Friday, April 17, 2009

Florentine Soup

A lot of people are under the impression that soup is a Fall and Winter food...but that's just not true. It is true that there are lots and lots AND LOTS of soups that are ideal for the colder seasons, and there's nothing as satisfying as a hot bowl of soup on a chilly day. But there are lighter soups...soups that aren't as heavy but just as satisfying, and are sometimes even simpler to make, that are perfect for the warmer days of Spring and Summer!!

Now - I've shared another recipe on this site with "Florentine" in it's title, and I thought I'd share what that means. "Florentine" refers to Florence, as in the largest city in the Tuscany region of Italy. It grows from a tradition of peasant eating, rather than fine cuisine. For cooking purposes, "Florentine" refers to foods that are cooked in this style...specifically egg, meat, and fish dishes that contain spinach and, most often, a creamy Mornay-style sauce. Now, not all dishes in Florence contain spinach and a cream sauce...and the connection isn't really clear. I found a cute explanation on Mr. Breakfast, which says:

"The closest explanation comes from an unverified story about the Italian wife of France's Henry II. Catherine de Medici is credited with introducing a number of Italian foods to France, including Italian ices and sherbet. Some "I-didn't-do-my-research" food historians even credit her for bringing pasta to France. As the simple tale goes, Catherine introduced spinach to the Court of France around the year 1550. To honor her Italian heritage, she decided to call any dish containing spinach 'Florentine'.To further obscure the origins of the word, Florentine referred to a kind of meat pie until the late 18th century. And once more, a steak cooked ala Florentine is cooked with olive oil and garlic... with no spinach what so ever. Leave it to the crazy Australians to make matters even worse. Thanks to them, a cookie with candied fruit (and sometimes nuts) is also called a Florentine. Our modern definition of Florentine developed in France in the early or mid- 19th century when spinach began turning up in fancier dishes that mostly likely already had a cream sauce component."

So now that you have your little history lesson...let's cook some soup...

This version is VERY simple to prepare, and is perfect served with anything from slices of baguette bread (make a little antipasti, if you desire!!), to Oyster crackers or Saltines. We're having ours with steamed asparagus, oyster crackers, and a Potato Salad...a lovely vegetable friendly dinner!! This serves 4 people...1 cup if you've got a family like mine...double the recipe.

Florentine Soup

1/2 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 TBS butter
3-1/4 cups milk, divided
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic salt
Dash of pepper
Dash of ground nutmeg
2 tsp potato starch (okay - I had a very hard time replacing my potato starch her in South I'm substituting with corn starch. Try to find potato starch if you is FAR SMOOTHER)
1 pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed, well-drained
4 oz cream cheese, cubed

1. Cook and stir the mushrooms and onion in butter in medium saucepan on medium heat until tender. Add 3 cups of the milk and the seasonings. Bring just to boil, stirring frequently.

2. Add potato starch to remaining 1/4 cup milk; stir until well blended. Gradually add to hot mixture in saucepan, stirring until well blended. Cook until mixture boils and thickens, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low; simmer 5 minutes.

3. Stir in remaining ingredients; cook until cream cheese is completely melted and soup is heated through, stirring frequently.


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