A bowl of warm mushroom soup is the perfect antidote to bracing weather and nipping winds during the cold winter months.

It's velvety texture and delicate hues are comforting reminders of childhood for many, and serving this simple soup in a glass mug with a Parmesan Foam makes it a sophisticated part of any meal.

The CIA's recipe for cream of mushroom soup is made lighter by cutting back on the amount of butter and cream, and then relying on the pureed vegetables to add texture to the soup.

More "exotic" varieties of mushrooms, such as cèpes (porcini), cremini, and oyster, work well in this soup, as do regular white mushrooms.

Use a combination or a single variety, depending on what's available, and which ones are your favorites.

Garnishes for cream soups are usually a diced meat or vegetable that reflects the major flavoring ingredient. The CIA's cream of mushroom soup is typically garnished with mushrooms, leeks, or celery.

You can also add other ingredients such as chopped sweet red pepper and egg whites to give added color. You may also opt to finish the soup with a touch of sherry instead of the lemon juice.

Cream

of Mushroom Soup

Makes 8 servings

7 tablespoons butter

8 cups chopped mushrooms (about 1 pounds)

cup finely chopped celery

1 cups thinly sliced leek (white part only)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

5 cups chicken broth

1 fresh thyme sprig

1 cup sliced mushrooms

1/2 cup heavy cream, heated

Fresh lemon juice, as needed

Salt to taste

Freshly ground white pepper, as needed

Optional Garnishes:

cup small diced peeled red pepper, sautéed until tender

cup chopped hard-boiled egg whites

cup leeks sautéed until tender

cup celery sautéed until tender

cup sliced mushrooms sautéed until tender

Parmesan Foam (recipe follows)

Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Add chopped mushrooms, celery, and leek. Cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 to 4 minutes. Whisk in broth gradually. Add thyme sprig, bring to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter in a skillet. Add sliced mushrooms and sauté until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve.

Remove and discard the thyme. Purée soup, then strain through cheesecloth or a fine sieve. Return soup to the soup pot and place over low heat. Add heavy cream and season to taste with lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Heat, but do not boil. Serve in heated bowls, garnished with the reserved cooked mushrooms.

Nutritional information per 8-ounce serving without garnishes: 200 calories, 17g total fat, 5g protein, 140mg sodium, 10g total carbohydrate, 1g dietary fiber

Parmesan Foam

Makes approximately 1 1/2 cups

1 cup 2 percent milk

1/2 teaspoon soy lecithin

1 cup grated Parmesan Cheese

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper

cup low sodium chicken broth (you may substitute mushroom broth)

Combine milk and soy lecithin in a saucepan; scald the milk. Remove from heat and whisk in cheese, garlic, and pepper. Steep mixture at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Strain the milk and discard the cheese and seasonings. Pour liquid into a 1-quart measuring cup and froth with an emersion blender until foam develops. Spoon foam on top of soup.

This recipe is adapted from The Culinary Institute of America's The New Book of Soups (Lebhar-Friedman Books, 2010) www.ciaprochef.com/fbi/books.html [1].