As our Month of Soup draws to a close, I’ve saved a most special soup for the final offering. Many of this month’s soups are quick and easy to prepare from items you might already have on hand. Wild Rice Soup, although it is not difficult, will take a little planning as it has a few more components. The recipe is actually straight forward, and when you take the time to prepare it, it is much fun and well worth the effort!
Wild Rice Soup is Minnesota’s quintessential soup and wild rice is their official state grain. I first learned about Wild Rice Soup about 25 years ago when I was the personal chef for a most wonderful couple with roots in both Minneapolis and Malibu.
This is my favorite soup. So much so, that we served it at our wedding dinner when Paul and I were married. It’s that special a soup.
Over the years I have continued to refine the recipe, making it ever healthier yet retaining its original flavor. This recipe is for a vegetarian, gluten and almost dairy-free soup featuring a most delicious Mushroom Stock (recipe below), lots of vegetables and an incredibly rich Cashew Cream (recipe below).
Wild Rice is Oh So Nice!
First off, wild rice is not a grain but a grass, though like rice, it is gluten-free. Nutritionally, it has more protein, minerals and B vitamins than brown rice.
These gorgeous long black grains with their nutty flavor, chewy texture and nutrient density are quite a delicacy. As other areas south of Minnesota and the Great Lakes are commercially growing and mechanically harvesting wild rice, it has become more affordable. Though, the increasingly hard-to-find, hand-harvested organic wild rice is still considered by many to have superior flavor and aroma.
Mushroom Stock . . . Rocks
The quality of the stock makes a huge difference in the taste of the soup. And mushroom stock prepared with dried shiitakes and cremini mushrooms gives tremendous savoriness and depth of flavor. I have added a little curry powder to the stock as does Master Chef Thomas Keller to bring out the flavor of the mushrooms even more.
Having excellent quality shiitakes inspired me to prepare both a primary and a secondary stock—just as Japanese cooks do when they prepare dashi (the stock that is the basis of miso soup). Whereas their two stocks are for two different batches of soup, I suggest the primary stock for cooking the wild rice and the vegetables, and the secondary stock for preparing the Cashew Cream, and then combining everything together in the end.
For convenience, mushroom stock can be prepared in advance and refrigerated for a few days or frozen for up to 6 months.
Cashew Cream is A Dream
Cashew Cream is an even richer non-dairy substitute for cream than Almond Cream. The additional step of pre-soaking the cashews makes the final cream exceptionally smooth.
A Month of Soup & More
With soup, delicious and healthy definitely go together. Perhaps this Month of Soup has delighted and inspired you to prepare soup more often for family and friends, for truly “soup is good for what ails you.”
Wild Rice Soup w/ Cremini Mushrooms & Cashew Cream
Even with a number of healthful modifications to the recipe, the soup tastes very similar to the classic Minnesota Wild Rice Soup. Though, this recipe is for a soup that is gluten-free and vegetarian. There is a little butter for flavor, however if you prepare the soup without it, it will be both vegan as well as dairy-free with silky Cashew Cream replacing the more traditional cream or half and half.
When you prepare your own Mushroom Stock, allow an extra two hours as this is the stock in which the wild rice cooks. The good news, of course, is that this stock can be prepared a few days in advance. And, for that matter, the wild rice could also be prepared a few days in advance, as can the secondary stock.
Makes about 17 cups Printer-Friendly Recipe
1½ cups raw cashews
¾ cup wild rice
11 cups *unsalted mushroom stock, divided (recipes follow)
½ teaspoon salt
2 ounces butter plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
(OR ¼ cup olive oil for a vegan soup)
2 cups ¼-inch diced onion
2 cups 1/3-inch diced carrots
1½ cups 1/3-inch diced celery
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons salt
Dozen twists freshly ground pepper
3 cups (½ pound) 1/8-inch sliced cremini mushrooms
2/3 cup 1/8-inch diced red pepper
½ cup brown rice flour
Additional stock or water to thin the soup if necessary
Salt and pepper to taste
Finely chopped fresh parsley or a few whole leaves
Place the cashews in a bowl and cover them with cold water. Set them aside while you prepare the soup.
Wash the wild rice and put it along with 8 cups of the mushroom stock and ½ teaspoon salt into a pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat so the stock simmers, covered, for about 45 minutes until the rice is tender. Turn off the heat and keep the pot covered while you prepare the soup.
Heat the butter/olive oil or just olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, cover the pot and cook about 5 minutes until the onion is translucent. Stir in the carrots, celery and garlic. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons salt if you are using unsalted stock. (With salted stock, sprinkle with only ½ teaspoon salt.) Cook the vegetables uncovered for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in the sliced mushrooms and diced red pepper and cook another 2 minutes. Add the rice flour and cook two more minutes, stirring continuously to prevent the flour from sticking.
Remove 4 cups of stock from the cooked wild rice. Turn down the heat under the vegetables to very low. Slowly pour the stock into the vegetables, stirring continuously and scraping the bottom of the pot to incorporate any flour that did stick to the pan. When the soup is smooth and lump free add the wild rice and the rest of the stock in which it was cooked. Raise the heat so that the soup gently simmers.
Drain the cashews. Place half of them in the blender along with 1½ cups of the reserved mushroom stock and process on high for about three minutes until completely smooth. Pour into the soup and repeat with the remaining cashews and 1½ cups reserved stock.
Once all the cashew cream is stirred into the soup, add additional stock or water to thin the soup if necessary. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste..
*If you use salted stock or broth, do not add salt when cooking the wild rice, and use only ½ teaspoon salt when sautéing the vegetables. Taste and adjust the seasonings after you add the Cashew Cream and any additional stock or water.
Primary and Secondary Stocks
The idea of two stocks comes from the Japanese preparation of dashi, the basis of Japanese miso soup. As the ingredients still have flavor they are used a second time to create a secondary stock. The primary stock will be the stronger of the two.
The idea for a secondary mushroom stock came to me when I saw how beautiful and flavorful the shiitakes still were when I strained the stock. I combined them with the trim from the soup vegetables and simmered this secondary mushroom stock at the same time the wild rice was cooking. Again, this could be made in advance of preparing the soup.
Primary Mushroom Stock
Makes 8 cups
1½ cups yellow onion, unpeeled and coarsely chopped
1½ cups leek, coarsely sliced
1 cup celery, coarsely sliced
1 cup carrots, coarsely sliced
1 large clove garlic, peeled and smashed with the side of a knife blade
1 cup dried whole shiitake mushrooms (or other dried mushrooms)
½ pound cremini mushrooms, coarsely sliced (3 cups)
2 tablespoons olive oil
¾ teaspoon curry powder
9 parsley stems
1 large sprig fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
12 cups water
Heat the oil in a large soup pot. Stir in the vegetables and curry powder and cook over medium heat about 8 minutes until softened. Add the parsley stems, thyme, bay leaves and water. Bring the mixture to a boil, partially cover the pot and lower the heat so the stock gently simmers. Cook for one hour. Strain the stock through a fine strainer, pressing down on the solids. Discard all but the whole shiitakes. This stock can be made and refrigerated up to three days in advance or frozen for up to 6 months.
Secondary Mushroom Stock
Makes 3 cups
Combine the shiitakes from the primary stock in a pan with trimmings from vegetables you cut for the soup (except for the red pepper) along with 4 cups of water. Bring the stock to a boil. Partially cover the pot and lower the heat so the stock gently simmers. Cook for 45 minutes. Strain the stock through a fine strainer, pressing down on the solids before discarding them. Use this secondary stock for blending the Cashew Cream.