I was born and raised in Kansas and learned to cook alongside my mother. Now, along with my wonderful husband, I have taken the plunge into the city life in New York. These are my food adventures: in my own tiny kitchen, and in the many restaurants of the city.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cream of Celery Soup

When I was studying abroad in Spain I lived with an amazing host family. My lovely host "mom" had a couple of other women staying there for a couple of weeks each during my semester who were also studying Spanish at the language school I was attending. One of these women was an older Englishwoman. She had recently purchased a home in the Spanish countryside and was working very hard to learn the language. Although my Spanish wasn't fluent at the time, it was definitely better than hers and I think she appreciated having someone around who could help translate back and forth during family time.

After her few weeks at the school were up, she invited us to come see her new place. We took a winding road through the mountains to the secluded paradise that was her home. It was small, but very open with a large kitchen and dining room table, plus a huge rambling garden overlooking the surrounding mountains. 

She had prepared a very simple lunch for us that we ate on the patio next to the garden. I don't remember much about that meal except for the soup. I took one bite and it was a revelation. I asked what it was and she seemed surprised by my enthusiasm as she replied that it was just a simple celery soup.

At that point in my life I had never made my own soup and the idea of eating a celery soup straight instead of just adding it as an ingredient in casseroles never occurred to me. That enchanting, simple flavor has stayed with me for all of these years.

Last week as the temperatures dropped and the cravings for comforting food rose, I dug through the fridge in search of something to eat. I came across a bunch of celery that was in need of use before it went bad and the memory of that celery soup came to me. I decided to try my hand at it.

This may not be exactly like the version I had on that Spanish fall day so many years ago, but it is delicious and tastes complex despite the few ingredients. And now with this recipe I can relive that perfectly lovely day over and over again.

Celery Soup

4-5 servings
1 bunch/bag of celery
3-4 cloves garlic
1 large shallot (about 3 TB chopped)
2 TB cooking oil
1 box chicken stock (32 oz)
salt and pepper
2 t. cumin
2 t. coriander powder
1/2 c. heavy cream
3 TB flour 
3 TB water

Coarsely chop the celery, garlic and shallots. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and then add the vegetables. Saute until the celery has softened (turning down heat if the shallots or garlic begin to brown), about 10 minutes.
Add the chicken stock, a bit of salt and pepper (you will add more later to taste), the cumin and coriander powder. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 12-15 minutes.
Remove from the heat and then puree the soup using an immersion blender. Then press the soup through a fine sieve to remove the tough bits of the celery.
Put the strained soup back into a medium saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Add the heavy cream and bring to a simmer. 
Mix together the flour and water in small bowl and then whisk this into the soup. Stir until the soup has thickened. Salt and pepper to taste.

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