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Warm-Up Soups

Soups are soothing, versatile and often economical. They store well for several days in the refrigerator and freeze beautifully.

I recently took a trip down the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California. The weather was cold, rainy and foggy, and soup became the highlight of every meal. The following soups are the best that I sampled on this trip; they’ll serve you well in the months to come.

Campagne, a charming Seattle restaurant on the edge of Pike Place Market, served excellent, full-flavored Provencal-type food, including this roasted red pepper soup with a garnish of fried leeks.

Further south in Gold Beach, Ore., on the shores of the Rogue River, rustic Tu Tu’ Tun Lodge featured delicious home-style food, served family style on lazy Susans. The hot and sour scallop soup was so popular that not a drop was left in the tureen.

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Heritage House, a romantic resort in Little River, Calif., has a sensational dining room overlooking a stunning Pacific seascape. The food matches the setting; it is straightforward with a nice creative edge. The roasted eggplant soup hit the spot on a day of torrential rains.

A word about the current style of roasting vegetables for soups: Roasting vegetables enhances the flavor of the vegetables while it eases the peeling of such items as peppers and eggplant. Although roasting the vegetables is an extra step, it is one that requires very little attention.

Although in very small amounts, the cream and butter make the difference in the soup; it’s a good example of how to use these rich ingredients so they count. The fried leek is a great garnish, and easy to do in advance. Finely julienned onion or shallots can be substituted for the leek or the garnish can be omitted altogether.

CAMPAGNE’S ROASTED RED PEPPER SOUP

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6 large red peppers

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

1 large onion, chopped

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2 large cloves garlic, minced

2 large leeks, white part only, thinly sliced

1 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth

2 to 3 cups chicken stock or broth, preferably-low sodium

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1/4 cup whipping cream

1/2 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

Peanut oil

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1 large leek, 2-inch white part only, cut into long fine juliennes, for garnish

Brush peppers lightly with olive oil. Place on foil-lined jellyroll pan. Roast peppers on center rack of oven at 450 degress until flesh is tender and skins peel easily, about 30 to 40 minutes. Turn peppers as they brown. Wrap in foil until cool enough to peel and seed. Rinse off any seeds that cling to peppers. Coarsely chop peppers.

Heat 1 tablespoon butter in 2-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic and leeks. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add wine. Simmer, uncovered, until reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Add chopped peppers and 2 cups stock or broth. Simmer, covered, 15 minutes.

Puree mixture in blender or food processor until as smooth as possible. With blender or processor running, add whipping cream and remaining butter. Return soup to pot. Add remaining stock or broth as needed for desired consistency. Add salt and pepper. Adjust seasonings. Can be made ahead and refrigerated 3 days or frozen 3 months.

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Heat 1 1/2-inch depth of oil in small pot over medium-high heat until leek julienne dropped in oil sizzles. Add remaining juliennes. Fry until golden, about 5 to 8 seconds, turning quickly. Use slotted spoon to remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Season lightly with salt. (Can be made up to 3 hours ahead and kept in warm place.)

To serve, gently reheat soup. Adjust seasonings and liquid to taste. Garnish with leek. Makes 6 servings.

Each serving contains about:

180 calories; 386 mg sodium; 24 mg cholesterol; 11 grams fat; 13 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 1 gram fiber; 57% calories from fat.

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This soup is satisfying and extremely light. Use either bay or sea scallops, the fresher and lower-priced option. Although the inspiration is Asian, the soup successfully preceded a mouthwatering all-American roast pork dinner.

TU TU’ TUN LODGE’S HOT AND SOUR SCALLOP SOUP

1 teaspoon grated ginger root

1 teaspoon Sherry

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2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 teaspoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons chile oil

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

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1/4 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder

2 tablespoons minced cilantro

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

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6 cups chicken broth, preferably low-sodium

3 large mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with 1 teaspoon water

Oil

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Scallop Dumplings

2 small green onions, thinly sliced

Combine ginger, Sherry, garlic, soy sauce, chile oil, lemon zest, 5-spice powder, cilantro, lemon juice, rice vinegar and chicken broth in 2-quart pot. Simmer, covered, 15 minutes. Stir in cornstarch mixture. Strain soup.

Heat oil in 7-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and saute about 4 minutes, stirring often. Add to soup. (Soup can be made ahead to this point and refrigerated for 1 day or frozen up to 3 months.)

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Before serving, drop Scallop Dumplings into boiling soup. Cook 1 minute. Garnish with sliced green onions. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve hot. Makes 8 servings.

Each serving contains about:

103 calories; 856 mg sodium; 10 mg cholesterol; 5 grams fat; 4 grams carbohydrates; 9 grams protein; 0 fiber; 43% calories from fat.

Scallop Dumplings

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1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 slice white bread

1/2 teaspoon grated ginger root

1/8 teaspoon sesame oil

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1/2 pound scallops

Salt, optional

Combine sesame oil, bread, ginger, sesame oil and scallops in food processor fitted with metal blade. Season to taste with salt. Process just until pureed. Do not overprocess. Dip melon baller into cold water and scoop out about 16 (1-inch) dumplings. (Can be made several hours ahead and kept at room temperature.) Makes 16.

This soup tastes rich, but it has no fat or cream. Chipotle chiles are jalapeno chiles that have been smoked. As sold in Latin grocery stores, they are most often packed in red adobo sauce.

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HERITAGE HOUSE’S ROASTED EGGPLANT SOUP

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large eggplants, unpeeled

3 large red onions, unpeeled

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2 large sweet red peppers

4 medium plum tomatoes, cut in halves

5 to 6 cups chicken broth

1 to 2 canned chipotle chiles or fire-roasted jalapeno chiles

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2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried oregano

3/4 teaspoon salt

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1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Freshly ground pepper

Brush bottom of jellyroll pan with olive oil. Pierce skins of eggplants, onions and peppers with fork. Place in prepared pan along with tomatoes.

Roast vegetables at 450 degrees until eggplants are completely tender, about 1 hour, turning vegetables as they brown. Cool vegetables. Remove skins and stems from eggplants, onions and seeds from peppers.

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Place vegetables in 2-quart pot with 3 cups chicken stock or broth, chipotles, basil, thyme, oregano and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to boil. Simmer, covered, 25 minutes, stirring often.

Puree soup in blender or processor until smooth. Press through sieve into pot. Add vinegar and remaining stock or broth as needed for desired consistency. Season to taste. Adjust seasonings and vinegar to taste. (Can be made ahead and refrigerated 3 days or frozen 3 months.) Makes 8 servings.

Each serving contains about:

102 calories; 822 mg sodium; 1 mg cholesterol; 5 grams fat; 12 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 1.30 grams fiber; 41% calories from fat.

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