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Pantry Basics

The Heat is On
February 23, 2011 • Posted by Jennifer Perillo

It seems every week a new study makes headlines with the promise of shedding light on the obesity epidemic across the country. Last week working mothers were under siege, and put at the center of blame for their children being overweight. A few weeks before that, The Huffington Post ran an article blaming recipes as the reason more people don’t cook. Yes, I was flummoxed by that one too. After all recipes are supposed to help make people’s lives easier.

The truth is there isn’t one definitive reason for high obesity rates or nutritionally void food choices. Schedules are busier than ever, processed foods are cheap, placed front and center at supermarkets—it’s a perfect storm of sorts. The most important change you can make to beat this battle of the bulge is to simply get cooking. Start with recipes that fit the time you have available. Leave long-cooking stews for the weekends, when time is more on your side—they’re great make-ahead meals for busy weeknights too.

This all weighed heavily on my mind as I made one of the easiest soups ever recently. Soups usually take time to develop flavors, but keeping good quality stock on hand speeds up that process. I prefer to save freezer and fridge space, and keep this homemade vegetable stock on hand. That is one of the main reasons this soup started out as vegetarian. In the end, it became vegan, since a quick puree in the blender added enough body and creamy texture, that actual heavy cream wasn’t necessary—a big savings in calories too. I’ve left the ingredient amounts open and offered a few suggestions so you can make this soup your own. It has the comfort of a recipe, with the flexibility to customize the flavors to your own liking. As a friend noted on her blog last week, the blame game gets us no where. What we need are more real tips and advice to help make better decisions on what to eat and how to make cooking part of everyday lives.

Creamy Jerusalem Artichoke Soup
serves as many as you want

Jerusalem artichokes are also known as sunchokes. As you can see, this soup is quite simple to make—only two ingredients, so it’s important to start with a good-quality stock. I’ve noted vegetable here, but if you have no dietary restrictions, feel free to use chicken stock. The open measurements mean you can make as little or as much as you’d like.

Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed clean & sliced into coins
Vegetable broth, enough to cover the artichokes

  1. Add ingredients to a skillet or saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook until the artichokes are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife.
  2. Using a ladle, transfer to the bowl of a blender, and puree until smooth and creamy textured, thinning out with extra broth as needed to your liking.
  3. Return to a pan over medium-low flame until heated through. Serve with one of the suggested garnishes.

Garnish ideas: