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Pureed Soups -- How Do You Make Them More Interesting?

CindyJ Oct 20, 2010 06:31 AM

Yesterday I made a roasted root vegetable soup. It was delicious... but BORING. What I mean is that after I pureed it with the immersion blender, every spoonful was like every other spoonful. There was no crunch, no chewing... you know what I mean. I couldn't even bring myself to finish the whole bowl; a cup would have been more than enough. Afterward, I thought maybe some ditalini pasta might have been a good addition. Or pepitas. Or croutons. Or maybe I should have left some of the veggies unblended (but then I would have had to have cut them up differently for roasting).

I've had this same thought before, for example, when I make butternut squash soup. So I'd love to know -- what does everyone else do to add texture and interest to a pureed soup?

  1. f
    Fiona23 Oct 23, 2010 05:50 PM

    Pecorino fricos. Heat up a non stick skillet and pack a thin layer of the grated cheese in the center until it crisps up. I got this technique from a Melissa Clark article on yogurt gazpacho, it works well with that soup(which is delicious) and other soups that pair well with pecorino, though it can also be done with other cheeses to suit the mood.

    1. goodhealthgourmet Oct 22, 2010 08:13 PM

      - toasted pumpkin seeds for squash soup
      - fried capers for cauliflower, potato-leek or tomato soup
      - crispy bacon for corn or sweet potato chowder, or split pea, cream of mushroom or potato-leek soup
      - shaved or diced fennel for potato-leek, beet or tomato soup
      - shaved or diced broccoli stems/stalks for broccoli soup
      - fried onions for cauliflower, potato-leek or cream of mushroom

      1. y
        yanz Oct 22, 2010 06:19 PM

        I had the same issue, but even more so, because I like making a pot of pureed soup at the beginning of the week and eating it for lunch every day. You can quickly get bored.

        What I do is buy rolls and make my own croutons out of them. I particularly like multigrain rolls because they have more flavor, texture, and crunch, but the best part is that you can get so many different types of rolls for variety...

        Anyway, I just preheat the oven while I chop up a roll or two (depending on size) into .5-1 inch cubes, spray with olive oil (and salt/pepper if you want), arrange on a pan, put in the oven for however long it takes to warm up the soup, and then throw the croutons into your bowl a few at a time to keep them from getting too soggy. Totally livens up the soup (and each bite!). And it's quite easy/quick.

        1. CindyJ Oct 22, 2010 12:36 PM

          There are so many GREAT ideas here! I've just saved this thread so I can find it easily next time I'm pureeing a soup. Thanks to all!

          1. cowboyardee Oct 21, 2010 11:21 AM

            Garnish, garnish, garnish.

            I made a butternut squash soup once in a competition, adding crispy fried squash slivers, sauteed stone crab meat, and just a couple drizzled drops of sriracha on top (which BTW was WAAY better than had I just evenly mixed sriracha into the soup in the first place - it looked cool and you would get these bright fiery bursts of tangy peppery goodness). It went over pretty well.

            A few drops of flavored oil or hot sauce or some other sauce drizzled on the soup rather than mixed in can add nice taste (and visual) contrast as well.

            1. Hank Hanover Oct 21, 2010 04:01 AM

              I add cream to most of my pureed soups and at the last minute I add cayenne just until I can taste it at the back of my throat. It adds a bit of a surprise but it is never overpowering.

              I first did it with split pea soup. It was great.

              1. h
                Harters Oct 21, 2010 03:35 AM

                I love pureed soup. And most soups I make end up pureed.

                But, if you want texture, then don't puree all of it. Or don't puree it at all.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Harters
                  paulj Oct 21, 2010 09:41 AM

                  Adding something like pasta to a creamy pumpkin soup gives a different texture contrast than leaving the soup chunky or partly so. Both can have their place.

                  1. re: Harters
                    enbell Oct 21, 2010 07:40 PM

                    I often puree half and then add back to the original mixture. It seems to strike the perfect balance.

                    1. re: enbell
                      goodhealthgourmet Oct 22, 2010 08:02 PM

                      +1. love this method.

                  2. Caroline1 Oct 20, 2010 10:51 PM

                    I have but one question for you. If you're looking for soups that have crunch and chewiness, why are you pureeing? Wouldn't it be better to leave the soup in the original form that has those qualities? But along the lines of what you're asking, there is a type of gazpacho in which all of the ingredients are pureed, chilled, then the same kind of vegetables that are in it are diced small and used as a garnish for the soup. Maybe this would work for you?

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Caroline1
                      s
                      Shann Oct 22, 2010 05:32 AM

                      Yep. I don't like pureed soup, but I know a lot of people do. You can just not puree some of the soup and get some texture while still pureeing enough to get that silky type puree. Either by not adding all of the soup into the blender or not totally chopping everything up with the immersion blender.

                      1. re: Caroline1
                        CindyJ Oct 22, 2010 06:46 AM

                        I did consider leaving some of the veggies unpureed, but, truth is, by the time they're roasted and simmered in stock, they're kind of mushy. Also, if I was going to do that, I'd probably want to cut the veggied into nice, bite-sized pieces to begin with, and that can be somewhat labor-intensive.

                        I've done exactly as you've suggested with gazpacho, Caroline, but that's uncooked. I guess I'd have to steam the additional veggies and then add them into the soup. Actually, I kind of like that idea.

                        1. re: CindyJ
                          Caroline1 Oct 22, 2010 11:58 AM

                          I LOVE steaming! It's the method I use to cook the veggies for my pureed soups. Boiling them, as you say, makes for mushy ugly veggies and all of the vitamins (well, most anyway) are left in the water. I think you've solved your problem with gazpacho-like steamed veggies with beautiful bright vibrant color! Enjoy! Maybe a little crumbled bacon and/or some crumbled cheese to highlight it? And now *I'M* hungry and I just finished lunch!

                      2. Emme Oct 20, 2010 10:36 PM

                        with my velvety chipotle corn, i like to top with charred/roasted corn kernels and diced scallions.

                        broccoli or cauliflower puree does nicely with some crushed almonds or hazelnuts or pistachios.

                        another great addition for texture are some pan-toasted lentils.

                        1. paulj Oct 20, 2010 04:40 PM

                          I have a book of Italian recipes (from a UK publisher) that has a good pumpkin soup. It includes small pasta. Short lengths of spaghetti would be fine as well as other small 'soup' shapes. I cook the pasta separately, and add it after pureed the soup. The texture addition works well.

                          1. Roarasaur Oct 20, 2010 11:39 AM

                            Or maybe some sliced fried onions?!

                            1. q
                              Querencia Oct 20, 2010 09:56 AM

                              The best croutons I know of are if you have access to a Mexican market that sells "bolillos" bread (small loaves used for big sandwiches, usually sold @ 3 x $1). Sliced and toasted, preferably in the oven, this has a lovely tender consistency that just explodes in your mouth when you bite into it. Very fine in any soup.

                              1. boyzoma Oct 20, 2010 09:28 AM

                                I like to leave a few chunks of whatever kind of soup I am making. Such as when I make butternut squash soup, I leave chunks of squash, celery and onion. Makes such a difference in the soup. If necessary, you may need to cut a little bit of ingredients and sautee or steam them separately. Just depends on the type of soup.

                                1. j
                                  jvanderh Oct 20, 2010 09:06 AM

                                  I sometimes throw in other things after I puree it. I did a pumpkin soup with additional roasted pumpkin chunks and pinto beans thrown in. I only did that because I had them in the freezer though-- I wouldn't want to do separate prep either. I think crispy fried garlic would be really good on top of almost anything. Or crispy fried herbs.

                                  1. chowser Oct 20, 2010 07:39 AM

                                    With butternut squash soup, I like to add creme fraiche. With split pea, balsamic vinegar makes a big difference. Texturally, I rarely have soup but will add panini or some sandwich, most likely grilled. I can dip, or not.

                                    1. bushwickgirl Oct 20, 2010 07:08 AM

                                      Garnish, garnish, garnish; crunchy things, sauteed or raw diced veggies, pepitas, croutins, strips of fried tortillas, pesto, small pasta, different grains like couscous, farro, or wild rice, a unusual rice like forbidden, cripsy bacon, chorizo or pancetta bits, toasted nuts like walnuts, peanuts, almonds, a mix of fresh chopped herbs, crumbled cheeses, chopped egg, either hard boiled or strips of omelet, popcorn, potato chips, roasted chick peas, crumbled toasted nori, garnishment is seemingly endless. I like popcorn on tomato and apple in butternut to start.

                                      Don't forget to set some the vegetables in the soup aside for garnish, whole peas, cubes of butternut or apple cubes or butternut, tomato dice, fennel fronds...

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: bushwickgirl
                                        r
                                        Rasam Oct 20, 2010 07:32 AM

                                        +1.

                                        Definitely save some finely diced veggies for garnish, or toasted nuts, or whatever goes with the basic soup.

                                        1. re: bushwickgirl
                                          ChristinaMason Oct 20, 2010 09:46 AM

                                          great ideas!

                                        2. d
                                          DGresh Oct 20, 2010 07:05 AM

                                          In my butternut squash soup if I have time I often put a goat cheese crouton. Take a log of goat cheese, cut into slices and freeze on wax paper. When ready to serve, dip frozen circles in egg, then seasoned cornmeal and quickly fry in some oil. Really good!

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: DGresh
                                            davmar77 Oct 20, 2010 07:15 AM

                                            in our squash soup we add thin slices of fresh granny apple with a dollop of greek yogurt. that adds the crunch and some tang.

                                            we were at nola in the french quarter a few years back. my friend had a cream of asparagus soup. it was topped with a drizzle of good olive oil and a few crawfish.

                                            1. re: DGresh
                                              c
                                              cheesecake17 Oct 20, 2010 11:50 AM

                                              I've done that on salads, but I'm going to try it next time I make butternut squash soup.

                                              Some other suggestions-
                                              fried shallots on split pea soup
                                              a mini grilled cheese sandwich floating on tomato soup
                                              parmesan crisps on creamy mushroom soup
                                              a slice or two of breaded/baked zucchini on a pureed veg/lentil soup

                                            2. roxlet Oct 20, 2010 07:04 AM

                                              My husband always makes a delicious pureed asparagus soup for Easter, and he puts a parmesan custard in the middle of each bowl. It is fabulous.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: roxlet
                                                bushwickgirl Oct 20, 2010 07:20 AM

                                                Very nice...

                                              2. monavano Oct 20, 2010 07:00 AM

                                                Lardons or pancetta used even sparingly can make soups decadent!
                                                Try a swirl of pesto or plain yogurt flavored with paprika and a squeeze of lemon.

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