Refreshing, elegant soups, stews

BOOKMARK

February 21, 2007|By Holly Selby | Holly Selby,Sun Reporter

Soup from the SmartCook Collection

By Delia Smith

The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy

By Domenica Marchetti

Chronicle Books / 2006 / $19.95

Some cooks just have a way with soups, and Domenica Marchetti, a former newspaper reporter living in Virginia, seems among them. In this, her first cookbook, she celebrates the slow cooking and earthy flavors often found in great Italian dishes.

In Crema di Porcini (Creamy Porcini Soup), five kinds of mushrooms simmered with garlic and butter and splashed with sherry form a rich, creamy and utterly satisfying soup perfect for a fall or winter meal. In Zuppa di Vongole al Prosecco (Clam Stew With Prosecco), the simplest of ingredients - littleneck clams, Prosecco (a dry white wine), parsley, crunchy crostini - combine to make a lovely appetizer or meal. (Be careful, though, to taste before seasoning this dish: The saltiness of the clams varies widely.)

The book ends with a chapter featuring four seasonal crostate - or Italian dessert tarts - that offer an excellent, not-too-sweet finale to a meal. As the jam tart - a crusty, flaky pastry shell topped with berry preserves - easily shows, sometimes simplicity has it all over extravagance.

holly.selby@balt sun.com

Butternut Squash Soup With Toasted Corn

Serves 6

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon butter (divided use)

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 1/2 pounds butternut squash or other winter squash, peeled, seeds removed and flesh chopped into 1-inch dice

4 cups fresh corn kernels, cut from 5 to 6 ears (divided use)

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 1/2 cups vegetable stock

1 1/4 cups milk

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan, then add the onion and cook slowly for about 8 minutes. Add the butternut squash, along with 2 cups of the corn. Give everything a good stir and season with salt and pepper. Cover and, keeping the heat low, let the vegetables cook gently and release their juices; this should take about 10 minutes.

Pour in the stock and milk and bring to a simmer. Put the pan lid on but leave a little gap (so it's not quite on). Cook gently until the vegetables are very tender, about 20 minutes. Keep a close eye on it because the milk in the soup could make it boil over. (Don't worry if the liquid curdles; it will smooth out when blended.)

Preheat the broiler. Melt the remaining 1 teaspoon butter. Mix the butter with the remaining 2 cups of corn and spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper and broil about 3 inches from the heat. It will take about 8 minutes to become nicely toasted and golden, but stir the corn about halfway through so it toasts evenly.

When the soup is ready, let it cook a little. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender or food processor, leaving a little bit of texture - it doesn't need to be absolutely smooth. Have a large bowl handy into which to pour the pureed soup. Return the soup to the saucepan and reheat gently.

Serve the soup in warm bowls with the toasted corn sprinkled on top.

From "Soup" from the SmartCook Collection

Per serving: 194 calories, 6 grams protein, 8 grams fat, 3 grams saturated fat, 29 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams fiber, 16 milligrams cholesterol, 449 milligrams sodium

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