Early Autumn Soups for Baby and Everyone Else

Now that Kat is a year old, she is eating less and less “baby food,” and pretty much eats either a ground up or minced or chopped up version of what we are eating, particularly for dinner. Her breakfast is still oatmeal with fruit and yogurt, and for lunch she tends to have some of what I am eating, if I remember to eat or else, she has some of the following: egg yolk blended with a bit of mayonnaise, some whole cooked peas, some goat cheese, some noodles with either Chinese seasonings or a dab of marinara sauce or some chopped up cherry tomatoes. These foods she can feed to herself, and she does so with great glee and gusto.

But at dinner time, she has resisted eating “baby foods,” and instead insists upon eating whatever it is we are eating, whether it is a fiery curry or Sichuan stir fry, that is what she wants. She has an amazing capacity to eat spicy and highly flavored foods, and will cry if we do not give her whatever it is we are eating.

But, still, I want to make certain that she gets enough fats in her diet, and most of the stir fries I cook are very low in fat.

Babies and all growing children, for that matter, need much more fat than adults do. Not only is it used in the formation of healthy skin, hair and connective tissues, it is also necessary for good brain growth. Many people are not aware that brain cells are made up of fats, but it is true, so it is imperative not to restrict the fat intake of children while their brains are forming. Especially “good” fats such as those found in wild caught salmon, avocados, coconuts, egg yolks from pasture-raised poultry, and dairy products from grass-raised goats and cows.

Since Kat refuses to drink milk if it doesn’t come from Mamma, I have been sneaking dairy foods to her in different ways, usually by adding yogurt, cream, or cheese to various foods or by giving her bits of cheese to eat while I am cooking and she is watching from her perch in the highchair. Cheese is a favorite food of hers, and her absolute favorites are the freshly made local chevre that we can get at the farmer’s market and imported Parmesan grated into tiny flakes.

Two recipes I have come up with specifically for Kat, but which the rest of us have decided to eat as well are two soups which have dairy products sneaked into them in the form of cream or butter, and which feature the flavors of India. Kat loves them, and they are great for adult palates as well, and best of all, they are absolutely simple to make.

Cream of Curried Carrot Soup is a simple mixture carrots, potatoes, onions and garlic cooked in vegetable broth, then seasoned with curry powder and garam masala and a bit of salt. It is a variant on the myriad versions of pureed vegetable soups popular throughout France which I learned to make in culinary school. The only real deviation from the French method is the use of Indian spices as the seasoning. Cream is added at the end, after the vegetables are pureed, along with a tiny knob of butter, which gives the lovely russet orange soup a smooth texture and lush flavor which neither Kat nor any of the rest of us can resist.

As the autumn progresses, I suspect I will make many other creamy soups for Kat, including butternut or acorn squash, sweet potato and parsnip soup, celeriac and spinach and creamy borscht. The possibilities for main ingredients and flavorings are limited only by local availability of ingredients and the imagination of the cook–I recommend these as a way to eat more vegetables and love them at the same time. The amounts of cream or butter are negotiable–you don’t need to use much to get the benefit of them, but you can also use less if you worry about your waistline, though I am of the opinion that a bit of creamy soup is fine once and a while. You can also vary the flavor by using yogurt, sour cream or creme fraiche instead of cream and butter–borscht, in fact, should be made with sour cream.

Everything in moderation.

The second soup is nothing more than a vegetable broth-thinned red lentil and mung bean dal spiced with a tarka of butter, onions, sweet bell peppers, garlic, asafoetida and panch phoron. For a fresh flavor, I added fresh Green Zebra tomatoes cut into a tiny dice and minced cilantro at the end, making this spicy concoction a hymn to the early autumn bounty of southern Applachia, even though the methods, flavors and main ingredients are classically Indian. It can be left thick and served with rice, or thinned and used as a soup; either way it is utterly delicious, and is a favorite of both Kat and Morganna. I think that the next time I make it, I will add some grilled corn cut from the cob for extra texture and sweetness. (Every time I grill corn for dinner, I make extra and cut it from the cob to be used in various recipes, or I pack the kernels into ziplocks and chuck them into the freezer. Then I have them all winter long to add smoky sweetness to whatever I want.

Other autumn vegetables which could be added to the dal/soup would include minced kale, collards or mustard greens, finely diced turnips, carrots or parsnips, fresh mushrooms, and cross-ways sliced half-runner green beans or whole fresh baby lima beans.

Both of these soups cook quickly–in about thirty-five to forty-five minutes, usually, and the preparation time is minimal, about fifteen minutes. Whatever is not used right away can either be kept in the refrigerator for about four days or it can be frozen for several months. They are a wonderful way to use the bounty of late summer and early fall, while creating easy recipes beloved of both the toothless toddlers and the discriminating teens among us.



Early Autumn Red Lentil Dal with Panch Phoron

Ingredients:

2 cups red lentils
1 cup split skinned mung beans
1 tablespoon dried ground turmeric
1 1/4 quarts vegetable broth or chicken stock
3 1/2 tablespoons butter or butter ghee
3/4 cup finely diced onions
1/2 cup finely diced red sweet pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons panch phoron
2 tablespoons finely minced garlic
1 pinch asafoetida
salt to taste
water or vegetable broth as needed for thinning the dal–optional
fresh tomato cut into a small dice
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
yogurt for serving–optional

Method:

Pick over lentils and beans, removing any dirt clods, tiny rocks, sticks or other bits of debris. Rinse lentils and mung beans thoroughly, and drain in a colander. Add to a pot, along with turmeric and broth. Bring to a boil over high heat, turn down the heat and simmer uncovered until the lentils and beans have cooked into a slightly lumpy puree.

Melt butter in a skillet over hight heat. Add onions and sweet peppers and cook, stirring until the onions are medium gold in color. Add the panch phoron and keep cooking for about thirty seconds. Add the garlic and asafoetida and cook until the spices brown and become very fragrant, the onions have turned a reddish brown and the mustard seeds in the panch phoron begin to pop.

Pour this tarka into the lentils and beans and stir to combine. Add salt to taste. If you want a thinner soup, add some broth to thin it out at this time.

Just before serving, mix in the tomato and cilantro and then serve with yogurt to be added on top if diners wish.



Cream of Curried Carrot Soup

Ingredients:

2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into small slices
1/2 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into small dice
1/2 pound onions, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground dried turmeric
1 1/2 quarts vegetable broth or chicken stock
salt to taste
freshly ground white or black pepper to taste
curry powder to taste (I like Penzey’s Sweet Curry Powder)
garam masala to taste (I used my own fresh house blend, but Penzey’s Punjabi Style is good, too)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter–optional
minced cilantro for garnish–optional
squeeze lemon or lime juice–optional

Method:

Put carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic, turmeric and broth into a pot and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to medium and allow to simmer uncovered until the vegetables are fork tender. Make sure you can insert and remove a fork easily from the vegetables.

Using an immersion blender or a regular blender, puree the soup smoothly, leaving no lumps. Immersion blenders make this simple, because you can just take the pot off the heat and blend right in the pot. No need to make a mess trying to get hot vegetables and broth into a blender jar.

Add salt and pepper to taste, then flavor soup to your taste with the curry powder and garam masala. I like mine heavy on the spices, but you may not–so do as you like with it. Blend in the cream and butter, and correct seasoning if needed.

Stir in cilantro before serving, and if you like add a sqeeze of lemon or lime juice to the soup just before serving or serve with lemon or lime wedges on the side for diners to add as they like.

7 Comments

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  1. What a beautiful way of starting autumn, love soups in all forms ,though lentil soup is made regularly , i will try the carrot one soon , thx

    Comment by bindiya — September 25, 2007 #

  2. Kat is one year old! Belated birthday wishes :) I love dal with panch phoron and the curried carrot soup looks fabulous too! I’m hosting JFI:Banana this month, hope you will consider sending and entry!

    Comment by mandira — September 25, 2007 #

  3. Bindiya and Mandira–the carrot soup could be made with other vegetables, too. I think that parsnips and celeriac or maybe even beets would be good, though for beets, because of their color, I would not use curry powder, but just the garam masala instead. And perhaps, instead of cream, I would use sour cream or even better, yogurt.

    Mandira–let me go see when the deadline is–it has been so long since I have done a food blog event, I think it will be fun.

    Besides, maybe I can come up with a banana recipe that Kat will really like. She doesn’t hate bananas, but she doesn’t love them either.

    Comment by Barbara — September 25, 2007 #

  4. I love the complex flavors that can be coaxed from such a simple process, like making soup. Your carrot soup sounds lovely–I never would have thought to add cilantro to it!

    Comment by Lisa (Homesick Texan) — September 25, 2007 #

  5. You shouldn’t be surprised if your gorgeous daughter likes strong flavours; if you are breast feeding her then all the flavours you ingest will be present in the milk and she will be un-surprised with new things.

    Comment by Toffeeapple — September 26, 2007 #

  6. How do these soups freeze? I’ve never tried to freeze a soup with dairy before. I am just entering my third trimester and am looking to put together a freezer full of delicious, healthy foods for us to eat once our little one is born. Any further suggestions you have (I remember you froze a moussaka for eating after Kat was born) for freezer-friendly dishes would be wonderful, too.

    Comment by teri — September 27, 2007 #

  7. Teri–both of these soups will freeze beautifully. When you thaw them out, before reheating, you may want to add a tiny bit of milk to carrot soup and a bit of vegetable broth or water to the dal.

    Stuff that freezes well–unbaked lasagne–that way, you just take it from the freezer, put it in the oven and bake it for about an hour and fifteen minutes or an hour and a half. Any stuffed pasta dish, in fact–like stuffed shells–is good. Macaroni and cheese, unbaked, is great, too. Stacked enchiladas are great, the moussaka and pastitsio recipes I have here are both great, and most liquidy curries are good. Any dal recipe freezes well, as does chili and any kind of tomato based pasta sauce. I also freeze pesto, cream based pasta sauces and roasted eggplant pasta sauce–that way all you have to do is thaw it, stick it on the stovetop and boil some pasta and you have dinner.

    The carrot soup and this batch of dal I froze in tablespoon portions the other day for Kat–I thawed some of each out and heated them up for her–they were just as tasty as they had been fresh.

    Good luck!

    Comment by Barbara — September 27, 2007 #

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