Parmesan Artichoke Soup —
It seems the “Heart” continues as my theme for February. Last post I created a recipe for a healthier chocolate mousse, connecting the love of chocolate with Valentine’s Day and pairing it with the love and care of our own hearts, in recognition of American Heart Month. Now my attention is turning from chocolate to artichokes which ironically still fit the theme, because deep inside every artichoke is a coveted heart! A good artichoke soup is on my radar.
My inspiration comes from the Nordstrom Cafe where I had the divine experience of communing with an old friend over Parmesan Artichoke Soup.
“The Artichoke: the only vegetable with a heart buried deep inside.”
The Nordstrom Cafe is my favorite go-to destination for lunch. First of all, it’s in Nordstrom’s – that usually gets my pulse racing – AND I have to pass the incredible shoe department to get there. Need I go on? Anyway, the Cafe is the sort of place that’s welcoming and intimate, secluded in a corner of the store that makes you feel like you’ve discovered treasure. It’s a sublime destination for meeting my best gal pals because we meet for lunch but end up sharing so much more than yummy soup, composed salads and relaxing glasses of wine. We share in each other’s lives – our joys, our dreams, our doubts and troubles. Sometimes we end up laughing so hard we can’t see straight. Other times it’s just a gentle nod and a knowing glance that says, “I’m here for you,” in a way that offers the kind of love and support only a trusted friend can provide.
Nordstrom is known for their signature Tomato Bisque soup. A second soup is featured, and rotated daily. During a recent visit Parmesan Artichoke Soup was the soup de jour. I love artichokes prepared in almost any way, so the decision was easy – I knew what I was having! One bite and I was transported to heaven; it was so delicious I could have licked the bowl. It had an interesting creamy base that hinted of Parmesan, accompanied chunky pieces of artichokes, carrots and red peppers. I couldn’t get that soup out of my head, it was that good. It became my muse – my inspiration. Following the process I’ve done a million times as a graphic designer, I began to deconstruct it, in order to understand its appeal. My goal was to create a similar but lighter version of it in my own kitchen.
Challenge: Find a replacement for cream
I knew the original version was made with heavy cream, giving the soup its velvety texture and enhancing the serious yum factor. My challenge was to find a suitable substitute. I began tinkering and tweaking, starting with a can of low-fat evaporated milk. Most cream-based soups are thickened by a traditional roux – a mixture of flour and butter added to the base along with cream. I figured evaporated milk was a good start because 60% of the water has been removed. The result was still not the consistency I was seeking – it was too thin. The solution was found inside a box of Trader Joe’s Garlic Butter Mashed Potatoes hidden deep inside my pantry. Adding potato flakes became the perfect ticket – they added body to the soup, mirroring the consistency of the cafe version. I made another tweak by adding cooked cubed chicken breast, turning my version of this chunky filling bisque into a complete meal and a close match to the original. Sage drop biscuits and a glass of Pinot Grigio became the perfect accompaniment for this gorgeous soup that was now lighter in calories but still amazingly rich in taste.
Delicious Artichoke TRIVIA . . .
- According to legend, the artichoke was created when the smitten Greek god Zeus turned his object of affection into a thistle after being rejected.
- The artichoke is a perennial thistle that originated in the Mediterranean.
- The Greeks and Romans considered them to be an aphrodisiac.
- Artichokes are also packed with antioxidants; they’re number 7 on the USDA’s top 20 antioxidant-rich foods list.
- California produces 100% of the United States artichoke crop, with Castroville, calling itself the “Artichoke Center of the World.”
- In 1947 Marilyn Monroe, still going by her given name Norma Jean, was crowned Castroville’s first Artichoke Queen.
weight watcher SMART POINTS
PREP TIME - Minutes
COOK TIME - Minutes
- 1 TBS. olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 cup celery, chopped
- 2 cups carrots, diced
- 1 cup red pepper, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbs. dried thyme
- ¾ Tsp. salt
- ½ Tsp. pepper
- 2 Tbs. tomato paste
- 2 Tbs. flour
- 1 Tbs. corn starch
- 8 cups chicken stock
- 1 15 oz. can of artichokes, drained and chopped – reserve liquid
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 can low-fat evaporated milk
- ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (not in oil)
- 2 cups diced chicken breast
- ¼ cup instant mashed potatoes flakes (I used Trader Joe’s Garlic Butter)
- In large stock pot heat the the olive oil and sauté the onion, celery, carrots and red pepper until tender. Add the garlic, thyme, salt, pepper and tomato paste - stir to incorporate, then cook 1 minute longer.
- Mix the flour and corn starch together, sprinkle over the top of the vegetables, then stir and cook for an additional minute.
- Gradually add chicken stock and artichoke liquid. Stir continuously until incorporated. Add 2 bay leaves. Cook until soup comes to a boil.
- Reduce heat. Whisk in can of evaporated milk (shake well before opening). Add Parmesan cheese. Keep whisking until cheese is well incorporated. Add chopped artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes and cooked chicken. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes until flavors are blended.
- Sprinkle potato flakes on top of soup, stir to incorporate. In a few minutes the soup should thicken into a hearty chowder. Cook an additional 10 minutes. If you like the soup even thicker, add additional potato flakes one tablespoon at a time. Discard bay leaves before serving.
More Inspiring Recipes:
- Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Baby Artichokes | Cooking Light
- Artichoke Risotto with Mascarpone, Lemon, and Thyme | Martha Stewart
- Artichoke and Fennel Caponata | Cooking Light
- Baked Lemon and Feta Artichoke Dip | Martha Stewart
- Lemon Artichoke Pesto | Yummly
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