The first soup of autumn has a ceremonial air about it. Anticipating the shortening of days, the colder months ahead, the turning inward and search for warmth, I find myself at the stove once again to create seasonal food at its best.
The first soup of this fall, I knew would be chanterelle. In part because I am in love with this mushroom, and in part because the one I made last year, totally flopped. I tried going the traditional route with the cream and wine and heaviness, as I was intimidated by messing with what seemed like a good thing – cream of chanterelle soup is a classic, after all. I put a slight spin on things by adding a few tablespoons of my roasted hazelnut butter, which undoubtedly pushed that cream soup into the saturated fat stratosphere. It was so rich I couldn’t even eat it. A catastrophe!
So, I wiped the slate clean and began again; a year later and a year wiser. This time steering clear of any milk, cream, butter, and especially nut butter. What is the secret to the creaminess without the cream? By blending cooked beans with vegetable broth, you end up with a totally luxurious texture that mimics heavy cream, but is virtually fat free. In addition, beans deliver healthy, vegetarian protein and a serious dose of filling fiber. It feels like you are eating the richest soup of all time, but it’s just a delicious illusion that warms you up, fills you up, but won’t fill you out!
The Enchanted Chanterelle
Chanterelle mushrooms grow wild in forests on the ground around conifers and broadleaf trees, and like cool, damp climates. This time of year, depending on where you live, you’ll find little golden trumpets blooming out of the earth announcing that autumn has arrived. You can forage for chanterelles if you are so inclined, but make sure you know what you are doing – there are several poisonous look-alikes out there! If you do not have an experienced forager with you, stick to buying them fresh or dried at the grocery store.
Chanterelles have a very meaty texture and rich flavor, which makes them a satisfying alternative to meat-based soups. They contain all the essential amino acids, so they are an excellent choice for vegetarians. Due to its high vitamin A content, chanterelles have traditionally been used to treat night blindness, ophthalmia, and dry skin. Studies have shown that an extract of these mushrooms can inhibit the growth of certain tumors. 
Vegan Chanterelle Cream Soup
1 Tbsp Flavor-neutral coconut oil (or ghee)
1 large yellow onion
1 tsp fresh or dried thyme
4 cloves garlic
200 g chanterelle mushrooms (scant ½ lb)
Juice of ½ lemon
3 cups vegetable stock
1½ cups white beans (navy, butter, cannelini, great northern)
2 Tbsp light spelt flour (or other light whole grain flour)
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Chop onions and leeks. Heat ghee or oil in a large cooking pot, add onions, leeks, a good pinch of sea salt and thyme. Cook 5 minutes until onions and leeks are soft. Mince garlic, add it to the pot, and stir.
2. While the onions, leeks, and garlic are cooking, clean chanterelles by removing any dirt, or natural debris with a damp cloth (do not wash them in water). Chop the mushrooms that are large, leaving the smaller ones intact.
3. Deglaze the bottom of the pot with the juice of half a lemon. Add the clean chanterelles and stir, cooking on medium heat for about five minutes.
4. Meanwhile, combine vegetable stock and beans in a blender, and blend on high until creamy. Add flour and blend until the flour is completely incorporated.
5. When the mushrooms are cooked, remove a few from the pot for garnish. Add the stock and bean blend, stir well and bring to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes.
6. At this point you can either serve the soup, or purée it. I took half the soup and blended it, while leaving the other half chunky. This creates a velvety soup broth, but still has some texture to it. It’s up to you! Dilute with a little water or vegetable stock if too thick.
7. Season to taste with plenty of freshly ground black pepper and sea salt if necessary. Ladle soup into bowls, garnish with the cooked chanterelles, a drizzle of good olive oil, and some fresh thyme sprigs. Serve hot.
Source:  Balch, Phyllis A. Prescription for Dietary Wellness. New York, NY: Penguin, 2003.