Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Cream of Celery Soup Delights the Senses

These days every meal is inspired by my garden or the food that catches my fancy at the local farmer’s markets. I was thrilled to find some home grown celery again this year. It had never occurred to me to grow celery. Ever.

I first found homegrown celery around this time last year at the Cedar Spring Herb Farm booth at the Hyannis Farmer’s Market during the CLASH Festival.

A taste test showed that home grown celery has a much stronger celery flavor than store bought celery. Since the chilly autumn days put me in full soup mode I decided to make cream of celery soup. Even though I had never made it before. Even though I wasn’t impressed with the Campbell’s product 20 years ago when I still used Campbell’s products.

Truthfully, I just didn’t really know what to do with this giant bunch of flavorful, but tougher than normal stalks. My expectations for the soup were actually pretty low, but the results were pure YUM!

With no recipe to work with, I followed my general recipe for potato leek soup and even added a few leeks and potatoes because I had also bought both those items at the farmer’s market. I sautéed the diced veggies and covered them with chicken stock. It was necessary to simmer this soup for an hour to cook the celery to a tender stage.

Then I blended it up with my handy dandy Cuisinart Immersion Blender. I love this tool! The kids use it for instant smoothies, but I pretty much only use it for blending hot soups or sauces. It is such an improvement over the (precarious) process of putting hot things into the blender or food processor that has (literally) burned me in the past. For best results with the blending, deeper is better. I’ve found that tilting the pan helps a lot with this process.

Even though this is technically a “cream” soup, most of the creaminess comes from the potatoes. It only needs a little actual cream, making it a guilt free cream soup with sublime flavor. I’ve never tried this recipe with store bought celery, but my instincts tell me it won’t be as good. For me this is a couple of times a year, first soup of autumn recipe.

Tip: Homegrown celery wilts pretty quickly, so if you find some at your local farmer’s market, make sure you cut off the leaves and then cut it in half and put it in a large Ziploc bag with a little water in the bottom to keep it crisp.

The Recipe:

Bunch of home grown celery, washed and sliced into small pieces
2 leeks, washed and sliced
2 large cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons butter
3 potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 inch cubes
2 cups of chicken stock + or -
2 teaspoons fresh tarragon, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1/3 cup light cream

Sauté celery, leek and garlic in butter over medium low heat until tender, about 10 minutes. Add potatoes. Add enough chicken stock to just cover the veggies. Simmer for a half an hour. Add tarragon and thyme and simmer for another half an hour. Use immersion blender to blend soup to a smooth consistency. Stir in cream.

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