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We have friends who have lived in Utah much longer than us and love food as much as we do. When they tell us a restaurant is good, we don’t question it. We just go and it never disappoints! That’s how we discovered La Jolla Groves. They have delicious, healthy food made of fresh, local ingredients. We were also told we MUST try their Creamy Mushroom Soup as a starter. Mushrooms are not Andy’s favorite but even he loved this soup! I wanted to lick my bowl, it was so good! I didn’t. I restrained myself, but the desire was there. It was so creamy and rich I just couldn’t believe there was no cream in it.

For some reason around Christmas time I was thinking about this soup and wondering how they get it to feel so rich without being full of cholesterol. The answer came to me in a vague memory I had of a Vegan cookbook I browsed through once that used cashew cream in place of heavy cream. A light bulb went off. I should try making Creamy Mushroom Soup using cashew cream! Now, I’m all for experimenting in the kitchen, but I also don’t like to waste time (or ingredients!) reinventing the wheel. I researched several recipes and it turns out there are already plenty out there using cashew cream! I decided on one to try from joythebaker.com. This is slightly modified as I thought her original recipe was FAR too peppery! That’s all personal preference though. I’m using mostly her directions but I have modified (ever so slightly) to how I made the soup.

The original recipe was vegan. Since we are not vegan I didn’t bother going out to purchase special ingredients like vegan Worcestershire sauce. I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t know that regular Worcestershire sauce is not vegan friendly! I also usually have Chicken stock on hand so I used that in place of vegetable stock, but obviously, this recipe was originally intended to be vegan so make it whichever way you like. I should also mention that most recipes I’ve seen for cashew cream call for soaking the cashews overnight or at least 4-6 hours. This recipe throws them with water into the blender on the spot. It worked well but do make sure you strain your soup just in case any little pieces of cashew did not blend completely.

So is this JUST like La Jolla Grove’s soup? No. But it is rich, creamy, and full of flavor. I took a spoonful to ‘sample’ it when it was done and couldn’t stop eating. Neither could Andy. We may not have even put it into bowls the first time I made it. We just kept eating it out of the pot. Hey, don’t judge, I was only making it for us anyways! Andy requested that I make this mushroom soup all the time and suggested that it’s okay not to have a recipe just like the restaurant’s. It means we will still be excited to go there from time to time and have their version as a treat. In the mean time, we think this is crazy good!

Creamy Mushroom Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • one pinch freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • salt to taste
  • For the Cashew Cream:
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup water

*Substitute Cashew Cream with 3/4 cup half and half or 8 ounces of silken tofu

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions to hot oil and saute until translucent and slightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic, stir, and cook for 1 minute more.  Add the mushrooms, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce and cook until mushrooms are cooked and broken down, about 5 minutes.  Stir occasionally.  Add cracked pepper and chicken or vegetable stock and cook at a simmer until mushrooms are completely soft.  About 10 to 15 minutes.

While the soup simmers, prepare the cashew cream.  In a blender, combine raw cashews and water.  Blend on high until smooth.  

When mushrooms are cooked through, add about one third of the soup to the blender with the cashew cream.  Hot soup rises high in the blender so definitely be careful how high you fill the blender.  Blend soup on low, increasing the speed to high, until no large mushroom chunks remain.  (Or if you have a blender like mine, just push the ‘soup’ button!) Pour blended soup into a clean pot or large bowl.  Blend the remaining soup in batches.  *If using silken tofu instead of cashew cream.  Blend the silken tofu in with the mushrooms and broth.

Place a fine mesh strainer over the pot that you cooked the soup in.  In batches, pour the blended soup into the fine mesh strainer and work the soup through the strainer with a rubber spatula.  Season with salt to taste. Heat and serve or place in a freezer safe container for a few weeks down the road.

While a big bowl of this would make a great meal, or a small bowl an elegant starter to a fancy dinner, this would also be great at a ‘small bites’ party. Serve it in espresso cups topped with a couple drops of olive oil or truffle oil and a some finely chopped chives.

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