Until I was in my teens, I was not a huge fan of mushrooms. Their slimy rubbery texture weirded me out. Especially when it came to cream of mushroom soup, I think my dislike stems from some gross associations with cream of mushroom soup and pork chops -- never a favorite. ;)
As an adult, especially a plant loving plant eating whole food professional one, I have changed my tune. I think mushrooms are delicious: not only are they nutritional powerhouses, they're a perfect meaty texture to take the place of animal proteins or that dense "main part" of the meal we often seek out. Like these hazelnut crusted portobellos or the sticky mushrooms on these pancakes, edible fungi make the perfect centrepiece in many toothsome entrees.
Divine kitchen inspiration struck with this recipe, as I set out to make an African peanut soup with potatoes (courtesy of our CSA; I rarely buy them), chickpeas and mushrooms. The result was a complete happy kitchen accident.
I had a handful of beet tops (also from the CSA) and didn't want them to go to waste. True to form, they took a little trip into the soup pot -- and the soup turned a gorgeous shade of purple. AMAZING. Clearly, the Kitchen Gods had something in mind. I figured I should listen - they usually steer me pretty well.
Incidentally, the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory betalains in the beets provide the gorgeous color. (More on the goodness of beets here.) That deep color is a pretty good indicator that some kind of nutrient powerhouse action is happening, as is true of foods like acai, blueberries and eggplant. Purple ketchup is the exception. There is no nutrient goodness going on there. ;)
Back to communing with the Kitchen Gods and their big plans... although I had intended for this to be a chunky nutty adventure, when I tasted it it seemed better suited to being completely blended. The potatoes had softened a great deal thanks to their extended cooking time, so they blended into the most sumptuous creamy base, perfect for the mushrooms and onions to mingle in. The end product was much simpler with far fewer ingredients than I'd anticipated, and I'd hazard even better than my attempt at peanut stew would have been!
For fun, let's compare these few simple ingredients [potatoes, broth, beet stems, mushrooms, onions and salt] with the ingredients in Campbell's Cream of Mushroom:
Yeah. Everything circle isn't really food -- and if it is a form of food, it's in a refined, processed, extracted or otherwise denatured form. It's also decidedly not vegan or gluten-free, if either of those is a priority in your world.
So instead, make this creamy vegan version the next time you're craving an old-timety comfort food, or you find yourself whipping up a batch of something that calls for mushroom soup.
- 5 red potatoes, skins on and cubed
- 6 cups vegan broth
- 2 cups beet stems and leaves, roughly chopped
- 2 cups brown mushrooms, whichever kind you prefer, coarsely chopped
- 2 small yellow onions, coarsely chopped
- 1 1/2 tbsp sea salt
- 1. Bring broth to a boil in a large soup pot. Chop your veggies while you wait for it to boil.
- 2. Once boiling, add potatoes and boil for 10 minutes.
- 3. Add beet stems and cook another 20 minutes.
- 4. Add mushrooms and onions, cooking at high heat for 5 minutes.
- 5. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover pot to cook for 20-30 minutes more.
- 6. Remove from heat. Using an immersion blender (or transferring a couple of cups of soup at a time to a food processor), blend until smooth.
- 7. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.