5 Fresh, Creamy Soups to Slowly Edge Out of Winter’s Grip
The days are finally getting a bit longer, and the sun is starting to shine a bit brighter, which can only mean one thing: spring is coming. We haven’t shaken off winter’s cold grip yet, but the thaw is happening. From an icy, biting cold to a damp, chilled-to-the-bone cold, we find ourselves reaching for soup. In this time between the seasons, when heavy, starchy winter root vegetables are phasing out in preparation for the most exciting of summer vegetables, seasonal soups become creamy, light, and fresh.
A bowl of any of these soups, maybe with some crusty bread, is the perfect way to warm you up when you come in from a spring shower. They’ll tide you over until the snow melts completely, the flowers begin to bloom, and you’re eating tomato salads al fresco. We’re getting closer, and these soups will pave the way.
1. Creamy Spring Turnip Soup With Wilted Radish Greens and Bacon
Though this soup has no butter and very little actual cream, it comes out wonderfully rich and creamy. It can be served hot on a cold day or cold on one of those unseasonably warm days, when the sun is shining stronger than it has in months. It’s a simple, rustic soup that works on its own or, as Food52 suggests, a first course served with minted lamb and a radish salad.
- 3 cups peeled and quartered young turnips
- 3 young leeks, white and light green parts cleaned very well
- 4 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 4 to 6 slices of bacon
- The greens from a bunch of radishes
Directions: Clean your leeks. One of the better methods for this is to clean, trim, chop into rounds, and add to a large amount of clean water. The grit goes to the bottom, which lets you scoop them out and rinse them again for a second thorough cleaning. Pat them off and let them air dry while you prep the turnips: peel, rinse, and chop into quarters.
Heat barely enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a heavy large saucepan, add the dried leeks, and cook until just softened on medium-high heat. Add the turnips and cook for a short time; you don’t want them to brown, only to start to soften. Add the stock, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook for approximately 30 minutes or until the turnips are very soft.
Depending on how thick you’d like your soup to be, you may not need all the liquid in the pan. Drain and reserve the liquid in a separate bowl. Process the turnips and leeks in a blender or food processor until very smooth, slowly adding more liquid to reach your desired consistency. Add the heavy cream and adjust the seasoning. Set aside while you make the topping.
Remove the greens from the radishes and clean very well to remove any grit. Lay on paper towel to dry.
Fry the bacon until crisp, remove from pan, and lay on paper towel; add the dried radish greens and sauté only until wilted. Remove to paper towel. Ladle soup into bowls lay some of the wilted greens and crumble some of the bacon on top.
2. Creamy Watercress Soup With Lemon-Goat Cheese Dumplings
Seeing a light green soup can make it feel warmer and sunnier, no matter the weather. The peppery watercress in this soup from The Kitchn is tempered with rich, pillowy dumplings made with tangy lemon and goat cheese. The soup is wonderful for entertaining, not only because the stark contrast of the green soup and white dumplings is beautiful, but because the soup can be made in advance. The dumplings should be made immediately before serving, but that’s not so bad. Especially when, at the end of it, you arrive at this amazing spring soup!
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ cup white wine, sauvignon blanc or un-oaked chardonnay
- 1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 6 cups vegetable stock
- 1 pound watercress
- ½ cup heavy cream
- Juice from 1 lemon
- 2 to 2½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Zest from 2 lemons
- ½ cup whole or 2% milk
- 2 large eggs
- ⅔ cup goat cheese
- Chopped dill
- Crème fraîche
Directions: To prepare the soup, warm the olive oil in a 4-quart sauce pan over medium heat. Add the onions and ¼ teaspoon of salt, and cook until the unions are translucent. If they start to brown, lower the heat. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds, until the garlic is fragrant. Pour in the wine and simmer for about 2 minutes, until it has reduced by about half.
Add the potatoes, vegetable stock, and 2 teaspoons of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low to maintain a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are very soft, 15 to 20 minutes.
Chop the tough white ends and roots, if still attached, from the stems of watercress, and run the watercress under water to rinse away any dirt. Drain in a strainer, but don’t worry about drying the leaves.
When the potatoes are cooked, add the watercress to the soup in handfuls. Stir for a few seconds, until the watercress is bright green and wilted. Remove the pan from heat. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup.
At this point, the soup can be served immediately, kept over low heat for 30 minutes before serving, or refrigerated for up to 24 hours and warmed over low heat before serving. When ready to serve, stir the heavy cream and lemon juice into the soup. Taste and add more salt if needed.
Prepare the dumplings while the soup is warming; if serving immediately, the dumpling dough can be prepared while the potatoes are cooking and then cooked after the soup is pureed.
Combine 2 cups of flour, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest in a medium mixing bowl, and whisk thoroughly. Whisk together the milk and eggs in a separate bowl and pour over the flour mixture. Stir with a stiff spoon or spatula until the ingredients come together into a shaggy dough. It will be floury at first, but keep working the dough and mashing it against the sides of the bowl until the flour is incorporated.
Crumble the goat cheese over the top of the dough. Work the cheese into the dough with the spoon, then knead it a few times with the palms of your hands directly in the bowl to thoroughly combine. It’s OK if a few streaks of visible goat cheese remain. If the dough isn’t coming together enough to form balls, knead a tablespoon of flour at a time into the dough until it does. The finished dough should be smooth, soft, and slightly tacky. At this point, the dough can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 hours before cooking.
To cook the dumplings, bring a large pot of water to a rapid simmer over medium to medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of salt to the water and stir to dissolve. Pinch off a wad of dough and roll it between your palms into a ball 1 to 1½ inches in diameter. Continue shaping the rest of the dumplings. There should be enough dough for 24.
Drop as many dumplings into the simmering water as will fit in a single layer in your pot. Cook the dumplings for 2 to 3 minutes; they will sink to the bottom and then float to the top of the water. When they have puffed and look like they are just barely starting to dissolve on the edges, they are done. If they start to break apart, they are slightly overcooked; cook the next batch for slightly less time.
Transfer the dumplings to a clean bowl and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Continue cooking the remaining dumplings.
To serve, ladle 1 to 1½ cups of soup in each bowl. Use a spoon to set 3 to 4 dumplings in the middle of each bowl. Serve immediately, topped with a sprinkle of dill and a dollop of crème fraîche.
3. Creamy Leek Soup
From an agricultural standpoint, leeks take a long time to grow and mature. They’re not typically considered spring vegetables. They’re not the first things out of the ground every spring like asparagus and ramps are; in fact, they’re usually one of the last. That being said, they still have this amazingly fresh taste that’s just “green” enough to make a soup taste like spring. It’s even part of The New York Times lineup of Soups That Taste Like Spring.
Usually, leek soups are made with potato for substance and creaminess. That screams winter comfort to us. This soup, though, is made with basmati rice for balance. Though it may seem strange to some to puree rice in soup, it’s actually a wonderful way to add that starchy creaminess without being quite so heavy. Give it a try. It may surprise you.
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 large leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 7 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water
- ½ cup basmati rice, uncooked
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Pinch of cayenne, optional
- ½ cup milk, plain yogurt, or a combination of milk and crème fraîche, optional
- Chopped chives and/or croutons for garnish
Directions: Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy soup pot and add the leeks and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until leeks are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for about a minute, until the garlic smells fragrant. Add the stock or water, the rice, bay leaf and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes.
Taste and adjust salt. Remove the bay leaf and discard.
Puree the soup with an immersion blender or a food mill, or in batches in a blender, taking care to remove the lid or take out the center insert and to cover with a towel to avoid hot splashes. Return to the pot, heat through, and add pepper, to taste, and a pinch of cayenne, if desired. Serve hot or cold. If you wish, you can thin out with milk, plain yogurt, or a combination of milk and creme fraiche. Garnish with chopped chives or croutons.
4. Pea Soup With Shallot, Lemon, and Parmesan
The most exciting crop to come in the spring may well be fresh peas. They’re so sweet and fun to eat off the vine that they’ve really earned the nickname as nature’s candy. Because the sugars in the peas begin converting into starches as soon as they’re picked, it’s really best to buy fresh peas as close to the source as you can and use them as quickly as possible for the best effect. This soup from Serious Eats uses the deep, salty, savory flavor of Parmesan to enrich the vegetal sweetness of the peas, with the garlicky, oniony persuasion from the shallots and citric brightness of the lemon rounding it all out. The best part? This soup can be made ahead and reheated for serving.
A note on the lemon in this soup: Without proper preparation, the lemon peels could add a lot of undesirable bitterness to this dish. Be sure to remove as much of the white pith as possible, and don’t skip blanching the peels at least twice before adding them to the soup.
- Rind of ½ lemon, pith removed
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 medium shallot, minced
- Kosher salt
- 10 ounces, about 1½ cups, fresh or frozen sweet peas
- 2 cups homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
- 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh mint
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan or Grana Padano
- Freshly ground black pepper
Directions: Place lemon rind in shallow pan and cover with cold water. Bring to a simmer, and then pour out water. Repeat once more, then set lemon rinds aside.
Melt butter in large saucepan over low heat. Add onions, shallots, and a pinch of salt and cook until softened and translucent, 5 to 6 minutes. Add peas to saucepan and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add lemon rinds and stock and bring to a boil. Immediately remove from the heat and stir in mint.
Let cool slightly, 5 to 10 minutes, then blend in blender or food processor until smooth. Add Parmesan and blend again. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve immediately or chill for later use. Reheat in microwave or on the stovetop until warm.
5. Curried Carrot Soup With Tarragon Oil
Carrot soups also fall into that category, like leek soups, that we tend to associate with winter. This one from Food & Wine, though, uses a fresh-tasting and springy tarragon-infused oil to build more and different flavors into the soup. Don’t worry about not having or finding tarragon oil, either; this recipe has you make your own. Who knows, maybe this will start a new kitchen trend for you: making your own gourmet oils!
- ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 large white onion, coarsely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon minced peeled ginger
- 2 teaspoons Madras curry powder
- 1½ pounds carrots, thinly sliced
- 7 cups water
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Freshly ground pepper
- 2 medium bunches of tarragon
- 1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
- ½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- Snipped chives, for garnish
Directions: In a large pot, heat ¼ cup of the oil. Add the onion and cook over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and curry powder and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes longer. Add the water and sugar, and season with salt and pepper. Simmer over moderately low heat until the carrots are very tender, about 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan of boiling salted water, blanch the tarragon and parsley just until wilted, about 30 seconds. Drain the herbs and transfer to a bowl of ice water, then drain again, squeezing out the excess water. Transfer to a blender. Add the remaining ½ cup of olive oil and puree until smooth. Strain the oil through a double layer of cheesecloth without pressing down on the solids.
Carefully puree the hot soup in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return the soup to the pot, stir in the lemon zest, and season with Tabasco and salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into shallow bowls, drizzle with the tarragon oil, and garnish with chives.