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Italian Cream Soups
RECIPES
Cream of Artichoke
Cream of Cauliflower
Cream of Fennel
Potato-Leek Soup
Cream of Cardoon Soup
Cream (crema) soups have long been a part of Italian cooking.  But in Italy it is not usually cream that creates the creamy texture.  Italians puree a wide range of ingredients, and for virtually any vegetable there is a passato.  Passato means "mashed" or "pureed" and describes a soup prepared with a food mill, blender, immersion blender, or food processor.  A few of these recipes call for cream to create a smooth, velvety texture.  In many cases, the amount of cream can be reduced or eliminated to your tastes.
Cream of Cardoon Soup
Cream of Artichoke Soup - Passato di Carciofi

(Serves 6)

This soup is simple, healthy, and easy to prepare.  Don't leave out the parsley or fresh lemon juice as they are essential to the flavor of this soup.  You may choose to use fresh or frozen artichoke hearts in place the canned as suggested in the recipe.

Ingredients:

2 (14 ounce) cans artichoke hearts
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 celery ribs, sliced
3 cups each low-sodium chicken and beef broth
Salt and pepper 
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Directions:

Combine the artichokes, potatoes, onion, celery and broth in a stockpot.
Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Cover and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 35 minutes.  Puree the soup in batches using a blender, food mill, or food processor.  Return the puree to the pot and season with salt and pepper.  Return the pot to the heat, stir in the butter, and heat just to a simmer.  Combine the parsley and lemon juice in a small bowl.  Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle with about a tablespoon of Parmesan.  Top each serving with a little of the parsley mixture.
Cream of Cauliflower Soup

(Serves 8 to 10)

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 small carrot, peeled and grated
1 cup chopped celery
1 head cauliflower (about 1 pound), cut into florets
2 tablespoons chopped parsley, divided
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
Salt and pepper

8 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
1 cup half and half

Directions:

Heat oil or butter in a large stockpot over medium heat.  Add onion and sauté until translucent, 4 to 5 minutes.  Add carrot and celery, and continue to sauté about 2 minutes.  Add cauliflower, 1 tablespoon parsley, and tarragon; season with salt and pepper.  Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.

Melt 1/4 cup butter in a small saucepan; stir in the flour.  Slowly whisk in the milk, blending until smooth.  Bring the mixture to a boil and the mixture is thick and smooth.  Remove from heat and stir in the half and half.  Stir the mixture into the simmering soup.  Check for seasoning and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.

Transfer about 2 cups of the soup to a blender and puree until smooth.
Pour the pureed mixture back into the soup.  Serve in individual bowls topped with a sprinkle of remaining parsley.
Cream of Fennel Soup

(Serves 6)

Ingredients:

2 pounds fresh fennel bulbs
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1 large onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
6 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup milk or light cream
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Remove fennel stalks from bulb and set aside for garnish.  Cut the bulb in half, remove the core, and thinly slice.

In a large stockpot, combine the sliced fennel, potatoes, carrots, and onion.
Add the bay leaves and broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer 30 minutes until the vegetables are tender.  Remove from heat.  Remove and discard the bay leaves.  Puree the soup in batches in a food processor or blender.  Return the mixture to the stockpot.  Stir in the milk and season with salt and pepper.  Heat over low heat but do not allow the soup to boil.

Chop enough of the reserved fennel leaves to make 1/4 cup.  Combine with the lemon juice.  Spoon the soup into individual serving bowls.  Top each with some Parmesan and a spoonful of fennel leaves.
Potato-Leek Soup

(Serves 6 to 8)

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups sliced leeks (white and light green parts only)
3 tablespoons flour
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
Salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup sliced tender green part of leeks  (optional)
4 cups peeled and diced potatoes
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 to 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley or chives

Directions:


Melt butter in a large stockpot over medium-low heat.  Stir in the leeks, cover, and cook for 5 minutes without browning.  Stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes.  Slowly add a cup or so of the broth and blend it thoroughly with the vegetables.  Add the remaining broth and the water.  Season with salt and pepper and add the garlic powder.  Add the optional leeks and potatoes.  Bring to a boil and simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes, until vegetables are tender.

Transfer the mixture to a food processor and process until smooth.  For a slightly chunkier soup, only puree 2/3 of the mixture.  Return the soup to the stockpot.  Stir in the cream and heat through.  Serve, topping each serving with a sprinkling of parsley or chives.
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Italian Soup Recipes
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Wooden spoons are inexpensive, usually less than $10 each, and among the most used items in your kitchen.  They're sturdy enough to mix heavy dough, safe for nonstick cookware, and the right choice for stirring hot dishes because they don't conduct heat.  To keep your wooden spoons in top shape, wash them by hand and dry them before storing in a drawer.
ITALIAN SOUP RECIPES  >  ITALIAN CREAM SOUPS
TIPS FOR THE BEST CREAM SOUPS
1.  Cut your vegetables small for faster cooking.  A 1/2-inch dice only needs about 10 minutes of simmering before it's soft enough to puree.

2.  Don't stir the vegetables too often during the saute; once every 2 minutes or so is good.  This helps them brown and develop flavor beyond simply simmered vegetables.

3.  A blender makes the smoothest cream soups.  An immersion blender works well, too.

4.  Add an attractive garnish.  Use an herb sprig, a drizzle of olive oil, asprinkleof grated cheese, or some croutons.  A dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt can also enhance a simple cream soup.
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Cream of Cardoon Soup

(Serves 4 to 6)

Ingredients:

5-6 large stalks of cardoon
2 tablespoons butter
1 large leek, trimmed and sliced
2 small potatoes, peeled and diced
1 garlic clove, minced
3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup heavy cream

Directions:

To prepare the cardoons:
Fill a large bowl with water; squeeze in the juice of the lemon. Snap off the
outer stalks of the cardoons at the base and discard. Cut off the base of the
remaining cluster of tender stalks. Now trim the separated stalks one at a
time. Cut off all the sharp-pointed leaves and pull off the strings that run along
the edges. Lift off the transparent skin that covers the inside with the tip of a
sharp knife. Cut the stalks into 3-inch pieces and place in the water with the
lemon juice.

Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Remove the cardoons
from the lemon-water and place in the saucepan. Cook until soft and tender,
30 to 45 minutes. Drain in a colander.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.
Add the leeks, potatoes, and garlic.  Saute for 10 minutes until the leeks are tender but not browned.  Add the prepared cardoons, broth, thyme, salt and pepper.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce the heat and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Transfer the mixture, in batches, to a blender and puree until smooth.  Return the soup to a saucepan. Stir in the heavy cream; heat through to serve.
ITALIAN COOKBOOKS
Cream of Cardoon Soup
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Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Split a loaf of Italian bread lengthwise into 2 pieces.  Place the bread, cut side up, on a baking sheet.  Stir together finely minced fresh garlic and softened butter.  Spread over both pieces of bread.  Sprinkle some grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley over the top.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until just starting to turn golden brown.

NOTE:
Some people cringe at the idea of using garlic powder instead of fresh garlic, but for this recipe I find that it works equally as well. Simply spread the butter over the bread, sprinkle generously with garlic powder, add the Parmesan and parsley, and bake.
GARLIC BREAD
Dr. Fuhrman