Monday, April 25, 2011

The Soup Project: Mushroom-Rhubarb Soup with Baby Collard Greens

I start thinking about soup on Friday and by Saturday I know which items I'll feature in my Soup Project recipe of the week.

With all this rain lately, mushrooms were on my mind.

After checking numerous cookbooks for mushroom soup recipes, I'd still come up with nothing but a few selections from Barbara Kafka's Vegetable Love. Once the thought of mushrooms infiltrated my brain, I pictured a dollop of mashed potatoes, rising up like an island with soup surrounding it--like a castle with a moat.

I wrote, "mushrooms, potatoes and greens" on my market list.

My plan was to get morel mushrooms at Found and Foraged, but there weren't any yet. All they had were dried mushrooms. I already had dry porcinis at home, so I moved on to Cascadia Mushrooms, where I got a pint box of shiitaki mushrooms.

I bought baby kale to plant in my garden from Rent's Due Ranch, but found no greens for my soup. I was so happy to see JoanE back at the market, I couldn't pass up this cool photo opportunity. JoanE comes back to the market in the spring with such style; I love her sense of humor with this carrot head Easter basket.

Across the aisle, I found mild baby collards at Willie Green's. I love baby collards in the spring because the texture is tender and they don't have to be cooked very long, plus they are so incredibly healthy and we're lucky they grow so well in the Northwest.

The last thing I bought at the market for this soup was rhubarb. I found it at Wade Bennett's book in between his cider and wine. People were already lining up to buy it and since I was standing there with my friend Ed, I said, "What do you think of adding rhubarb to soup?"

Ed made a sour face, "It sounds bad," he said.

I laughed.

But the look on Ed's face said he was relieved he wasn't invited for this odd ball mushroom-rhubarb soup combination, but the thing, is rhubarb has this distinctive tart zing and such a beautiful color and how can it not perk up boring spring dishes, if we'd only let it. I'd never really added it to soup, but why not? I've added tiny red currants and how different could rhubarb be? Still, I knew I wouldn't announce to Tom that I'd added rhubarb to the soup before he tasted it. Sometimes it's best to confess your cooking secrets after everyone raves over your creation.

Here is another secret-- serve your soup in the right bowl. We have an odd assortment of soup bowls at our house. It makes soup fun but it's hard to store them all since they are different size. A long time ago, I had matching bowls but one by one they broke and I'd go to a second-hand store and find a new one. I look for those odd orphans that have no mates, all different colors, shapes and sizes. We have enough stuff in the world, why not just recirculate what we already have?

My search for the perfect soup turned up nothing, so I created my own simple mushroom soup and mashed potatoes with a sweet potato for color.

It's probably better to start with the last recipe and make the potatoes first since they take longer and you can keep them warm in the oven while you warm the bread and make the soup. I served this soup with a green salad and Tall Grass Bakery Bread. I can't get enough of their excellent baguettes.

Here's the recipe:

Mushroom-Rhubarb Soup with Baby Collard Greens
(Serves 4)

This soup is all about spring--mushrooms, rhubarb and greens. Try this soup with a scoop of Salsa Mashed Potatoes (below) for a filling meal.

1/2 ounce dry mushrooms (wild mix or porcini)
2 cups boiling water
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 cup diced onions or shallots
1/2 cup sliced celery
1 stalk rhubarb, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups stock or more water
4 cups thinly sliced collards
1/4 cup miso
2 to 4 tablespoons raspberry or apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon (heaping) cayenne
Salt to taste
1/2 cup chopped parsley
Lemon slices

1. Pour boiling water over mushrooms and set them aside for a few hours or overnight. Strain, reserving liquid. Chop mushrooms into small pieces.

2. Heat a heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add mushrooms, stir and cook until mushrooms give up their moisture. Add onions, celery, rhubarb and olive oil. Stir and cook until onions become transparent and celery and rhubarb soften.

3. Add soaked dry mushrooms and liquid. Stir in 1 3/4 cups water and bring to a simmer. Add collards. In a small bowl combine remaining water and miso. Blend thoroughly, then add vinegar and cayenne. Mix well. When collards soften, remove from heat and stir in miso mixture. Salt to taste.

4. Serve over Salsa Mashed Potatoes and sprinkle with parsley and a lemon wedge on the side.

I thought this pretty Chinese bowl would be cool for the photo, but the second I ladled the soup in, I felt claustrophobic. The writing on the inside of the bowl and all the pictures on the outside-- this bowl is all about itself and every detail seemed to be distracting me from the soup.

The right bowl for soup really makes a difference in the way you experience the soup. This delicate busy bowl is definitely not a "whole meal" soup bowl material. And try to fit potatoes in this one--it just doesn't work.

Salsa Mashed Potatoes
(Serves 6 to 8)
These mashed potatoes are creamy and spicy. I like to pair them with soup. You an also mash cauliflower, or turnips and add them this puree.

2 pounds potatoes, diced (washed and peeled)
1 garnet yam, diced (washed and peeled)
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup hot salsa
Salt to taste

Steam the potatoes and yam until soft. Strain, reserving the liquid. Mash the potatoes with the butter and salsa, adding some of the cooking liquid if necessary. When the texture is smooth and creamy, they are done. Salt to taste. Scoop a spoonful of the potatoes into a soup bowl and cover with soup. Garnish with parsley.

The word "rhubarb" never came up when Tom ate the soup. He loved it and couldn't get enough and I suspect it was the potatoes, not the rhubarb, but that slight twist of tang really added to the mix.

For this photo, I braised a few more collard greens to add to the top and my Cooking Assistant was really into the potatoes this week. What's your favorite thing to add to soup?

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