Pros: wide variety of soups, nutritional analysis for every recipe
Cons: the writing comes across a little impersonal
If there is one food that conjures comfort, it's soup, especially homemade soup. Soup is endlessly variable and all cultures, across the globe, embrace soup for it's warming, comforting properties and for the fact that soup can help stretch limited resources to be able to feed the entire family. And, prepared properly, soup is a healthy addition to any diet. Unfortunately, not all soups are as healthy as we think they are, or ought to be. That's where Camilla Saulsbury steps in. She has written a wonderful book called "Enlightened Soups" which offers up 135 recipes for healthy, low-fat soups.
Yes, I know, I just said that magic words that will have many of you hitting the "Next" button, but wait! You'll be missing out. Believe me, I have the same initial reaction when I hear those words. I've tested many, many healthy, low-fat recipes that are supposedly as good as the original and been disappointed time and again, but "Enlightened Soups" delivers the goods, creating healthy recipes without sacrificing flavor or texture. Soup is, intrinsically, healthy, but we've loaded it down with butter, cream and other unhealthy fats, turning some soups into cholersterol time-bombs. Ms. Saulsbury encourages readers to cut the amount of fat they use during the sauteing stage of soup making, use homemade or store bought, low sodium broths, replace butter with healthier fats and oils, and encourages readers to replace cream with evaporated low fat milk or low fat buttermilk. By using these two last ingredients, and adding them at the end of cooking, as opposed to the begining she creates soups with both the texture and the rich flavor of soups made with their more unhealthy counterparts.
Ms. Saulsbury is no militant hater of fat and all things unhealthy though as is evidenced by her "Bean and Bacon Soup" recipe. Yes, bacon is actually mentioned in a book devoted to "healthy" foods. I became an instant convert! I was also impressed with the variety of soups offered in the book, which reaches well beyond standard soup fare with such recipes as "West African Peanut Soup" and "Tunisian Chickpea Soup."
Finally, for those that are really trying to watch what they eat, whether by choice or due to significant health reasons, "Enlighened Soups" offers a nutritional breakdown of each recipe.
Overall, I was impressed with this book. Ms. Saulsbury won me over with her recipes and the fact that her "healthier" versions of "not-so-healthy" soups did not leave me wanting. I have to hand it to her for making me a believer.
West African Peanut Soup
I spent some time in the West African nation of Sierra Leon where one of my favorite dishes was "Groundnut Stew" which I was often served so I was very excited to this version. While the aroma of this soup was "to die for" I thought it lacked somewhat in peanut flavor, at least compared to what I was used to so I added an additional 1/4 cup of peanut butter. Taste the soup as written, but feel free to do the same, although it will alter the nutritional information.. Also, while this version is not spicy, the versions I ate always had a spicy kick so I also added a bit of cayenne to provide some heat.
1 Tablespoon Canola oil
1 1/4 cups Chopped onion
1 1/2 cups Peeled and diced Sweet Potato (about half of 1 medium sweet potato)
1/2 cup Seeded and chopped Green pepper
2 cloves Garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Mild Curry Powder
3/4 teaspoon Ground cumin
1 14.5 ounce can Diced tomatoes, undrained
3 cups Low-sodium Chicken or Vegetable broth
1 cup Boiling water
1/3 cup Creamy Peanut Butter (do not use old-fashioned or natural varieties)
6 Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Cilantro leaves, divided use
Heat the oi in a large saucepan se over medium-high heat. Add the onion, sweet potato, and green pepper. Season with salt and pepper. Cook and stir t minutes. Add the garlic, curry powder, and cumin. Cook and stir 1 minute
Add the tomatoes with their juices and broth. Bring to a boil, tehn reduce the heat to medium low. Cook, partially covered, 15 minutes, until sweet potatoes are tender.
With a potato masher or large slotted spoon, partially mash the sweet potatoes. Stir the boiling water into the peanut butter until smooth, then add to the soup. STir in half of the cilantro. Simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve sprinkled with the remaining cilantro. Makes 4 servings.