soup

Strawberry Soup with Balsamic Reduction & Creme Fraiche

Cold Strawberry Balsamic Soup with Creme Fraiche

For my husband’s birthday, we stayed over at the Ballantyne Resort here in Charlotte for a mini-getaway. We did the spa thing in the afternoon, and then treated ourselves to too many cocktails and an amazing meal at The Gallery (the restaurant onsite). It was the perfect way to celebrate.

Before our meal came, the chef sent out a small cup of strawberry and balsamic soup topped with goat cheese as an amuse-bouche. I would have never thought of using strawberries in a soup, let alone serving it prior to dinner, but it totally worked. It served as a palate cleanser as well and was such an unexpected but pleasant surprise. I made a mental note to try to replicate it at home.

What I love about this recipe is that it triples as a soup course, an amuse-bouche AND a palate cleanser. It’s light and small in serving size, so it doesn’t interfere with anything else you may have planned for your menu. It’s super easy and takes advantage of strawberries which will be at their peak very shortly!! Here’s the recipe.

Strawberry Soup with Balsamic Reduction & Creme Fraiche

Serves 6-8 as a small starter

 

Cold Strawberry Balsamic Soup with Creme Fraiche

Ingredients
4 1/2 cups of strawberries, washed and hulled
2 1/2 tbsp powdered sugar
1-2 tbsp chopped mint
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup water
3 tbsp creme fraiche (or goat cheese, depending on the tastes of your guests…mine can be picky)

Balsamic Reduction
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Directions

Place strawberries and water in blender and blend until pureed.

Transfer strawberries to a fine sieved colander and strain out seeds.

Rinse blender and return seedless pureed strawberries to blender. Add mint, sugar, and lemon and blend until smooth.

Chill soup in fridge until ready to serve (this part can be made up to a day in advance).

While the soup chills, reduce the balsamic vinegar. Simply pour vinegar into small sauce pan and heat over low to medium heat until liquid is reduced by half. Cool.

When ready to serve, pour soup into small cups (or even shot glasses). Top with a small dollop of creme fraiche (around 1 tsp), and drizzle top with balsamic reduction. Serve and enjoy!

Cold Strawberry Balsamic Soup with Creme Fraiche

 

Panera-Inspired Quinoa Lentil Broth Bowls

I am a huge fan of Panera. Unfortunately for me, my husband isn’t such a fan and so I don’t get to go nearly as often as I’d like.   I remember when Paneras were first popping up, back when I was in high school. My go-to order was the Sierra Turkey sandwich and kettle chips. Every time.  And then I’d often wrap the meal up with one of those cobblestone pastry things. This was all before children, before my metabolism slowed down, of course. Now I must go for their healthier options, which are still pretty stinking good. (And of course I’ll still sneak a few bites of my kids’ mac and cheese … love that stuff too).
 
A few months ago, I tried Panera’s lentil and quinoa broth bowl and absolutely loved it. It’s been on my mind since then to try to recreate it at home. The broth is what makes this dish. It’s full of that umami flavor that I’ve come to love so much. I figured I could accomplish it with either miso paste or sofrito (a kind of tomato paste), but ended up going with miso to tie with the other Asian flavors that were prevalent in the soup.
I’ll admit that this recipe does contain some ingredients that the typical person may not have on hand. Some of it you can probably substitute. No gochujang? Use siracha or even red pepper flakes. No mushroom broth? Use another kind of broth. No agave? Use honey or brown sugar.
The ingredients you shouldn’t mess with? The miso, the soy sauce, the sesame oil and the lemon.
Next time I think I’ll make extra broth and freeze it so that I can throw this dish together even quicker. And maybe try soba noodles and flank steak as the fixin’s… yum!
 
 
Panera-Inspired Quinoa Lentil Broth Bowls (meat optional)
Makes 4 small servings or 2 large servings
Ingredients
 
 
For the broth
1 cup of mushroom broth
2 cups of water
1 1/2  tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ginger
1 1/2 tsp gochujang
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp miso paste
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp agave nectar (or honey)
Juice of one lemon (do not skip this!)
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
1/2 cup lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 cup mushroom broth
1 cup water
1 smashed garlic glove
1 bay leaf
2 cups chopped kale
6 oz. thinly sliced chicken, optional
lemon slices for garnish
DirectionsFirst, assemble the broth. In a medium saucepan, mix together all ingredients except for the lemon juice. Simmer for 20-30 minutes.

In another small or medium sauce pan, add mushroom broth and water, garlic clove and bay leaf. Add rinsed quinoa and cook on low heat for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, add the lentils.
Cook for another 15-20 minutes, until all liquid is absorbed by the quinoa and lentils. Remove the bay leaf and garlic clove.
Add chopped kale to the broth and cook until just wilted. Add lemon juice to broth.
To serve, place a scoop of the quinoa and lentil mixture into a bowl and top with broth. Add chicken, if using. Garnish with lemon slices.

Butternut Squash Soup with Apple-Cranberry Chutney

This soup screams fall. Maybe it even shrieks it. My house always smells amazing when I cook up butternut squash soup. I sometimes think I make it just to smell it. Probably cheaper than those Anthropologie candles that I burn through at an absurd rate.

Anyway, come fall, my pantry is rarely without a squash of some sort. I like squash because it feels like a vegetable and a starch at the same time. So, whereas I might make broccoli and roasted potatoes as sides for a meal, squash kind of ticks both boxes for me. While butternut squash always tastes delicious, I think I like it best for its vibrant orange color. It’s so appetizing!

Usually I make this soup without the chutney, but I added the chutney recently to fancy it up a bit for a dinner with friends and it definitely adds some interest! Make it with or without, whatever suits your palate.

I served this soup with grilled (Vermont) cheese sandwiches for an easy and cozy weeknight dinner. Enjoy!

Butternut Squash Soup with Apple-Cranberry Chutney
Serves 4

Ingredients


For the soup:
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 of a large butternut squash, cubed
1/2 of an onion
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 1/2 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup of milk
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
sour cream for garnish

For the chutney:
2 small granny smith apples
1/2 of an onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1/3 cup of orange juice
2 tbsp water
pinch of red pepper flakes
pinch of kosher salt
couple of turns of freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 tbsp dried cranberries

Directions





In a medium saucepan, heat your olive oil. Add onions and butternut squash and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and cook for one more minute.

Add stock and spices (everything except milk and sour cream).

Cook, covered, for 45 minutes until squash is soft. Turn off burner and allow to cool to room temperature. Pour into blender (or use immersion blender) and blend until smooth. Return to pot, warm back up, and stir in milk.

For the chutney, put all ingredients except dried cranberries into a small saucepan and simmer for about 40 minutes (while the soup cooks).

Add cranberries, cook for a few more minutes and then turn burner off and let the chutney come to room temperature.

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with sour cream. I simply put a couple of spoonfuls into a ziplock bag and then snip the corner and squeeze out, making a zig-zag pattern on top of the soup.

Top with the chutney and serve.