Black and White Soup + SoupArt

SoupAddict likes to play with her food. And because she is, by and large, an artistic klutz, and also embraces the green mantra, reduce – reuse – recycle, she’s invented SoupArt, where she can express her creativity using a medium (soup) that will be used for other purposes (to fill up tummies), and the scraps of which will go into the compost pile (and therefore will not clutter up the landfills, like her dreadful-beyond-dreadful oil painting canvases have).

Further, SoupArt allows SoupAddict to experiment with the melding of flavors, which she just luhhhves to do (sometimes for the good, sometimes for the not-so-much (e.g., grated ginger and mashed potatoes)). Here, SoupAddict will demonstrate SoupArt with her favorite Black Bean soup, and a new Cheddar Cheese Soup (recipe below), both of which are slightly spicy, extremely flavorful, and work and play so well together that they just begged to be the first participants in the great SoupArt project: Black and White Soup

They’re also thick and velvety, which is a necessary quality for SoupArt to work well. Think of the soups as your color palette. If you have the gumption to make a third soup—and therefore a third color—more power to ya. The Black and White soup combo here is a nod to the black and white cookie, made famous in New York.

Whatever your inspiration, be sure to make this for company, so you can properly bask in the wows and accolades of your peeps.

First, if there’s one soup lesson that SoupAddict wants to impart to the world, it’s that you do not need a salt-lick to flavor your soup. What you need is loads of vegetables and/or herbs and/or spices.

SoupAddict frowns upon recipes that call for ingredient amounts like, “1/2 of a medium onion, chopped,” or “1/4 cup of diced red bell pepper.” Half of an onion? [snort]  A quarter cup of red bell pepper? That’s, maybe, 10 dices.

SoupAddict is exaggerating, but she exaggerates out of exasperation. Vegetables (and herbs and spices) add an incredible amount of flavor to soups, reducing the need for salt. The more veggies, the merrier, is SoupAddict’s philosophy. This Cheddar Cheese soup will be so flavorful, your socks will be knocked right off.

Ahhhh, cheese. SoupAddict loves da cheese. Which is a good thing, when using a soup called “Cheddar Cheese Soup.” Here, SoupAddict is using Pepperjack (on the right) and two types of cheddar, one sharp and one extra sharp.

SoupAddict feels the need to come clean and show the actual amount of cheese she used for this soup. Cheddar Cheese Soup needs cheese, and lots of it. As in, a bowlful of cheese (not two small ramekins). SoupAddict didn’t measure, but this is probably 16 oz. Yeah, bay-bee. A pound of cheese.

SoupAddict loves these one-cup containers of chicken broth. (Although she really wants you to believe that she is so organized as to have a freezer full of assorted 1-cup and 1-quart measurements of homemade stock, that is not the case. The reason is two-fold: SoupAddict’s need for stock is more than she can keep up with, and, SoupAddict is far too lazy to make enough stock in her spare time to keep up with that need. It would be a full-time job. Now, if she could figure out a way to make money from brewing stock that she keeps for herself, SoupAddict would be golden.)

Butter. ‘Nuf said.

When sauteeing the veggies, SoupAddict really likes the combination of butter and olive oil. Here’s her scientifically sound reasoning: too much oil produces too greasy a soup; too much butter produces too much SoupAddict.

Mmmmmm … look at those gorgeous veggies, sauteeing away. Are you wondering what happens to all of those chunks? What about the velvety soup this recipe is supposed to produce? Just trust SoupAddict on this. It will all come together. But if you need convincing in the meantime, just scroll back up to the top of this post and look at the picture again. See the soup on the left half? All of these veggies are in that soup.

Meanwhile, the bechamel sauce is coming along nicely, and is just about ready for the addition of the cheese. In keeping with SoupAddict’s New Year’s resolution to eat healthier in 2010, she used fat-free half-and-half instead of milk or cream. Is the soup still delicious? Oh, yes, indeedy-o. With a pound of cheese, how could it not be? (Remember, SoupAddict said healthier, not healthy.)

Soup is almost finished. For the SoupArt to work well, both soups need to be very smooth, creamy and of a similar thick consistency. Puree the soup until the veggies are smooth and not at all chunky. (See? SoupAddict told you it would all come together.) SoupAddict loves her immersion blender, because then she doesn’t have to do the hokey pokey with a regular blender, in inconvenient batches, and risk hosing down her kitchen with soup when she forgets to cover the lid with the towel. (Has SoupAddict done that before? Not that she’ll own up to, no sir.) Once smooth, the bechamel sauce goes in, and ta-da! we’re ready to make some art.

SoupArt is most easily managed and show-offy in a shallow bowl with a wide opening. This cute little number comes from Crate & Barrel.

Although you can use ladles to create your SoupArt, a container with a pour spout is much easier to manipulate, and they hold more soup (with ladles, you’ll probably have to reload in the middle of a stroke). SoupAddict does not, of course, have any two matching tools, so she must use a 1-cup measuring cup and a 4-cup measuring cup.

The key to the straight line is the simultaneous pouring of equal amounts in a quick and steady motion. Before you start, practice the full soup-pouring action with empty cups or ladles to ensure that nothing gets in the way of either hand or arm (including your own body). SoupAddict finds it easiest to start at the edge of the bowl furthest way from her, and pull the cups towards her as she pours. That way, you can see where you’re about to pour, not where you’ve been.

Through the magic of da Photoshops, SoupAddict diagrams for you the pouring motions necessary to create the black and white cookie soup. (Disclaimer: SoupAddict in no way means to imply that you, or any other reader, is a frog or a super-tiny human with mittens for hands. Caution: objects in the mirror may be larger than they appear.)

SoupAddict is really pleased with this line, but if the result is not to your exacting standards, take a knife and gently nudge the soup on one side to manipulate a straight line. (Remember to wipe the knife clean if you move to the soup on the other side.)

Garnish with a dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche and a little greenery. You don’t need to go overboard on the garnishes – the ahhhrt should speak for itself, dahhhrling.

Okay, now for something a little different: how about some yin and yang?

Again, start with a wide-mouth bowl. If you want to express the full spirit of yin and yang, use a black bowl to represent the outer circle of “everything,” which SoupAddict did not think about until all was said and done and put away.

Work on a cleanable surface, such as a cutting board. Hold the cups at opposite ends of the bowl. You’ll move both cups in the same direction, 180 degrees around the bowl, either clockwise or counter-clockwise, whichever is more comfortable. Practice the motion with empty cups, and adjust your grip so you can complete the motion with the spout still over the bowl (trust SoupAddict on this one: the very first time she did this, soup ended up on her shoes).

You’ll begin the pour by puddling soup at either end of the bowl, and then steadily pouring around the sides, moving slightly faster (so as to deposit less soup) as you approach the end of your 180 degree maneuver. Finish by pouring right off the side of the bowl and on to the cutting board to create the pointy ends.

More magics with da Photoshops. SoupAddict was too lazy to create curvy feng shui arrows, so you’ll have to forgive the yin and just yang your way through it.

Use a damp paper towel to clean the insides and outsides of the bowl. If necessary, use a knife or a spoon to clean up the end points of each of the soups, and to manipulate the inner curves (remember to clean the utensil before dipping into the other side of the soup). Using a small spoon, deposit a circle of contrasting soup on each side of the “puddle”).

Fabulous! And delicious.

Cheddar Cheese Soup

The recipe for the Black Bean Soup is here. Just wait until you mix them together and take a bite …. mmmm, soup goodness abounds.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large red bell pepper, diced
1/2 large yellow bell pepper, diced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups half and half
4 ounces Pepperjack cheese, cubed
10 to 12 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, grated (that’s 10-12 ounces before grating. You don’t have to grate if you’d rather cube, but grated cheese melts faster)
Salt and black pepper, to taste

Instructions:
Heat butter and oil over medium in a large stock pot. Add the vegetables and saute until soft (about 8 minutes).

Scootch the vegetables to one side, add the flour and a splash of chicken broth. Stir to make a paste, then mix in with the vegetables. Add the remaining the chicken broth.

To make the bechamel sauce, melt the butter in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the flour and stir to make a paste. Add the half-and-half a little at a time, stirring well with each addition. When all of the half-and-half has been incorporated, continue stirring until thickened.

Add the cheese and stir until melted. Remove from heat.

Puree the soup using an immersion blender (or a regular blender, in batches) until vegetables are smooth. Add the cheese sauce and stir until completely incorporated. Taste, and add salt and pepper as necessary.

This soup is highly flexible. If you want it spicier, add a chopped jalapeno (or your favorite hot chili) to the vegetable mix. Or sprinkle some chili powder and a pinch of cayenne when you add the stock. Like beer? Add a half of a bottle of your fave to the smooth bechamel sauce before you add the cheese. And maybe a little dijon mustard, too.


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