When hearty winter vegetables are pureed into smooth, creamy soups, they’re often weighed down by too much butter or cream, which can dull the flavors. But around the world, many cooks still produce rich, creamy soups in other ways — no dairy required. Pureed pumpkin seeds and barely cooked zucchini create an intensely creamy, bright green soup, which we flavor with dill and top with more seeds for texture. Almonds lend body and fruity flavor to a harissa-spiced cauliflower soup, which we brighten with fresh cilantro and lemon juice. And an unusual combination of rosemary and ginger pairs deliciously with the natural sweetness of carrot and onion, which we shred to speed cooking and make pureeing a breeze.
1. Harissa-Spiced Cauliflower-Almond Soup
Makes 4 to 6 servings
Almonds toasted in olive oil with harissa (use the spice blend, not the paste) serve double duty here, first as a base for the flavor-packed vegetarian soup and then as a garnish that adds contrasting texture. Simmered and pureed with tender cauliflower, the nuts add a unique richness and body. If you own an immersion blender, the soup can be pureed directly in the pot.
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1½ cups sliced almonds
2 tablespoons harissa spice blend
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2½-pound head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into 1-inch chunks
¼ cup lemon juice
1 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro, chopped
In a large pot, cook the oil, almonds, and harissa, stirring, until the oil bubbles. Set aside ½ cup of the mixture. Add the onion and cauliflower to the pot. Cook, stirring, until the cauliflower begins to soften. Add 7 cups water and 1 tablespoon salt, then boil. Cover and cook until fully tender. Use a blender to puree in batches, then return to the pot. Add the lemon juice and reheat. Season with salt. Serve topped with the cilantro and the reserved almond mixture.
2. Carrot Soup With Rosemary and Ginger
Makes 4 servings
The unusual combination of rosemary and ginger is delicious with the sweetness of carrots. We shred both the carrots and the onion so the vegetables soften quickly and puree easily. Use the large holes on a box grater or, for speed, the shredding disk of a food processor. If you own an immersion blender, use it to puree the soup directly in the pan.
1 tablespoon neutral oil
1½ pounds carrots (5 or 6 medium), peeled and shredded
1 medium yellow onion, shredded
2 cups carrot juice, plus more if needed
2 rosemary sprigs
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled, cut into 2 coins, and smashed
Greek yogurt or sour cream, to serve
In a large saucepan, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the carrots, onion, and ½ teaspoon salt, then cook, stirring, until lightly browned. Add the juice, rosemary, and ginger, then simmer, covered, until tender. Off heat, discard the rosemary and ginger. Using a blender, puree until smooth, then return to the pan. If desired, thin with additional carrot juice. Reheat, then season with salt. Serve topped with yogurt or sour cream.
3. Creamy Zucchini and Pumpkin Seed Soup
Makes 4 servings
At Restoran August in Varazdin, Croatia, chef Goran Jelusic taught us this simple soup. It gets its richness from toasted pumpkin seeds that are simmered then pureed with zucchini; together they yield a silky, velvety texture. Fresh dill and lemon zest lift and brighten the flavors.
Our inspiration recipe uses pumpkin seed oil; if you can find it, use it in place of the olive oil — it will heighten the nuttiness of the toasted seeds. Vegetable broth and chicken broth work equally well here, so use whichever you prefer.
Avoid overcooking the zucchini. A brief simmer is key for vivid flavor and color. Be sure to blend the soup mixture in batches. If the blender jar is too full, the steam may loosen the lid and cause splattering.
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or pumpkin seed oil
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 medium yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 pounds zucchini, trimmed, halved lengthwise, and cut into ½-inch pieces (7 cups)
1 bunch fresh dill, stems and leaves chopped, reserved separately
1 quart low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, plus 1 lemon cut into wedges
Crème fraîche, to serve (optional)
In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, combine the oil and pumpkin seeds. Cook, stirring often, until fragrant and lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a small bowl; set aside.
To the pot over medium heat, add the onion and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until evenly moistened, about 1 minute. Add the zucchini and dill stems, stirring well, then stir in the broth and 2/3 cup of the toasted pumpkin seeds. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to medium and cook, uncovered and stirring, at a vigorous simmer, until the zucchini is translucent, 5 to 10 minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat and cool for 5 minutes. Using a blender and working in batches so the jar is never more than half full, puree until smooth; transfer each batch to a large bowl.
Wipe out the pot, then pour in the puree. Cook over low, stirring often, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Off heat, stir in the dill leaves and lemon zest, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls, dollop with crème fraîche (if using), and sprinkle with the remaining 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds. Serve with lemon wedges.
Christopher Kimball is the founder of Milk Street, home to a magazine, school, and radio and television shows. Globe readers get 12 weeks of complete digital access, plus two issues of Milk Street print magazine, for just $1. Go to 177milkstreet.com/globe. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.