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How-To

Creamy Vegetable Soups Without All the Cream

Using potato and rice instead of cream as a thickener, you can make a light and tasty version of a traditional comfort food

Fine Cooking Issue 25
Photos: Scott Phillips
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Cream of vegetable soups have always been a favorite of mine. I love their satiny texture and rich flavor. I also like the fact that I can easily make a silky-smooth soup from whatever looks best at the farmers’ market (or even from what’s in my fridge or pantry) because the method is virtually the same for all vegetables: they’re cooked until tender in broth, water, or milk, thickened, and puréed.

When I make a “cream of” soup, I usually feature just one vegetable. But I always add some aromatics—garlic, shallots, onions, leeks—to make the flavor more complex.

Purée the soup in a blender

For the creamiest texture, I use a blender. A food processor will give a slightly grainy texture, and a food mill will be the coarsest. If you want the soup perfectly smooth, or if the vegetable has a skin (like tomatoes) or is particularly fibrous (like artichokes), work the puréed soup through a medium mesh strainer with the back of a ladle.

Cut the featured vegetable into even-size pieces and add at the right moment—when the time remaining for the potato or rice to cook is about how long the vegetable will take to cook.Scott Phillips
Purée the soup in batches. When the rice is plump or the potato is tender, carefully purée the soup in a blender, food processor, or food mill. For a more refined texture, pass it through a mesh strainer as well.Scott Phillips

Most cream soups are best when the flavor of the vegetable isn’t blurred by too many ingredients, but herbs, spices, or cooked meats can make the soup more interesting.

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