This warm, hearty soup was inspired by a recipe I tasted at the Produce Marketing Association‘s Fresh Summit in October, at the Giorgio mushroom booth. It’s perfect on a cold winter’s day with a dollop of vegan creme fraiche (like sour cream). The heat of the soup wilts the spinach, so you get all the health benefits of fresh spinach in a bowl of toasty goodness.
It’s been very cold in San Diego this winter, with temperatures in the low 40s every night. While that’s not cold compared to other locales, most houses are not insulated and many people don’t have heat, so it’s pretty nippy. I’ve been making tons of hot soups to ward off the chill, and this one was so delicious I had to renovate it to make it vegan. I thought topping it with a little creme fraiche to stir in would add just the right amount of decadence, but you can skip this if you like.
Creamy spinach and mushroom soup with vegan creme fraiche
Makes 6 servings
1 T. (15 ml) olive oil
1 white, yellow, or brown onion
2 cloves garlic
16 oz. (450 g) chopped cremini mushrooms, divided
1/4 C. (60 ml) marsala wine
3 C. (750 ml) low-sodium vegetable broth (or beany-brothy deliciousness)
1 C. (250 ml) low-fat coconut milk
1 C. (225 g) red lentils
1-1/2 T. (20 ml) Bragg’s liquid aminos or tamari
1 bay leaf
1/2 t. (1 g) sea salt
pinch each: black pepper, savory, thyme, fennel, basil, lavender (whatever you have, dried or fresh)
a handful of fresh spinach leaves per serving
To clean the leek: Cut off the green top and compost it. Slice the leek in half lengthwise, leaving the root end intact. Hold the leek upside-down under the tap, and wash all the dirt from in between the layers. If it’s a very dirty leek, you might have to cut off the root end and separate all the pieces. Roughly chop the leek.
Peel the onion, cut in half, and roughly chop.
Smash the garlic cloves under the flat side of a large chef’s knife, remove the papery skin, and roughly chop.
Clean the mushrooms using a damp paper towel or damp kitchen towel. Thinly slice about a quarter of them (4 oz./115 g) and set aside. Roughly chop the rest.
Heat the oil in a large heavy saute pan over medium heat and add the leek and onions. Cook for about five minutes until tender, then add the garlic and cook for another minute. You want it to be golden brown, not starting to burn.
Add the chopped mushrooms and cook for about 10 minutes, until they have released their moisture. Add the wine to deglaze the pan, cooking and stirring occasionally until the wine is absorbed.
Add the vegetable broth, coconut milk, lentils, Bragg’s, bay leaf, sea salt, and herbs and simmer for 30 minutes until the lentils are tender.
[Make the vegan creme fraiche at this point, so you can use what's left in the blender to add creaminess to the soup.]
Remove the bay leaf and pour the soup into a blender, using a spatula to get the pan clean. Blend until very smooth.
Add a small amount of wine or oil to the pan and cook the reserved sliced mushrooms until golden. If you wish, set aside a few of these to garnish the top of each serving.
Add the soup back into the pan to warm it up if needed. Snip a few handfuls of fresh spinach leaves directly into the soup just before serving, stirring in. Top each serving with a dollop of creme fraiche.
Vegan creme fraiche
Makes about 1 cup
1/2 C. (60 g) raw cashews
1 t. (2 g) sea salt
Soak the cashews for one hour. Drain.
Drain the soaked cashews and put them into your blender with the juice from the lemon and the salt. Blend, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed. (Use the tamper if you have a Vitamix.) The mixture should end up a very smooth sour cream consistency. If you need to, add a little bit of filtered water to get it to blend. Blend until it is velvety smooth.
Scrape out the cashew mixture into a storage bowl. DO NOT WASH THE BLENDER, use it to blend the soup.
Store the vegan creme fraiche refrigerated for up to 3 days.
Notes: The original recipe called for sherry, but I prefer the taste of marsala wine. If you don’t have either, use a dry white wine. You can use any combination of button (white) mushrooms, shiitake, oyster, and cremini or baby bella mushrooms. The more exotic mushrooms are more expensive but do add amazing layers of flavor. If you can buy them loose, use them for the garnish at the end. The creme fraiche is similar to my sour cream recipe, except there is more lemon juice, a little more salt, and you soak the cashews longer.
All of our recipes are gluten-free, sugar-free, and made with plant-based ingredients to help you build a healthy life. We support Meatless Monday. Look for midweek essays and Friday giveaways (when available).
I buy my Bragg’s in very large bottles, and refill a small one to use when I cook.