December 6, 2013

Recipe: Celery & Green Apple Soup

It happens every Thanksgiving. To make Thanksgiving stuffing, you start with a mirepoix. To make a mirepoix, you need a few stalks of celery. To obtain a few stalks of celery, you buy an entire head of celery. This chain of events leads to two things: 1) a delicious stuffing and 2) a mostly-intact head of leftover celery. If you're anything like me, that head of celery will sit, forlorn and forgotten, in your fridge until it goes limp. At which point you finally toss it into the compost bin with a feeling of shame. Seriously, you guys, I do this little dance EVERY YEAR. But not this year! This year, I promised myself I would not waste that celery. So, what to do with leftover celery from Thanksgiving? You make Celery and Green Apple Soup.

Celery and Green Apple Soup is one of those "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts" recipes. A humble ingredient list of Thanksgiving remnants - that barely-touched head of celery, a stray onion, some sprigs of parsley, a couple apples - becomes a silky soup that somehow manages to taste refreshing and comforting at the same time. Its flavors are clean and bright, the celery-ness unapologetically front and center, with tart green apple and lemony parsley peeking through the background. As if that wasn't reason enough to make this soup, it also happens to pack a ton of healthfulness - vitamins! antioxidants! fiber! - into a measly 100 calories per cup. If you're feeling gluttonous after Thanksgiving's feast, turn to this soup. It's redemption in a bowl! Salvation in a cup! Unless you're eating it alongside a huge piece of baguette, in which case it's just delicious.

Celery & Green Apple Soup
serves 4-6

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large head of celery*, stalks chopped (3 1/2 cups total) and leaves reserved
2 medium tart green apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped parsley leaves, lightly packed
4 cups "chicken"-style vegan broth** (I used 4 cups water plus 2 teaspoons bouillon paste)
1/2 cup unsweetened nondairy milk
1 tablespoon cornstarch
salt and pepper to taste

*Give or take a few stalks
** Do be mindful of the sodium level in your broth, as celery has a fair amount of naturally-occurring sodium. Aim for around 450g sodium/cup or so.

Bring a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of the oil. Once oil is hot, add the chopped celery stalks, apples, and onions and cook for 10 minutes, until onions are translucent and celery is beginning to soften. Add the broth, parsley, and celery leaves and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 15-20 minutes, or until celery is completely soft.

Puree the soup in a blender, being sure to  remove the center piece of the lid and cover the opening with a towel when pureeing (this allows the steam to escape without covering your kitchen in soup). When pureeing hot soup, it's best to never fill the blender more than half full - I pureed the soup in two batches. Once the soup is extremely smooth, return to the pot and bring to a simmer. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk and cornstarch until cornstarch dissolves, then whisk in the remaining tablespoon of oil. Stir milk mixture into the soup. Simmer, stirring, until soup thickens slightly (about 2 minutes). Taste for seasoning, adjusting if necessary, then remove soup from heat and serve. Soup will keep in fridge for 5 days.

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