I’ve been in Chicago for the last week and splurged on an amazingly fun restaurant called Moto. The head chef is this crazy guy who basically scientifically deconstructs food flavors and reassembles them in a fun and quirky way. One of our 10 courses was a clear pretzel broth studded with freeze-dried scallions and cubed 4-year-old Wisconsin cheddar. Holding on to the flavors tight in my memory, I sought to recreate the soup to have at home. Check my Twitter feed @Vegetarianized for pictures and descriptions of all the courses, including a cigar and ash tray dish made of mushroom puree stuffed into a braised collard green, and “Cracker Jacks” of apple gnocchi, popcorn powder and caramel puree—plus a weeks’ worth of meals in Chicago with my Top 4 deep dish pie spots.
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Time: About 20 minutes active; less than two hours total
8 ounces salted pretzels, snapped in half (I used rods)
1 red onion, quartered
1/4 pound mushrooms, halved
1/4 pound carrots, cut into 2″ pieces and then halved
1/4 pound celery including leaves, cut into 2″ pieces and then halved
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 bay leaf
12 whole peppercorns
1 large sprig thyme
Salt to taste (I used 2 tablespoons)
3 scallions, sliced
4 ounces extra sharp cheddar (preferably 2–4 year aged), cubed (omit for a vegan soup)
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a large roasting/casserole pan, toss pretzels, onion, mushrooms, carrots, celery, pepper and extra virgin olive oil. Roast for 30 minutes, stirring half way.
2. When done roasting, put the pretzel-vegetable mixture in a large soup pot. Add 12 cups of water, garlic, bay leaf, peppercorns, thyme and heat over medium to medium-high heat, boil/simmer and reduce about one hour—pretzels should be completely dissolved. Adjust salt and other seasonings.
3. Remove thyme sprig and puree soup with a hand blender or in a food processor. Divide soup among bowls and top with scallions and cubed cheese.
Writer Bio: Adrienne D. Capps loves food AND is a vegetarian! These things are not mutually exclusive in her world. She is passionate about eating, drinking, cooking, teaching, reading about food and growing food. Her goal with her food blog, Vegetarianized.com, is to open up the world of vegetarian cooking and eating to the veg-friendly and the veg-curious in an accessible way. She promises never to try to convert or make you feel guilty—just that eating less meat can be part of a healthy, fun and, above all, tasty, lifestyle.