Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Diet Series: Mushroom Soup

As I have alluded to in many of these posts, my life is a battle between my desire to look like I did at 25 and my obsession with eating. Unfortunately, lately, the obsession has won out...meaning an unfortunate weight gain which I have been ignoring until my trainer forced me to step on the scale. That nasty number has driven me back into my starvation diet mode. So, as you can imagine, that will mean less tasty recipes or restaurant reviews for a while. But, I can give you the fruits of my labor in trying to make my diet less onerous. Thus, I will try to publish my more successful and tasty diet dishes. Now, note these ARE diet dishes, and thus they are less tasty then they would be if I added more butter, cream and other luscious items. I will however give you suggestions for these kinds of additions, just in case you aren't trying to starve yourself like I am. Some of the dishes, I note, would be perfectly lovely as they are, if they were say, followed by a steak or triple cheeseburger....but I digress.

Soup is an excellent thing when you are on a diet. The high proportion of liquid makes it (almost) guaranteed to be low cal and relatively filling, although sadly, the satiation effect only lasts about 10 minutes. So here is my mushroom soup. It is a cinch to make and can be gussied up for guests or just eaten as is. It really is pretty good.

12 ounces sliced button mushrooms (that is 1 1/2 of those little pre-sliced boxes...go ahead make life easier on yourself) (75 calories)
1 large handful shitake mushrooms, sliced (15 calories)
1 handful dried porcini mushrooms, crumbled (30 calories)
1 large onion, chopped (50 calories)
a couple cloves of garlic, chopped
2 cups (16 fluid oz) chicken broth (20 calories)
1 chicken bullion cube
handful of fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tablespoons butter (200 calories)
About 1 cup water, to thin the soup to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a soup pot on medium heat, add chopped onion and garlic. Cook until onions are soft. Reserve a handful of the button mushrooms, and put the rest in the pot, along with the shitake mushrooms and rosemary. Fry for a few minutes. Add the chicken broth. Assuming that you are using canned broth, add the bullion cube. If you happen to have some really great homemade chicken broth, then nix the cube. Add the water...better to add less than more; you can always thin it out later. Bring to a boil and let cook for about 15 minutes (more time won't hurt at all) until the mushrooms are tender. Take your whoozy whoo immersion blender thingy and whizz it all up until smooth (Need I say that you can also put it in your food processor or a blender, if you lack this essential kitchen tool?). Take the reserved mushrooms and chop them quite finely and put in the soup. This gives it a bit of texture. Simmer it for a few more minutes until the newly added mushrooms are tender. Now, taste the whole thing and add some pepper to taste and some salt, if it needs it. If it is too thick, add some more water (or cream, see below).

It tastes pretty good, huh? It will be quite thick and creamy from the pureed mushrooms. The dried porcini, shitake, and rosemary give it a lot of flavor. If you don't have any dried porcini, then you can increase the shitake to button mushroom ratio. Probably you can just do it will the button mushrooms but the flavor will be more bland. The calorie content of the whole pot of soup is about 400 calories. It will feed 4 people as a starter, and 2 hungry dieters...but even if you eat the whole pot yourself, at this calorie level, you can afford it.

If you aren't on a diet and you want the yummiest soup possible, then clearly, you will be wanting to add some cream at the end. Don't add too much though, the soup is already quite rich. At 52 calories per tablespoon for heavy whipping cream, you don't want to go overboard...You can also throw in some croutons, freshly made with butter, and maybe top the whole thing with some chopped chives, for some elegance. You could instead put a dollop of creme fraiche (or sour cream--26 calories per tablespoon--we don't have to be so fancy) as a garnish instead of the cream in the soup. It will look elegant and not add as many calories. You can also vary the herbs, if you prefer. Dill, thyme or tarragon would also taste good. My rosemary bush just happens to be outside my door and I like that combination with the earthy porcini. If I were just doing button mushrooms, then I would probably use dill, which will give a very different flavor but compliment the relatively blandness of the white mushrooms.

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