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GOOD COOKING

Smooth, Elegant Soups

February 05, 1997|ABBY MANDEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Mandel is a cookbook author. Her latest book is "Celebrating the Midwestern Table" (Doubleday & Co., 1996)

Soups made in the blender are not only easy, they are super-smooth, which enhances their taste. A food processor cannot do the same job. At dinner parties, I serve these soups as first courses in small coffee or demitasse cups. They start an elegant meal off on just the right note.

Each of the soups--red bell pepper broth, butternut squash soup and celery root paired with common celery--have bold flavors but very little fat. Garnish them with minced fresh herbs--a sprinkling of parsley, cilantro, basil, thyme or snipped chives. Or try a swirl of cream or sour cream--the smallest amount will do the trick.

If you're using a food processor, it's best to strain off the liquid and puree the vegetables first. Once pureed, slowly add about 1 cup of the liquid through the feed tube to ensure that the mixture is as smooth as possible.

THE FOLLOWING RECIPES ARE: Low-Fat Cooking, Under 30 Minutes, It's a Snap

RED PEPPER BROTH

2 red bell peppers

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

1 red onion, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons sugar

2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans vegetable broth

1 teaspoon turmeric

Cayenne pepper

Peppers can be roasted ahead and kept for 2 days refrigerated, or frozen up to 1 month, wrapped airtight.

Cut off sides and bottoms of bell peppers to make flat slabs, following natural contours. Arrange skin-side-up on foil-lined baking sheet. Broil about 6 inches from heat until blackened. Wrap in foil, cool, then slip off skins.

Heat oil in 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, add peppers, onion and sugar. Cook, uncovered, until onion is caramelized but not browned, about 10 minutes, stirring often.

Add broth, turmeric and cayenne to taste. Simmer, covered, until vegetables are very soft, about 10 more minutes.

Puree mixture in blender or food processor until smooth. Adjust seasoning.

6 servings. Each serving:

42 calories; 614 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 2 grams fat; 4 grams carbohydrates; 0 protein; 0.22 gram fiber.

SIMPLE SQUASH SOUP

1/2 tablespoon oil

1 large onion, minced

1 1/4 cups peeled, cubed butternut squash

2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans low-sodium chicken broth

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

If you have left-over baked squash, substitute 1 cup for the 1 1/4 cup of the raw squash and the soup will cook in half the time.

Heat oil in 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, add onion and squash. Cook, uncovered, until onion is limp, about 8 minutes. Add broth. Simmer, covered, until squash is soft, about 20 minutes.

Puree mixture in blender or food processor until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

6 servings. Each serving:

44 calories; 438 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 2 grams fat; 6 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 0.52 gram fiber.

TWO CELERY SOUP

1 tablespoon oil

2 stalks celery, sliced

1 small celery root, peeled and cubed

1 onion, sliced

2 large cloves garlic, minced

2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans vegetable broth

1/4 to 1/2 cup water

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

Heat oil in 2-quart saucepan on medium-high heat. When hot, add celery, celery root, onion and garlic. Cook, uncovered, until heated through and fragrant, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add broth. Simmer, covered, until vegetables are very soft, about 20 minutes.

Puree mixture in blender or food processor until smooth. Return to pan. Add water if soup is too thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

6 servings. Each serving:

57 calories; 701 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 3 grams fat; 6 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.62 gram fiber.

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