One hazard of writing about food is the 10 extra pounds that magically appear each year from eating all the test recipes, in addition to food consumed in restaurants while I'm out looking for recipe ideas.
What drove me to diet recently was my picture that appeared in a magazine accompanying an article I had written--I looked fat. The solution was a low-fat, salt-free diet which worked surprisingly well for someone who likes highly seasoned food. I lost 13 pounds eating salt-free vegetable soup, plain broiled or roasted fish and meat, steamed vegetables and fresh fruit.
Of course, that meant giving up the foods I adore, including salt- and fat-laden cheeses, desserts, candy, pizzas, hamburgers, spicy Chinese food, Indian food, Mexican food and corned beef on rye. Bad eating habits are hard to change.
Getting Through Hunger Pangs
Homemade soup helped me get through my mid-afternoon and early evening hunger pangs. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could make salt-free, fat-free soup that tasted almost like a real cream soup.
The food processor made a big difference because I was able to make soup from scratch in about 40 minutes using a technique for prechopping vegetables that makes soup puree smoothly.
A russet potato is the key to the velvety cream-like consistency of this soup since the starch present in the preminced potato thickens the soup. Whereas one-second pulses are used for mincing soft, watery onions, two-second pulses are used for mincing the firmer potato and carrots. Since all the vegetables are minced before cooking, pureeing time is minimal.
Homemade broth is the key to eliminating salt from soup since most canned broths contain a great deal of salt. The broth can be made ahead and kept in the freezer, and the finished carrot soup will keep refrigerated for three to five days.
SALT-FREE, FAT-FREE CARROT SOUP
1 large onion, cubed
1 large russet potato, peeled and cubed
1 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled and cubed
6 cups Salt-Free Chicken Broth
1/2 teaspoons ground cumin, optional
1 tablespoon white vinegar
Freshly ground pepper, optional
Insert metal blade in dry processor. Chop onion finely with 1-second pulses. Empty processor container into 4-quart soup kettle. Chop potato with 2-second pulses and add to kettle. Finely chop carrots with 2-second pulses and empty contents of container into kettle.
Add broth and cumin to kettle. Cover and heat to simmering. Set cover ajar and simmer until vegetables are completely tender and soup is thickened, about 40 minutes.
Replace processor container and blade. Puree soup in 2-cup batches until completely smooth. Transfer to large saucepan or heat-proof storage container.
Repeat to puree all soup, then stir in vinegar. Adjust seasoning with black pepper. Serve immediately or cool and refrigerate up to 36 hours. Makes 8 servings.
Salt-Free Chicken Broth
5 pounds chicken backs, necks, wings and carcasses or 1 (5- to 7-pound) stewing hen, cut up and fat removed
6 quarts cold water
2 medium onions, peeled and halved
Leaves from 2 medium leeks
2 carrots, peeled
6 medium celery stalks, with leaves
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled and crushed
1 cup parsley with stems
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 bay leaf, crushed
Place chicken in 8- to 10-quart stockpot. Add water to cover by 1 to 2 inches. Cover and heat to simmering. Uncover and remove fat and foam on surface. Cover and slowly simmer 3 hours, skimming as necessary.
Insert metal blade in processor. Coarsely chop onion and leek greens with half-second pulses, then add to stockpot. Chop carrots and celery with 1-second pulses, then add to stockpot. Add garlic, parsley, thyme and bay leaf to stockpot. Cover and simmer 4 hours longer.
Uncover and cool to room temperature. Remove vegetables with slotted spoon. Set large strainer over bowl. Press vegetables to extract liquid, then discard.
Remove chicken to strainer with slotted spoon. Discard skin and bones (meat can be reserved for soup, salad or other uses). Strain liquid into storage containers, leaving 2 inches at tops. Can refrigerate 48 hours or freeze 6 months. Makes about 4 quarts.