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by Dana Jacobi
for The American Institute for Cancer Research
In classic French cooking,
the kind Julia Child taught us to make during the 1960s, cream
was not simply an ingredient. The more of it used the better.
It was lavish amounts of cream, for example, that turned rustic
and hearty leek and potato soup into vichyssoise, an elegant
dish for sophisticated gourmets.
When I was a teenager and went
with my parents to French restaurants, ordering vichyssoise made
me feel very grown up. I should add that leeks were still so
unfamiliar that they, too, were considered a gourmet ingredient.
While I liked the flavor of the leeks, I did not enjoy the coating
that the cream left in my mouth.
Ironically, around the time
Julia became a culinary star, health experts began educating
us about the unhealthy effects of saturated fat in foods like
dairy products. Fortunately, top chefs, including Julia, took
up the challenge of making food that is both good for us and
is as pleasing as classical cooking, without using cream and
butter. Frequently, they did this by using rich broths and vegetable
In later books, Julia eliminated
the cup of cream from her original vichyssoise recipe. She substituted
an extra pureed potato, which supplied all the creaminess required.
Later versions of the vichyssoise recipe call for just a dollop
of sour cream as well, but only as an optional garnish.
When I tried this leaner way
of cooking, I loved that it also made it possible to taste more
of the vegetables flavor. See for yourself in this Potato
and Watercress Soup with Shrimp, a very contemporary successor
to potage au cresson, a traditional variation on vichyssoise.
The chicken broth is an important
part of this soups flavor. Brands labeled reduced
sodium generally contain other ingredients that offer flavor
without relying on excess sodium, which has contributed to the
problem of hypertension for so many Americans. Serve this soup
well chilled on hot summer days and hot on cool evenings.
and Watercress Soup with Shrimp - Makes 4 servings.
(adapted from the New American Plate Cookbook)
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 bunch watercress, (tough
lower stems removed) washed and well drained
- 3 medium potatoes (about 1
lb.), peeled and diced
- 4 cups fat-free, reduced sodium
- Salt and freshly ground black
- 8 large shrimp, cooked, peeled,
deveined, and halved
In a large, heavy pan, heat
the olive oil over medium-high heat. Stir in the onion and sauté
about 4 to 5 minutes, until translucent. Do not let the onion
Add the watercress, stirring
for about 2 minutes or until wilted. Add the potatoes and chicken
broth. Bring the soup to a boil, immediately reduce the heat
and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables
are soft. Remove the pot from the heat and allow the soup to
In a blender or food processor,
purée the soup in batches until it is creamy and smooth.
Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper.
Return to pot and reheat. Ladle
the soup into individual bowls. Arrange 4 shrimp halves on top
of each bowl and serve. The soup can also be served cold after
chilling in the refrigerator in a covered container at least
4 hours and up to 2 days. If served cold, let soup stand at room
temperature until just slightly chilled, about 30 minutes, which
will release the flavors. (Very cold temperatures mask the flavors
of soups and makes them taste bland.)
Per serving: 168 calories,
4 g. total fat (<1 g. saturated fat), 27 g. carbohydrate,
8 g. protein, 2 g. dietary fiber, 573 mg. sodium.
Something Different is written by Dana Jacobi, author
of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICRs New
American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy
AICRs Nutrition Hotline
is a free service that
allows you to ask a registered dietitian questions about diet,
nutrition and cancer. Access it online at www.aicr.org/hotline or by phone (1-800-843-8114)
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday-Friday. AICR is the only major cancer
charity focused exclusively on the link between diet, nutrition
and cancer. It provides education programs that help Americans
learn to make changes for lower cancer risk. AICR also supports
innovative research in cancer prevention and treatment at universities,
hospitals and research centers. It has provided more than $82
million for research in diet, nutrition and cancer. AICRs
Web address is www.aicr.org.
JUNE 6, 2006