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The Soup Solution

August 03, 1995|MAYI BRADY

There are plenty of good vegetarian pasta dishes, but a good meatless soup takes a little more effort. Especially without the support of a meat-based stock, it's important that all the components of a vegetarian soup work together.

Part of the secret is knowing which foods tend to be acidic and which have a not-so-obvious sweetness, and knowing which herbs and spices will mellow after relatively long cooking periods and which will blossom.

Tomato soup, for instance, is easy to get wrong. The version most people think of comes in a can and is way too sweet. A lot of other versions are too acidic. When I make tomato soup, I like to add carrots, which add sweetness and balance the acidity of most tomatoes. Some garlic and a little dried thyme help round out the flavor.

With the soup, I like to serve open-faced pizza-like sandwiches and a simple peach pie.

MENU

Tomato-Carrot Soup

Open-Faced Grilled Garlic and Squash Sandwiches

Ginger Peach Pie

PANTRY

Butter

Garlic

Dried thyme

1 (28-ounce) can of whole tomatoes

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Flour

Ground ginger

Sugar

1 egg

Vegetable stock

SHOPPING LIST

1 large leek

3 large carrots

2 large zucchini

2 yellow squash, straight or crookneck

1 sweet red pepper

1/2 pound Swiss or Gruyere cheese

1/3 cup grated Parmesan

1/2 pint heavy cream

1 loaf French bread

3 large peaches

1 small piece fresh ginger

1 lemon

GAME PLAN

Morning of dinner: Make pie dough; refrigerate it. Peel, pit and slice peaches. Combine with sugar and lemon juice; refrigerate.

2 hours before: Roast, peel and seed red bell pepper. Grill or char garlic, zucchini and yellow squash; set aside to cool. Grate Gruyere and refrigerate. Make soup; keep warm.

45 minutes before: Roll out crust, prepare filling, assemble and bake pie. Slice garlic, zucchini, squash and pepper; assemble sandwiches.

Just before serving: Remove pie from oven; set aside to cool. Broil sandwiches; serve at once. Reheat soup, if needed, and serve.

TOMATO-CARROT SOUP

1 tablespoon butter

1 large leek, white and pale green part only, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 large carrots, chopped

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes

2 to 3 (14 1/2-ounce) cans vegetable or chicken stock

Salt, white pepper

1 tablespoon heavy cream

Melt butter in 2-quart soup pot. Add leeks and garlic and cook over medium-low heat 5 minutes, stirring often. Add carrots and thyme and cook 5 minutes more. Reduce heat to low and cover to "sweat" vegetables until tender, about another 15 minutes.

Uncover, add tomatoes and 2 cans stock and simmer until vegetables are very tender, 20 to 30 minutes longer.

In food processor or blender, puree soup in batches until perfectly smooth. Add up to 1 more can of stock if soup is too thick. Taste and season to taste with salt and white pepper. Stir in cream, reheat and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about:

145 calories; 1454 mg sodium; 13 mg cholesterol; 6 grams fat; 23 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 2.06 grams fiber.

OPEN-FACED GRILLED GARLIC AND SQUASH SANDWICHES

4 cloves garlic

2 zucchini, cut lengthwise into 4 slices

2 yellow squash, cut lengthwise into 3 or 4 slices

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt, pepper

1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled and seeded

1 loaf crusty French bread

1 cup grated Swiss or Gruyere cheese

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Place garlic cloves, zucchini and yellow squash slices on very hot indoor grill or heavy cast-iron pan. Cook until vegetables and garlic begin to char (show black patches).

Remove vegetables from pan. Brush with just enough olive oil to moisten and season to taste with salt and pepper. When cool enough to handle, slice garlic thin and cut squash into 1/2-inch slices. Cut roasted red pepper into 1/2-inch slices. Set aside.

Cut bread into 4 equal pieces, then cut each piece in half, to form top and bottom pieces. Brush bread with remaining olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Divide 1/2 cup Gruyere evenly among pieces of bread, then distribute garlic slices, zucchini, yellow squash and red pepper slices evenly over garlic. Top with Parmesan and remaining 1/2 cup Gruyere. Heat under broiler until cheeses melt. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about:

463 calories; 708 mg sodium; 32 mg cholesterol; 22 grams fat; 49 grams carbohydrates; 19 grams protein; 1.51 grams fiber.

GINGER-PEACH PIE

PASTRY CRUST

1 1/4 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

6 tablespoons butter, cut into 6 pieces

1 egg, beaten

2 tablespoons cold water

Combine flour, ginger, salt and sugar in food processor. Pulse 2 or 3 times to mix well. Drop butter pieces into bowl and pulse on and off just until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add egg and water and process till mixture forms ball. Add little more water, tablespoon by tablespoon, if mixture doesn't come together.

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