As much as I love to eat chunky, hearty soups as the weather gets colder, I'm also a sucker for the kind of purees that can be part of a fancy party: as a plated, sit-down first course or even as a passed appetizer, served in miniature glasses.
That kind of soup, in my mind, needs to be relatively simple but powerfully flavored. And it never hurts to include ingredients that get people talking. I knew that's what I'd get when I spotted a recipe for Apple Soup With Juniper in Darra Goldstein's recent book "Fire (plus) Ice: Classic Nordic Cooking" (Ten Speed Press, 2015), and I was right.
The recipe combines Granny Smith apples with warming flavors from ginger, juniper berries, cardamom, allspice and cinnamon. For the liquid, Goldstein employs a little apple cider but mostly chicken stock; I went with my homemade vegetable broth for the latter. The result is something a little mysterious - tart but deep - and you wouldn't necessarily know that it included apples unless somebody told you. It's barely thicker than freshly squeezed juice, which makes it good for sipping. I added an extra touch, saving one of the apple peels, thinly slicing it and frying it for a frizzly garnish.
Goldstein designed the soup as something comforting for when the weather first gets chilly in Scandinavia.
Apple Soup With Juniper
4 to 6 servings (makes about 5 1/2 cups)
This elegant Scandinavian soup, with its tartness deepened by the slightly smoky and earthy flavors of juniper, would make an excellent first course for a dinner party. Barely thicker than juice, it would be perfect for sipping from demitasse cups or shot glasses.
You'll need cheesecloth and kitchen twine.
MAKE AHEAD: The soup can be refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 3 months.
Adapted from "Fire (plus) Ice: Classic Nordic Cooking," by Darra Goldstein (Ten Speed Press, 2015).
1 1/2 pounds tart apples, such as Granny Smith (about 3)
2 tablespoons canola oil, plus more for optional garnish
2 small ribs celery, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 shallot lobes, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
One 1-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon dried juniper berries
4 green cardamom pods
3 allspice berries
1 small (3-inch) cinnamon stick
8 large sprigs flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
1 sprig thyme
4 cups homemade or no-salt-added vegetable broth (see Scrappy Vegetable Broth at washingtonpost.com/recipes)
1 cup unsweetened apple cider
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
Core, peel and chop the apples. Save and thinly slice the peel of 1 apple, if you like, for an optional garnish.
Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a 2-quart or larger soup pot over low heat. Add the apples, celery, shallot and ginger, then cover and cook gently until soft but not browned, 8 to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the dried juniper berries, cardamom pods, allspice, cinnamon stick, 8 sprigs of parsley and the thyme sprig in a piece of cheesecloth and it tie closed with kitchen twine; this is your spice sachet.
Once the apple mixture is soft, pour the broth and cider into the pot. Increase the heat to medium-high; add the spice sachet and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium, so the liquid is barely bubbling. Cover and cook for 40 minutes, until everything is very soft and the flavors have melded.
Meanwhile, if you want to make the apple-peel garnish, line a plate with paper towels. Heat 2 or 3 more tablespoons of the oil over medium heat in a small skillet. Once the oil shimmers, working in batches to avoid overcrowding, scatter in some of the thinly sliced peels and cook, stirring frequently, until they are lightly browned. Use a slotted spoon to transfer them to the paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Repeat with the remaining peels.
Remove the soup pot from the heat. Discard the spice sachet. Use an immersion (stick) blender to puree the soup in the pot, then pour it through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean pot, pressing down on the solids. Add the salt and pepper, and reheat the soup gently over low heat. Taste, and adjust the seasonings as needed.
Divide among individual bowls, garnishing each portion with the fried apple peels, if using, and a few parsley leaves.
Nutrition | Per serving (based on 6): 140 calories, 0 g protein, 25 g carbohydrates, 5 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 210 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 20 g sugar.(c) 2015, The Washington Post