Vegetable Cream Soups
Pea Cream Soup / Photos by Ronnie Fein
Shavuot, which begins at sunset on May 30th, celebrates the giving of the Torah to the Israelites after the Exodus from Egypt.
It is also one of the most delicious holidays. Think cheesecake.
But cheesecake isn’t all that Shavuot fare is all about. It’s about all kinds of delicious dairy items. My grandmother took this occasion to make her famous cheese blintzes, and so did a lot of other grandmas. To this day, blintzes are a go-to dish for Shavuot; ditto cream-cheese and sour-cream loaded Noodle Kugel, two traditional Ashkenazi choices. Beyond the classics, the holiday is also a good time to indulge in grilled cheese sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, pizza, and lasagna.
Most of us are not really sure why there’s this Shavuot-dairy connection. I’ve read about the various reasons: perhaps because the holiday commemorates the origins of the kosher dietary laws, and one of those laws demands the separation of meat and dairy. Or perhaps because in the Torah, Israel is called the land of milk and honey.
Whatever the reason, if yours is a dairy-eating family like mine, then you are sure to look forward to the gastronomic pleasures that Shavuot offers. Among the dishes I like to serve are vegetable-based cream soups. We’ve just come out of winter, with its thick and hearty rib-sticking dishes. Now is the time for rich and flavorful but lighter meals, and dairy-veggie soups are exactly that.
Vegetable-based cream soups give us a chance to use a variety of produce: choose from among fresh asparagus, fennel, tomatoes, peas, zucchini, cauliflower, and others. Most vegetables work for soup.
Squash Cream Soup
To make the dish, there’s a basic formula that’s fairly simple – a “non-recipe:” cook some sort of chopped onion – it could be a large shallot, leek, scallion, or plain old yellow onion – in vegetable oil (including olive oil) in a pot. Let it soften for 2-3 minutes. Add a cut up vegetable of your choice and some seasonings (fresh herbs such as a sprig of dill or thyme or dried spices such as curry powder or ras el hanout or a condiment such as harissa). Pour in stock or water and cook the soup at a simmer until the vegetables are tender, then puree and stir in an enriching item such as cream, yogurt, milk, and so on. That’s all there is to it.
Cream soups make a good lunch or first course for a dairy dinner. You can make them a day or so ahead, eat them hot or cold. How versatile is that?
Tomato Cream Soup
One of my favorite vegetable-cream soups begins with tomatoes. I jazz it up with chili pepper and harissa, which gives it some heat, but you can leave that out or use just a bit of hot sauce or cayenne pepper (or season with thyme or basil). For the enrichment, I prefer plain non-fat Greek yogurt because it has the right tangy taste and it’s also healthy, but full-fat yogurt or sour cream would work also. Finally, even though this is a dairy holiday, please note that you can turn this recipe into a pareve soup by substituting soy or coconut milk for the yogurt.
Ronnie Fein is a cookbook author, food writer and cooking teacher in Stamford. She is the author of The Modern Kosher Kitchen and Hip Kosher. Visit her food blog, Kitchen Vignettes, at www.ronniefein.com, friend on Facebook at RonnieVailFein, Twitter at @RonnieVFein, Instagram at @RonnieVFein.