And brave new world it is! With international foods and techniques raising the bar for foodies everywhere, even the medical world affirms the advantages of herbivorous cuisine. Most of us have no problem thinking in terms of spinach and carrots being good for us, but personally, I have always wondered about mushrooms. Growing in cool dark places, popping out from under decaying leaves or moss, their soft spongy texture doesn't look as if much is going on nutritionally. And no, they are not plants; they are indeed a fungus. Oooh, how gross you may say! But just read a bit about this nutritional powerhouse here in the article from the Mushroom Council. Or if that seems too biased for you, here is Dr Michael Greger's very short video with fascinating facts about mushrooms and breast cancer cell growth...good news for women everywhere!
Today I feature a beautiful Rustic Mushroom Soup, a soul warming bowl of fungal finesse, filled with earthy flavor, balanced by the sweetness of carrots and onions, it's brilliant copper color evidence of the Hungarian paprika I love so much. While the traditional flavor of sweet paprika is enough to create a full flavored broth, when the mood strikes, I may just opt for smoked paprika with it's campfire nuances. Either way, you are guaranteed a savory and satisfying experience!
Depending on how fast you are at slicing and dicing, this recipe is also pretty darn quick. It's a matter of getting your prepped vegetables into the pot, a few steps and about 15 minutes, and you're ready for slurpy mushroom greatness!
And when it comes to thickening a soup, in this recipe, I add flour right to the vegetables and mushrooms as they finish cooking, but before the liquid is added. This method works by creating a roux (a thickener that is a combination of hot fat, oil or butter, with flour added) to which you incorporate the liquid, bringing it all up to a simmer thereby thickening the watery base. I like to give this soup just a bit of added body, just this side of a chowder. In the event your soup is still too thin, it's perfectly okay to create a "slurry" of flour and water, and add a bit at a time until you reach your desired consistency. Just make sure you return the broth to a low boil and that the flour is completely cooked.
Now here's one more great tip to add tremendous flavor at the end. When your soup is done and you are about to add a dash of salt to finish it off perfectly....no, no, no...don't do it! Instead, add a spoon of miso paste, the perfect flavor booster for mushrooms with it's "umami" qualities. Miso is a fermented soybean paste that like soy sauce, adds deep rich flavor to foods. Use sparingly because it is salty, but by all means, get to know this wonderful food! If you do not have miso paste, try a bit of soy sauce instead.
This soup is perfect as a starter, or all by itself for a light lunch or supper. Serve it along with a salad, pannini, quiche or tart. What I really love is serving it over rice and peas, or parsleyed potatoes for a ridiculously delicious meal.
To your health!
Makes about 3 quarts
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 medium onions, diced
3 ribs of celery, diced
3 large carrots, diced
2 bay leaves
2 Tbsp paprika, sweet or smoked, or a combination of both
2 lbs white button, brown, crimini, or portabella mushrooms, chop half of them roughly and slice the other half
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 Tbsp flour
2 quarts vegetable broth, water, (or chicken broth)
1-2 tsp white Miso paste, or soy sauce
In a large pot, heat the oil and add the garlic, onions, celery, carrots and bay leaf. Simmer on low, covered, to sweat the vegetables until cooked.
Stir in the paprika, allowing a minute to release the flavors. Add the mushrooms and salt, and stir, raising the heat to medium high, stirring until the mushrooms begin to release their juice. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until the mushrooms are cooked, about 5 minutes.
Add the herbs, pepper and flour, stirring to incorporate the flour.
Add the vegetable broth, in 2 cup intervals and stirring between additions. Continue to stir until it comes to a boil.
Let it simmer for a few minutes. Adjust seasoning by stirring in a spoon or two of miso paste or soy sauce.