Healthy eating: Soups showcase vegetables

Soup is one of those clever dishes that can be adapted to suit the weather: warm and hearty to cheer you up in cooler climes or light and fresh to perk up your taste buds in Cayman’s tropical climate.  

Frederico Quiroga, who is originally from Argentina, is the chef at Full of Beans Café at Pasadora Place in George Town, and is a huge fan of creating wonderful soups that are not only fresh and flavorful, but also are incredibly good for you and easy to make. 

Each of the three soup recipes that we are featuring this week use fresh vegetables and add a minimal amount of flavorings, to let the essence of the main star ingredients really come through. They all also lack enriching agents in the form of cream, so often used in recipes to round out the soup. Instead, Chef Quiroga says, he has a few tricks to enrich the soups without adding the high fat and calories of cream. 

“My concept at Full of Beans Café is to make vegetarian soups and keep them dairy-free to make them as healthy as possible,” he says. 

 

Butternut squash soup 

Ingredients: (to serve six people) 

  • 2 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced 
  • 3 medium onions, peeled and chopped 
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 2 bay leaves 
  • Salt and pepper to taste  
  • Olive oil for sautéing, plus a drizzle to finish, if liked 
  • 64 oz water 

 

Butternut squash is a bit of an underrated super food. It is high in fiber and just one cup contains almost half a person’s recommended daily intake of vitamin C and a whopping three times the RDA of vitamin A. It’s also a good source of potassium, vitamin B-6 and magnesium. 

Begin by sweating the garlic and onions in the olive oil until the onion becomes soft, then add the diced squash and stir for a few minutes. Add the water and the bay leaves and simmer for about an hour until the squash is nice and soft. Blend for about three minutes until the soup is really smooth. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil if you like. 

To enrich this soup, Chef Quiroga suggests roasting the squash. Instead of peeling and dicing the squash, simply cut each lengthways, remove the seeds, season and place cut side down in a roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil and bake at medium heat until soft. Sweat off the onions and garlic, add the cooked butternut squash and the rest of the ingredients, simmer for about 15 minutes, then blend as before. This creates a lovely creaminess to the dish without the need to add cream. 

 

Roasted tomato soup 

Ingredients (to serve four people) 

  • 1½ pounds ripe Roma tomatoes (or heirloom tomatoes if you can get them, available from Kirk’s Market or the Farmers Market at Camana Bay), roughly chopped 
  • 4 medium onions, sliced 
  • 5 garlic cloves, whole 
  • 2 bunches fresh basil, leaves only (reserve some small leaves and the flowers for the garnish) 
  • ½ cup olive oil 
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar 
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
  • 3 table spoons sugar 
  • 32 oz tomato juice 

 

One medium whole tomato has a fifth of the RDA of vitamin A and almost a third of the RDA for vitamin C, so it’s an important addition to your diet.  

Place the tomatoes, onions, garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper in a bowl and toss well. Place these ingredients in a roasting pan and roast in oven on low heat at 250 Fahrenheit for about an hour and a half. Roasting the tomatoes intensifies the flavor and adds a lovely creaminess to the final dish. Transfer to a soup pot on the stove. Add the tomato juice and cook on medium heat for 15 minutes. Then add the basil leaves and, using a hand blender, blend until smooth. Adjust the seasoning with more salt and pepper if needed. Garnish with a few small basil leaves or flowers.  

 

Broccoli soup 

Ingredients (to serve six people) 

  • 2 large heads of broccoli, chopped into florets and a little of the stems, chopped 
  • 3 medium onions, chopped 
  • 1 garlic clove (optional) 
  • 1 Idaho potato (Chef Quiroga’s secret “cream” ingredient that adds a thick consistency), peeled and diced into small cubes 
  • 64 oz water or good vegetable stock 
  • Handful of spinach leaves (optional) 
  • A few shreds of Cheddar cheese 

 

Long classified as a conventional super food, broccoli has more than twice the RDA of vitamin C, almost a fifth of the RDA of vitamin A and is also high in potassium, fiber and vitamin B-6.  

Sauté the onion and garlic, if using. Add the broccoli florets and chopped stems. Add the water or stock and add the potato cubes. Cook for about an hour until the vegetables are soft. Once the vegetables are cooked, reduce the liquid down by one quarter, then blend the soup until smooth. Since the broccoli has been cooked for a long while, it will have lost its vibrant green color. If you want to retain that vibrancy in your final dish, Chef Quiroga suggests adding a handful of washed fresh spinach leaves just before blending the soup to add a zingy green color. Garnish with shreds of Cheddar cheese. 

Chef Frederico with the roasted tomato soup (2)

Chef Frederico Quiroga of Full of Beans Cafe with the roasted tomato soup.

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