peppers, onions and garlic until smooth. (Add some of the remaining 2 3/4 cups water if necessary.) Strain through a fine sieve into a large saucepan. Add remaining water and bring to a simmer over low heat. Season with salt and pepper. (The soup will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.) Ladle into warmed soup bowls; swirl with basil cream. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 205 calories, 7 grams protein, 7 grams fat (0.9 gram saturated fat), 34 grams carbohydrates, 35 milligrams sodium, no cholesterol, 4 grams fiber.

Basil cream

Makes about 1/2 cup

3/4 cup tightly packed fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup nonfat, plain yogurt

1/2 clove garlic, crushed and peeled

1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a blender, puree basil, yogurt and garlic until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add oil until blended. Season with salt and pepper. (The cream will keep in the refrigerator for up to 8 hours.)

Per tablespoon: 15 calories, 1 gram protein, 1 gram fat (0.1 gram saturated fat), 1 gram carbohydrates, 10 milligrams sodium, no cholesterol, no fiber.

Pub Date: 10/22/97

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