“Vegan Soups: Over 100 recipes for soups, sprinkles, toppings & twists.” By Amber Locke. Octopus Books. $9.99.

It might seem counterintuitive to pick up a soup cookbook at the start of spring, but not in the case of “Savor: Sensational Soups To Fulfill & Fortify.”

The bright colors on the cover – and nearly every page throughout – indicate that you’re not going to find creamy chowders or hearty stews in here. In fact, the book, which is now nearly out of print in this form, has been repackaged as “Vegan Soups: Over 100 recipes for soups, sprinkles, toppings & twists” ($9.99) with bright pink bowls of pureed beets on the cover, an even bigger giveaway to what’s inside.

To be honest, had I seen the new edition – which more accurately depicts the contents – I probably wouldn’t have picked it up. Even in my vegetable soups, I tend to use chicken broth for the fuller flavor, and when they’re still lacking, I find that a glug of light cream goes a long way.

So, vegan I am not. But being in the market for warmer weather soup recipes, I proceeded anyway.

 

Soup is a funny thing, in its contrasting connotations as both a hearty comfort food and a light, healthy meal. Although some of these recipes look comforting, they all qualify as the latter. Chock-full of vegetables, and many made with fruit as well, most seem more like savory smoothies than anything else.

Locke acknowledges her penchant for pureeing in the introduction to the book, where she also recounts the history of her love of fruits and vegetables, starting with her parents’ plentiful garden and the celery soup her mother used to make her “as a treat.” That’s some kind of kid.

Vegan soups are chock-full of vegetables, like this asparagus and fennel soup. Photo by Amber Locke

It also helps explain why the cooked vegetable stock recipe, one of a few (including raw, quick and powder varieties) that make the basis of the soups, doesn’t even include salt.

Presumably, there would be enough flavor from the pureed vegetables, many herbs and spices, and suggested toppings (from raw cashew cream for the pumpkin soup to crispy sage leaves for the matzo ball, the recipes for which are in the back). All also call for salt and pepper in an unspecified amount, which I used to suit my tastes in the recipe for asparagus and fennel soup.

I’ve made my own basic version of asparagus soup a couple times this season already and have recently started incorporating fennel into my salads, so I was hoping this recipe would give me a new way to enjoy both of these ingredients. Although the lemon and scallions certainly brightened up the soup and gave it a unique flavor, it was still a little heavy on the healthy, light on the scrumptious for me. So, for the second bowl? I got out that cream.

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Cooked Vegetable Stock

4 small carrots, cut into medium dice

3 celery stalks, cut into medium dice

2 large onions or 2 medium leeks, cut in half

1 bay leaf

1 small bunch of mixed herbs, such as parsley, thyme, and rosemary

2 teaspoons black peppercorns

2 quarts water

Place the carrots, celery, and onions in a large saucepan with the bay leaf, herbs, and peppercorns. Add the measured water. It should cover the vegetables completely by 2 to 3 1/4 inches; you might need to add more depending on the size of your pan.

Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 40 to 50 minutes, occasionally skimming off any froth that rises to the surface, until the stock tastes rich and full. Take care not to overcook the vegetables or the flavor will become stale and flat.

Strain the stock, discarding the solids. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week, or freeze for 1 to 2 months.

Asparagus & Fennel Soup

Serves 3 to 4

10 to 12 asparagus spears, woody ends broken off

1 large fennel bulb, coarsely chopped, fronds reserved

3 to 4 scallions, coarsely chopped

1 3/4 cups hot Cooked Vegetable Stock

Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

Salt and pepper

1 small rosemary sprig, needles very finely chopped, to garnish

Set aside 2 asparagus spears and coarsely chop the remainder. Place the chopped asparagus, fennel, scallions, and stock in a large saucepan and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes until the vegetables are tender. You can also sauté the vegetables briefly in a little oil before adding the stock, but this will result in a slightly darker soup.

Remove the pan from the heat and puree the soup until smooth using a hand-held stick blender, or blend in a high-speed blender, adding more stock if necessary. Add the lemon zest and juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cut the reserved asparagus spears into fine disks or shave into long ribbons with a vegetable peeler.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and serve scattered with the reserved fennel fronds, rosemary, and disks or ribbons of raw asparagus.