7/10/13

Reducing (not removing) fat


There are times when you want to give your soup or stew a bit more of a creamy consistency, without adding screaming amounts of fat to it. The "easy" way is to dump a bunch of coconut cream onto the whole thing, or creamed cashews/almonds (lightly roast the nuts, add them to a blender, add water until they're just covered, then blend on high until smooth; strain through a sieve for a finer consistency). Even though these are healthy fats, at the end of the day they're still fats. If you're trying to be sensible about your fat consumption, there are other ways to add some creaminess. I'm not suggesting that you skip the soy/almond/cashew/coconut milk all together. Instead, it's best if you use those ingredients in moderation, towards the end of cooking, while still building a creamy base. This is very easy to do, with a few simple ingredients.

Cauliflower 1 tsp canola, vegetable, or olive oil 1 large onion, diced 3 potatoes, peeled and diced 1 head cauliflower, chopped (stems and all) Water, to cover the vegetables 1/4 cup coconut milk/cashew cream Salt & Pepper to taste 3 scrapes of nutmeg Start in a stock pot, and add your onions. Crank up the heat to high, and let the onions sizzle. Add the oil at this point. The reason that you get the onions going in a dry pan is because you want the onion liquid to come out quickly, which lets you reduce the amount of oil that you'll need. If you added the oil first, some of it will evaporate, and the onions will tend to absorb them. This way, you're still going to get them cooked through, while adding the least amount of oil possible. Once the onions are softened and translucent, add the potatoes. Add enough water to cover the potatoes. Let the potatoes boil at a rapid pace, until they're half cooked. Then, add the cauliflower. Don't stir. Don't worry if there isn't enough water to cover the cauliflower. It's OK. They have plenty of water in them. Cover the lid, and let the whole thing cook until the cauliflower is tender, and the potatoes are cooked through. Then, with a blender or immersion blender, puree the soup until it's smooth and creamy. Stir through the coconut milk, and season to taste. At the end, scrape in a touch of nutmeg. If you only have ground nutmeg, add a couple of scant pinches. For some reason, nutmeg makes creamy things taste more creamy. Stir, and taste. The soup should be creamy and smooth. If it's not quite creamy enough for your liking, keep reading.

Tofu Soft tofu is a wonderful ingredient to have around. When you puree it with a bit of soup base, it lends a very creamy texture and taste to the soup, without adding much fat, and boosting the protein content. Take a ladle of soup, and puree it with about 6 oz of soft tofu. Stir through the soup, and taste for seasoning. You shouldn't be able to taste the tofu at all, as it's a small amount that gets incorporated into the soup. In fact, if you want a sort of tofu sour cream, just blend that same amount of tofu 1/4 cup soymilk, and 1/2 tsp of lemon. Puree in a blender until completely smooth. If it's not getting blended enough, add more soy milk as needed. You want the smallest amount of soy milk possible while still being able to blend the mixture. Taste for sourness. If it's too sour, add a bit more tofu, and blend again. If it's not sour enough, add a few squeezes more of lemon. When your soup is ready to serve, throw a dollop of the sour cream on top, and let each person blend it into their own portion.

I have a soy allergy. I'm sorry to hear that. Living with allergies can be tough, but it doesn't mean you can't eat healthy! If you can't have tofu, feel free to substitute some canned white beans (cannelini works great) with the same way I mentioned tofu above. You won't get that same thickness, but you will definitely get a lot of creaminess. In fact, there's no reason why you couldn't add some cooked white beans directly to the cooked soup base, and puree it directly there.

It's creamy. Now what? The reason I gave you this simple base is not to eat it as-is (although that would be extremely delicious). It's so that you have a creamy base with which to work into other recipes. For example, if you want a gravy, add a bit of nutritional yeast (about 3 TB per 1 cup of soup), 1 1/2 TB potato starch (or cornstarch works too), dissolved in 2 TB cold water, and whisk well. Heat over medium high heat until thickened. Let it cool. If you want it a bit thinner, whisk in a bit of water. It'll be an awesome, gluten free, low fat gravy that you can use over mashed potatoes, as a dipping sauce for cooked vegetables, or anything else that suits your fancy. To make a more substantial soup, feel free to add any additions you have lying around. I like a few handfuls of baby spinach in the bottom of the bowl with the piping hot soup ladled over it. It also works great with roasted vegetables, frozen peas, frozen corn (for a delicious tasting corn chowder, add frozen corn, and leftover diced roasted or baked potatoes), chopped green beans, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, or whatever else your imagination can come up with. The point is that you have a starting point, from where you can expand and reach out further, until you find something that you enjoy, and is your own creation.
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