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Chestnut & Mushroom Soup Recipe

Nothing says winter like chestnuts. Roasting on the open fire, and all that. This creamy combination sounds wonderful -- a perfect starter to a Thanksgiving meal.

Adapted from Chocolate & Zucchini, by Clotilde Dusoulier (Broadway Books, 2007)

Ingredients:
1 tablespoons olive oil
2 small shallots - sliced
1 clove hard neck garlic - minced
1 leek - white parts only - trimmed, cut in 1/2-inch slices, and rinsed
3 tablespoons Zinfandel vinegar
1 15-ounce peeled and cooked, vacuum-packed chestnuts
1 pound cremini mushrooms - brushed clean and stems cut off
a pinch chili powder
6 cups vegetable stock
sea salt to taste
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
flat-leaf parsley for garnish
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the shallots, garlic and leek. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until softened. Deglaze with vinegar.

2. Pat chestnuts dry with a paper towel. Add chestnuts to pot and cook for 4 minutes, gently stirring occasionally, until chestnuts are lightly golden.

3. Slice all mushrooms but two, and add them to the pot. Add chili powder if desired. Pour in the stock and season with salt. Bring to a simmer, cover, lower the heat to a medium-low, and cook for 20-30 minuted, until the vegetables are soft.

4. Let the soup cool for a few minutes. Puree the soup until the soup is smooth with just a few remaining chunks. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, taste, and adjust the seasoning. Reheat and ladle into bowls. Cut the reserved mushrooms in slices, and chop the parsley leaves roughly. Place a mushroom slice on the surface of each bowl, sprinkle with parsley and a touch of freshly ground pepper and serve.

serves 4-6
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