Soups

Posted October 4, 2017

Soup: Simple Yet Sophisticated

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Carrots are perhaps best known for their rich supply of the antioxidant nutrient: beta-carotene, which has been shown to protect against macular degeneration and senile cataracts. The word “carrot” has its origins in the Greek word “karoton,” as “kar” describes anything with a horn-like shape. Many believe carrots were named after beta-carotene, which is found in abundance in this vegetable. However, the opposite actually holds true; beta-carotene was named after carrots.

And just as impressive, vitamin A and antioxidants protect the skin from sun damage; while deficiencies of said mineral cause dryness to the skin, hair and nails. Plus, vitamin A prevents premature wrinkling, acne, dry skin, pigmentation, blemishes and uneven skin tone. A downright superstar in my humble opinion.

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As an additional topping, we sprinkled a bit of spicy pepitas on the surface.

In addition to this root vegetable’s other benefits, it’s no surprise that in a Harvard University study, people who ate five or more carrots a week were less likely to suffer a stroke than those who ate only one or less of these orange wonders a month. So strap on your feedbag and indulge in a bowl of this luscious, healthy soup.

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I doubled the batch when making the soup. The recipe below is for a single batch.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
  • 1 cup chopped white onion
  • 1 pound large carrots, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 2 2/3 cups)
  • 2 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt, stirred to loosen

Directions

  1. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 2 minutes.
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  2. Mix in carrots. Add broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until carrots are very tender, about 20 minutes.
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  3. Stir cumin seeds in small skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes; cool. Finely grind in spice mill.
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  4. Remove soup from heat. Puree in batches in blender until smooth. Return to same pan.
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  5. Whisk in honey, lemon juice, and allspice. Season with salt and pepper.
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    Even though the instructions didn’t call for it, I added in half of the toasted cumin powder at this point, saving the remainder as a topping.
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  6. Ladle soup into bowls. Drizzle yogurt over; sprinkle generously with cumin.

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With your spoon, swirl in a dollop of yogurt and some smoked cumin.

Recipe by The Bon Appétit Test Kitchen

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Posted January 17, 2017

Lemony Carrot and Cauliflower Soup

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Here’s the perfect antidote to brighten up a short, cold, Winter’s Day. Most Sunday’s when we have the opportunity, Russ likes to throw together a soup that incorporates any one of our homemade stocks. When we came upon this Lemony Carrot and Cauliflower Soup by New York Times chef/author Melissa Clark, we knew it was “the one” for the upcoming week.

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Russ chops parts of a whole chicken, the bony parts of which he’ll add to his collection of other chicken parts to make stock. The main chicken parts we used in our Umbrian-Style Chicken dinner…

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The finished stock cools in the pressure cooker.

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The stock is strained into a colander lined with cheese cloth.

Since we were out of chicken stock, it prompted us to make another batch, now quite simple and less time consuming since we own a pressure cooker. While the stock was cooking, we prepped the soup ingredients, knowing that we’d include 4 cups of the homemade stock in place of water.

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Even though there’s not a drop of dairy, it is super creamy and luscious! The addition of miso paste and crushed coriander to the broth zips things up without negating the comfort factor. The flavors all come together in the end with the final lemon juice, sea salt, cilantro, and smoky chili powder, so I highly recommend you don’t omit these ingredients.

The beauty of a soup like this—other than its bone-warming properties—is that you don’t need a recipe. You can pretty much simmer together any combination of vegetables with a little water or broth, purée it, top it with good olive oil and salt, and end up with something good to eat.

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While the stock was cooking, we prepped the soup ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more for serving
  • 1 large white onion, peeled and diced (2 cups)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 5 medium carrots (1 pound), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (2 cups)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, more as needed
  • 3 tablespoons white miso
  • 1 small (or half of a large) head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, more to taste
  • Smoky chile powder, for serving
  • Coarse sea salt, for serving
  • Cilantro leaves, for serving

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In a large, dry pot over medium heat, toast coriander seeds until fragrant and dark golden-brown, 2 to 3 minutes.

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Add the carrots and crushed coriander to the pot of cooked onions and garlic.

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Five minutes after the broth is added, stir in cauliflower and cook, covered, over medium-low heat until the vegetables are very tender, about 10 minutes.

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Using an immersion blender, purée the soup until smooth.

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As a topper, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with chile, sea salt and cilantro leaves.

Directions

  1. In a large, dry pot over medium heat, toast coriander seeds until fragrant and dark golden-brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a mortar and pestle and coarsely crush.
  2. Return the pot to medium heat. Add the oil and heat until warm. Stir in onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly colored, 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute.
  3. Add carrots, crushed coriander, salt and 6 cups water to the pot (we used 4 cups stock and 2 cups water). Stir in the miso until it dissolves. Bring mixture to a simmer and cook, uncovered, 5 minutes. Stir in cauliflower and cook, covered, over medium-low heat until the vegetables are very tender, about 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the soup from the heat. Using an immersion blender, purée the soup until smooth. (Alternatively, you can let soup cool slightly then purée it in batches in a food processor or blender.) If necessary, return the puréed soup to the heat to warm through. Stir in the lemon zest and juice just before serving. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with chile, sea salt and cilantro leaves.

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Posted January 11, 2017

Soup with Gut-Healing Benefits

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Turkey and Vegetable Soup calls for “riced” cauliflower, which just means finely grated until the cauliflower is in pieces basically the size of rice. It gives the soup a nice hearty texture—a great trick for any vegetable-based soup that needs to be a little more filling. And many grocery stores sell it already packaged in the produce section so you don’t have to spend time ricing it yourself.

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Depending on what vegetables you have lying around, this dish can absorb almost anything. Throw in whatever’s in the fridge, and if it starts getting too dense, well, just add more stock! And you know how I always sing the praises of homemade stock (which can be done in a pressure cooker for fast gratification.) Our last batch came compliments of a huge turkey carcass (with quite a bit of meat left on it) from our good friends Rosanne and Gary. Thanks guys!

They removed it from their freezer where it had been residing since Thanksgiving. Several weeks later we were the lucky recipients and we threw it into our freezer until such time it was convenient to make the stock—which happened to be in early January. And a week after that, Russ got around to making the soup. If you don’t have access to an entire carcass, get some bony turkey parts: necks, backs, and/or wings. You can usually ask a butcher to save them for you, or try purchasing them at a local Asian market.

Homemade turkey stock adds flavor—and other good stuff—to the broth, and also ekes every last bit of flavor out of the bird bones. The gut-healing benefits of the stock also make this one a great option if your holiday feasting was a little bit hard on your digestion. Cooking the vegetables provides most of the nutrients in a form that’s easier on the stomach, and soup in general is a nice light meal to follow up a day of impressive eating—and makes for great workday lunches too!

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Soup Ingredients

  • 2 cups leftover turkey, chopped;
  • 1 onion, diced;
  • 3 to 4 carrots, diced;
  • 2 parsnips, diced;
  • 2 celery stalks, diced;
  • 1 cup cauliflower, riced;
  • 1 ½ cups cabbage, shredded;
  • 2 bay leaves;
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced;
  • 2 tsp. ground sage;
  • 1 tsp. thyme;
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper;
  • Turkey stock

Stock Ingredients

  • 1 turkey carcass or 5 lbs. turkey parts (preferably bony parts, like necks and backs);
  • 2 yellow onions, quartered;
  • 2 celery ribs, cut into big chunks;
  • 2 carrots, cut into big chunks;
  • 4 garlic cloves;
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme;
  • 1 bay leave;
  • 4 quarts cold water;
  • Freshly ground black pepper

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Directions

  1. Place the turkey carcass or parts in a saucepan, add all the remaining ingredients for the stock, and season to taste with pepper.
  2. Fill the saucepan with water and bring to a boil.
  3. Lower heat to a light simmer, and simmer 4 to 8 hours. (adding water if necessary).
  4. Strain the stock with a fine mesh sieve, throwing away all the remaining ingredients. Set aside the stock for now.
  5. Pick through the carcass. Remove any meat you find, and add it to the meat for the soup.
  6. Add all the ingredients for the soup in a large saucepan. Fill the pan with the turkey stock, and season to taste.
  7. Bring to a simmer, and simmer 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Recipe adapted from PaleoLeap.com

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Posted January 3, 2017

A Hartman Riff on an Italian Classic

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Everyone loves Italian Wedding Soup including us, but when we stumbled upon this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated we were intrigued by the atypical aromatics of anise and fennel as opposed to the standard celery and carrots. And according to the original directions, the broth gets simmered with ground pork and beef for a savory note. Although our grocery store didn’t have ground pork so Russ picked up meatloaf mix which included veal, beef and pork.

Skipping the fuss of a typical brodo doesn’t have to mean sacrificing flavor. By doctoring commercial chicken broth, you get comparably rich-tasting results in under an hour. HOWEVER, after reading the instructions, we could not fathom the thought of throwing away the meat once the broth was done! Instead we used our own homemade chicken stock which added plenty of flavor on its own, along with some prepackaged beef stock.

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For the meatballs, beating the ground meat in a stand mixer distributes fat and moisture evenly so they have a springy bite. Plus, a few umami-packed ­porcini mushrooms and Worcestershire sauce amp up the broth’s meaty flavor. Substituting kale for the usual escarole was a “feel-good-about-yourself” swap—and a tasty one at that.

Without any fresh oregano on hand, we incorporated the dried herb, which had been picked directly from our garden in the fall and dehydrated, so it was “fresh” dried. Since Russ ordered about 30 packages of gluten-free pasta shapes a few months ago through Amazon.com, we have quite a selection and one of them was ditalini!

NOTES:
It’s best to use a rasp-style grater to process the onion and garlic for the meatballs.
Tubettini or orzo can be used in place of the ditalini.
If you don’t eat, beef, veal or pork, make ground chicken or turkey meatballs.

Ingredients

BROTH

  • onion, chopped
  • fennel bulb, stalks discarded, bulb halved, cored, and chopped
  • garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • ¼ ounce dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed
  • ounces ground pork (we did NOT incorporate meat into our broth)
  • ounces 85 percent lean ground beef
  • bay leaf
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • cups beef broth
  • cups water

MEATBALLS

  • slice hearty white sandwich bread, crusts removed, torn into 1-inch pieces
  • tablespoons heavy cream
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • teaspoons finely grated onion
  • ½ teaspoon finely grated garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • ounces ground pork
  • teaspoon baking powder
  • ounces 85 percent lean ground beef (we used a little over a pound of meatloaf mix in place of the beef and pork)
  • teaspoons minced fresh oregano
  • cup ditalini pasta
  • ½ pound kale, stemmed and cut into ½-inch pieces (6 cups)

Directions

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The chopped fennel, onion, dried porcini mushrooms and bay leaf (we did not add meat to this step) are cooked for about 5 minutes.

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Kale is sliced down into strips.

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After all of the strained liquids are added to the pot and simmered for a half hour, the kale and pasta are added.

FOR THE BROTH:
  1. Heat onion, fennel, garlic, porcini, pork, beef, (we did not add meat in this step) and bay leaf in Dutch oven over medium-high heat; cook, stirring frequently, until meats are no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add wine and Worcestershire; cook for 1 minute. Add chicken broth (homemade if possible), beef broth, and water; bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.
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When forming the meatballs, it’s best if you keep your hands wet, so keep dipping your fingertips into a bowl of water and touch your palms with the wet fingers after every two or three balls.
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We made the meatballs earlier in the day and placed them on a wax paper lined baking sheet, covered with saran wrap and refrigerated until ready to use.
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Without searing the meatballs beforehand, they are added at the end until heated through.
FOR THE MEATBALLS:
  1. While broth simmers, combine bread, cream, Parmesan, onion, garlic, and pepper to taste in bowl; using fork, mash mixture to uniform paste.
  2. Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat pork, baking powder, and ½ teaspoon salt on high speed until smooth and pale, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed.
  3. Add bread mixture, beef, and oregano; mix on medium-low speed until just incorporated, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Using moistened hands, form heaping teaspoons of meat mixture into smooth, round meatballs; you should have 30 to 35 meatballs. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.
  4. Strain broth through fine-mesh strainer set over large bowl or container, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Wipe out Dutch oven and return broth to pot. (Broth can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Skim off fat before reheating.)
  5. Return broth to simmer over medium-high heat. Add pasta and kale; cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add meatballs; return to simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until meatballs are cooked through and pasta is tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Italian Wedding Soup

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Made for Thanksgiving Meal 2016

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Silky Leek and Celery Root Soup

For the best flavor, it’s best to make this soup a day in advance, which we did. In addition to the crème fraîche and chives, we topped ours with some frizzled shallots. To enhance the flavor further, I substituted 2 cups of homemade chicken stock in place of two cups of the water.

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I find that organic leeks give you a LOT more of the white than regular leeks, just look at those beauts!

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 2 medium leeks (white and light green parts only), trimmed, halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into thin half-moon slices, rinsed thoroughly, and drained
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt; more to taste
  • 1-1/2 lb. celery root (about 1 large)
  • 3/4 cup crème fraîche
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream; more as needed
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh chives

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The celeriacs were not as large as usual so I had to buy three small ones. You need to slice quite a bit off the exterior to get to the flesh and remove all of the gnarly stuff.

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After the onion and leeks soften in about 15 minutes, add the cubed celery root.

Directions

  1. In a 4-quart or larger heavy-based pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the leeks, onion, and a generous pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft and lightly golden but not brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to low if you see signs of browning.
  2. Meanwhile, peel the celery root with a sharp knife (expect to slice quite a bit off the exterior as you trim). Halve the peeled celery root lengthwise and cut each half into 1-inch-thick wedges. Cut each wedge crosswise into 1/4-inch slices. You should have about 5 cups.
  3. Add the celery root, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 cup water to the leeks. Cover and cook until the celery root is tender, 10 to 15 minutes. (Check occasionally; if all the water cooks off and the vegetables start to brown, add another 1/2 cup water.) Add 4-1/2 cups water, bring to a simmer, and continue to cook another 20 minutes. Let cool slightly.
  4. Purée the soup (with a hand blender, or in small batches in a stand blender) to a very smooth, creamy consistency. Let cool completely and then store in the refrigerator at least overnight or for up to two days.
  5. About an hour before serving, put the crème fraîche in a small bowl and stir in enough of the heavy cream so that the mixture reaches the consistency of yogurt. Leave the cream mixture at room temperature until you are ready to serve the soup. (If the cream is too cold, it will cool the soup.)
  6. Reheat the soup. (If it’s too thick, gradually thin it with as much as 1 cup water.) Taste and add more salt as needed. Ladle the soup into small espresso cups or shot glasses. Top each portion with a small spoonful of crème fraîche (it should float on top of the soup). Finish each cup with a pinch of black pepper and a sprinkle of chives.

by Tasha DeSeri from Fine Cooking

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Posted May 11, 2016

Meatball and Artichoke Soup

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In this unusual potage, little pork meatballs with a touch of cinnamon and pine nuts make an exceptionally tasty contribution to the soup from La Cocina De Mamá: The Great Home Cooking of Spain, a favorite cookbook by Penelope CasasBread is the thickening agent, as is so often the case with traditional Spanish soups, but which posed an issue for us since Russ has forgone wheat.

The fix? We would have used gluten-free bread, but we had none on hand. Instead, Russ stirred some of the broth with a heaping tablespoon of gluten-free flour and then mixed it back into the soup. Not ideal, but it was a satisfactory solution—no complaints on our end. The only other thing we’ll probably do different the next time around is double the amount of artichoke hearts.

It made for yummy lunches during the week.

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Ingredients

  • 4 cups plus 2 Tbsp. chicken broth, preferably homemade
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped pine nuts
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 3 Tbsp. breadcrumbs
  • 4-6 artichoke hearts, fresh or frozen, quartered
  • 1 large egg, separated
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. sweet paprika, preferably Spanish smoked
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 slice bacon
  • 1 slice good quality sandwich bread, crusts removed

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The bread crumbs are soaked in chicken broth before adding the pork, pine nuts, bacon, parsley, cinnamon, garlic, and egg yolk.

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Little meatballs are shaped by hand and lined up on waxed paper.

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Whisk the egg white with a fork until foamy.

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl soak the bread crumbs in the 2 tablespoons chicken broth. Add the pork, pine nuts, bacon, parsley, cinnamon, garlic, egg yolk, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and the pepper to taste and mix well with your hands. Shape into meatballs not larger than 3/4 inch.
  2. In anther bowl, whisk the egg white with a fork until foamy. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a shallow casserole. Dip the meatballs in the egg white, then sauté in the hot oil until barely cooked through. Remove to a warm platter and wipe out the casserole.
  3. Heat the remaining tablespoon oil in the casserole and slowly sauté the onion until softened. Stir in the paprika, then add the 4 cups broth, the artichokes, and the meatballs. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.
  4. Break up the bread slice and combine in a small bowl with 4 tablespoons broth taken from the casserole. Whisk until smooth. Stir into the soup, taste for salt, and serve.

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Posted April 6, 2016

Bellisimo Zuppa!

Over-the-top delicious! This hearty Tuscan Sausage, Cannellini and Kale Soup is full of dynamite flavor—most of it from healthy ingredients. The crinkly, deep-green leaves of Lacinato kale (also called dinosaur or black kale) are ideal, but any variety of kale will work.

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No surprise I’m sure that we used the hot Italian sausage as opposed to the sweet. Of course, we almost always increase the amount of garlic in any recipe, so this one was no exception. And as I always preach, using store-bought broth or stock is fine, but incorporating homemade takes the soup to another level.

One optional ingredient is a Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, which we keep a small ziplocked stash of in the freezer at all times. A good practice that you should get in the habit of because they come in handy for a variety of recipes, and last a long time.

FYI, one medium celery stalk does not 3/4-cup make, so use at least two—better yet three—stalks. Next time we’ll probably double the amount of kale too. Our final touch was a sprinkle of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. If you’re so inclined, pair the soup with a chunk of crusty multigrain bread. And if you’re lucky enough to have any leftover, it’s perfect for lunch…Bellissimo!

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (1-1/2 cups)
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and finely chopped (3/4 cup)
  • 1 medium celery stalk, finely chopped (3/4 cup)
  • 1-1/2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced (1 Tbs.)
  • 1 quart homemade or lower-salt chicken or vegetable broth
  • Two 15-oz. cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 6 oz. Lacinato kale, center ribs removed, leaves chopped (about 4 firmly packed cups)
  • 1 Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (1×3 inches; optional)
  • 1-1/2 tsp. cider vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2/3 lb. sweet or hot bulk Italian sausage, rolled into bite-size meatballs

Directions

  1. Heat 1 Tbs. of the oil in a 4- to 5-quart pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and rosemary and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 6 minutes. Add the tomato paste and garlic and cook until fragrant, 45 seconds.
  2. Add the broth, beans, kale, and Parmigiano rind (if using). Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer gently until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1/2 Tbs. oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add the sausage meatballs, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the sausage to the soup and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook 5 minutes more to meld the flavors.
  5. Stir the cider vinegar into the soup and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Variations

To serve 1 vegetarian and 3 meat lovers: Use vegetable broth for the soup. Reduce the sausage to 1/2 lb. and cook the meatballs in the same fashion. After stirring the cider vinegar into the soup and seasoning to taste, set aside 1-3/4 cups of the soup for the vegetarian before adding the meatballs.

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by Ivy Manning from Fine Cooking

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Posted March 22, 2016

About as Simple as Soup Gets

Chickpea, Leek and Spinach Soup—Russ’s comment when I was making this soup ended up being the title for the blog. This is for all of my followers who can’t fathom spending too much time in the kitchen, but want to eat well.

It really is very simple and doesn’t take long at all, especially if you have some homemade stock on hand, which we did. Of course you can always use store bought too, it just won’t have the depth of flavor of homemade.

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Any number of other tender greens could take the place of the spinach. Try baby kale, watercress or even dandelion greens. I must admit, I’ve never cooked with dandelion greens—can’t get past the weed factor. But my motto is “never say never…”

While the recipe calls for two leeks, we only used one because ours was almost the size of a small baseball bat—kid you not! We got it in the organic section of a local supermarket. The white and light green part was about 90% of the stalk, and it was as thick as my wrist, truly unusual! I regret not taking a photo before I sliced it up.

Unless you detest chickpeas, you’ll love this soup!

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced, washed and drained
  • 2 15- to 16-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock or broth (preferably homemade)
  • 1 lemon, juiced (3 Tbsp.)
  • 1 tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped

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For starters, the leeks are cooked in hot oil for 5 to 7 minutes.

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Chickpeas and garlic sliced are tossed into the softened leeks.

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Now the stock and water (if you are using it) is incorporated.

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As a final step, the baby spinach is added.

Directions

  1. In a 4-qt. pot heat oil over medium heat. Add leeks, cook, stirring occasionally, 5-7 minutes or until very tender but not browned (reduce heat if leeks begin to brown.) Stir in chickpeas and garlic. Cook about 2 minutes.
  2. Add stock and 1 cup water. (We just used all stock, no water.) Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and add lemon juice.
  3. Simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes. Gradually stir in the spinach and thyme. Cook until the spinach is wilted, about 1 minute.
  4. Season to taste with kosher salt and pepper, serve immediately.

Adapted from a recipe in a recent issue of Better Homes and Gardens

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The homemade stock was so flavorful, the soup tasted as though it actually had chicken in it.

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Posted March 17, 2016

Mushroom-Spinach Soup With Middle Eastern Spices

Both mushrooms and spinach are versatile health foods that are great in any number of recipes. This soup is a very hearty, chunky soup filled with bits of browned mushroom and silky baby spinach. A combination of sweet and savory spices – cinnamon, coriander and cumin – gives it a deep, earthy richness.

For the most complex flavor, we used several kinds of mushrooms and cooked them until they were dark golden brown and well caramelized.

In place of the 5 cups of water, we used homemade chicken broth which intensifies the flavor. Next time we’re making a double batch!

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Shallots are finely diced.

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A variety of mushrooms are chopped.

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All of the mushrooms are now prepped for the browning stage.

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter or extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 ¼ pounds mixed mushrooms (such as cremini, oyster, chanterelles and shiitake), chopped
  • ½ pound shallots, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch ground allspice
  • 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 5 ounces baby spinach
  • Fresh lime juice, to taste
  • Plain yogurt, for serving (optional)

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The seasonings and herbs are measured.

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Getting a golden brown to the mushrooms and shallots.

Directions

  1. Heat 3 tablespoons butter or oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add half the mushrooms and half the shallots; cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are well browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer mushrooms to a bowl and repeat with remaining butter, mushrooms and shallots.
  2. Return all mushrooms to the pot and stir in tomato paste, thyme, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and allspice; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Stir in 5 cups water, the salt and the black pepper. Bring mixture to a simmer over medium heat and cook gently for 20 minutes. Stir in baby spinach and let cook until just wilted, 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Using an immersion blender or food processor, coarsely purée soup. Mix in lime juice. Thin with water, as needed. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Serve with dollops of yogurt if you’d like.

By Melissa Clark of NY Times Cooking

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Posted February 22, 2016

Chicken Meatball and Escarole Soup

OMG, this Chicken Meatball and Escarole Soup is beyond amazing! In part because we used our homemade chicken stock. If you have the opportunity to make some, it makes a world of difference in color and flavor. And having a pressure cooker allows you to make stock, of any kind, in record-saving time. So do yourself a favor and buy one, even if the only thing you use it for is to make stock… but we bet you’ll end up using it for a multitude of other recipes…

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Don’t wait until you’re sick to try this soup! Served with crusty bread, this quick spin on Italian wedding soup makes a satisfying dinner. Knowing ahead of time that we wanted a large batch to take for weekday lunches, we doubled the ingredients. Make sure you handle the chicken mixture gently; packing the meat too tightly will make the meatballs tough.

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The chopped escarole goes for a ride in the salad spinner.

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We had some seasoned, gluten-free bread crumbs leftover from another meal so we incorporated that into the meat mixture adding even more flavor.

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Russ gently massages the meat mixture.

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The meatballs are rolled into 3/4″ balls and placed onto a small baking sheet lined with wax paper.

Size matters. The recipe calls for 3/4″ meatballs and when Russ started rolling them his were twice that size! I had to bring out a ruler and show him what 3/4″ actually looks like—I guess that’s a man thing 😉 And interestingly, the meatballs rise to the surface like raviolis after cooking for a while.

Earlier in the day while grocery shopping, we forgot to add fresh rosemary to the list, and our outdoor herb plants looked worse for wear after the recent deep freeze. Not to worry, each Fall we dry our herbs for use in the colder months, so we just packed a couple of tablespoons of dried rosemary into a little sack cloth and tossed it in.

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Here you can see the mesh bag of dried rosemary floating at the top.

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After several minutes, the meatballs start popping to the top of the liquid.

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Adding the escarole for the last 5 minutes of cooking time.

One reviewer suggested adding a 15-ounce can of drained cannellini beans, which sounded like a winning idea, unfortunately we didn’t have any on hand… but there’s always next time, which undoubtedly will come to pass!

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbs. plain fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano; more for serving
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 lb. ground chicken
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, cut into small dice
  • 1 small carrot, cut into small dice
  • 1 medium celery stalk, cut into small dice
  • 1 quart lower-salt chicken broth
  • 1 3- to 4-inch sprig fresh rosemary
  • 5 cups thinly sliced escarole

Directions

  1. Put the breadcrumbs in a medium bowl and moisten with 1/2 Tbs. water. Mix in the Parmigiano, parsley, 3/4 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper.
  2. Add the ground chicken and egg and mix until just combined. Scoop out 1 Tbs. of the chicken mixture and, with damp hands, roll it into a 3/4-inch meatball. Transfer to a plate and shape the remaining meatballs
  3. Heat the oil in a 5-quart pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and 1 tsp. salt; cook until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the chicken broth, rosemary, and 2 cups of water; bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  4. Gently add the meatballs, reduce the heat to medium low to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook for 10 minutes
  5. Add the escarole and continue to simmer until the meatballs are cooked through and the escarole is wilted, about 5 minutes.
  6. Discard the rosemary and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with grated Parmigiano.

Adapted from Melissa Pellegrino from Fine Cooking

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Posted February 14, 2016

Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup

Yummy, earthy, healthy goodness in this fabulous soup from Cooks Illustrated. Fresh cremini mushrooms and ground dried shiitakes provide a winning combination of meaty texture and flavor. A final addition of cornstarch helps suspend the dense rice and gives the soup a velvety texture.

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You’ll want to keep the focus on the wild rice and mushrooms by selecting ingredients that amplify the nutty, earthy, umami-rich flavor profile. Simmering the wild rice with baking soda decreases the cook time and leads to nuttier-tasting wild rice and a savory, deep-brown stock that enriches the soup. Use the excess simmering liquid as a bouillon to infuse the entire soup with wild rice flavor.

Wild rice is high in the amino acids lysine and glycine, proteins that are particularly sensitive to browning. 

There’s something about this soup that makes you feel healthier as you savor every slurp. And is perfect for work lunches too!

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Ingredients

  • ¼ ounce dried shiitake mushrooms, rinsed
  • 4 ¼ cups water
  • sprig fresh thyme
  • bay leaf
  • garlic clove, peeled, plus 4 cloves, minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¼ teaspoons baking soda
  • cup wild rice
  • tablespoons unsalted butter
  • pound cremini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced ¼ inch thick
  • onion, chopped fine
  • teaspoon tomato paste
  • ⅔ cup dry sherry
  • cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • tablespoon soy sauce
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup minced fresh chives
  • ¼ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

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The shiitake mushrooms are finely ground in spice grinder.

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The wild rice that has cooked in the oven with water, thyme, bay leaf, garlic clove, salt, and baking soda. 

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The cooked shrooms before the stock is added.

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Ground shiitake mushrooms, reserved rice cooking liquid, broth, and soy sauce are added.

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The color of the final soup is just gorgeous!

Directions

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Grind shiitake mushrooms in spice grinder until finely ground (you should have about 3 tablespoons).
  2. Bring 4 cups water, thyme, bay leaf, garlic clove, ¾ teaspoon salt, and baking soda to boil in medium saucepan over high heat. Add rice and return to boil. Cover saucepan, transfer to oven, and bake until rice is tender, 35 to 50 minutes.
  3. Strain rice through fine-mesh strainer set in 4-cup liquid measuring cup; discard thyme, bay leaf, and garlic. Add enough water to reserved cooking liquid to measure 3 cups.
  4. Melt butter in Dutch oven over high heat. Add cremini mushrooms, onion, minced garlic, tomato paste, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are browned and dark fond develops on bottom of pot, 15 minutes.
  5. Add sherry, scraping up any browned bits, and cook until reduced and pot is almost dry, about 2 minutes. Add ground shiitake mushrooms, reserved rice cooking liquid, broth, and soy sauce and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until onion and mushrooms are tender, about 20 minutes.
  6. Whisk cornstarch and remaining ¼ cup water in small bowl. Stir cornstarch slurry into soup, return to simmer, and cook until thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove pot from heat and stir in cooked rice, cream, chives, and lemon zest.
  7. Cover and let stand for 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.
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Posted February 10, 2016

It’s Winter. Up Your Soup Intake.

The weekend of the 2016 epic snowstorm Jonas, we were stuck in the house, so what better way to pass the time than making homemade soup? This Winter Vegetable Soup with Turnips, Carrots, Potatoes and Leeks was an ideal candidate for our stovetop pressure cooker because cooking time is greatly reduced, yet produces the same results.

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After only 5 minutes in the pressure cooker, the vegetables are fork tender and get cooled down before blending.

FYI on the chef-author, Martha Rose Shulman. She is a prolific cookbook author who focuses on pleasurable, healthy eating — good food with big flavors. If you’re considering a NY Times recipe that involves quinoa or kale, it’s likely hers. But I digress…

I use the food mill instead of a blender — immersion or regular — because I love the texture of the soup when it’s put through the mill’s coarse blade, resulting in a flavorful, colorful mixture that you can almost chew on. But you can use a blender to purée the soup. The texture will be coarsest — which is what you want — if you use an immersion blender.
~Martha Rose Shulman

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We chose to use an immersion blender as opposed to the food mill.
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Crème fraîche is incorporated into the blended soup—and also used as a garnish.
The key to success is in the seasoning (be generous with salt and pepper) and in that small amount of crème fraîche that brings all the elements together and gives the flavor of the soup a delicate lift. While you could omit this ingredient, I strongly recommend you use it.
NOTE: For a richer soup, we used homemade chicken stock in place of the 1 1/2 quarts of water. To keep it vegetarian, use vegetable stock.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 large leeks (1 to 1 1/2 pounds), white parts only, cleaned and sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 large carrots (10 ounces), diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 large or 2 medium turnips (10 ounces), peeled and diced
  • 1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • A bouquet garni made with a bay leaf and a few sprigs each thyme and parsley
  • Salt and black pepper
  • ¼ cup crème fraîche, more to taste
  • Chopped fresh parsley or tarragon, for garnish

PREPARATION

  1. In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, combine the leeks, garlic, carrots, celery, turnips, potatoes, bouquet garni, 1 1/2 quarts water, 2 to 3 teaspoons salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 40 to 45 minutes, until the vegetables are very soft.
  2. Pass the soup through the coarse blade of a food mill (or purée using a blender or an immersion blender—which was our choice).
  3. Return soup to the pot and whisk in 1/4 cup crème fraîche (or more, to taste). Heat through, taste and adjust seasonings (be generous with salt and pepper). To serve, garnish each bowl with a spoonful of crème fraîche and a sprinkle of parsley or tarragon.

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Posted January 11, 2016

No Longer Second Fiddle

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Ahhh, a new twist on comfort food, the lo-fat, lo-calorie, lo-carb—but plenty tasty—silky soup you’ve been looking for. Sweet roasted garlic harmonizes with salty celery and prosciutto in this creamy Roasted Celery and Garlic Soup with Crispy Proscuitto soup.

While you can use boxed or canned chicken stock, we made our own because we had the time, the pressure cooker and the inclination…

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Chopped aromatics are prepared for the stock.

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Chicken necks and hocks get a good sear before the aromatics and liquid are added.

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Voila! Half an hour later, the chicken stock is ready to drain.

Russ had just made homemade chicken stock in his brand-spanking-new pressure cooker (gift from Santa), a task that usually takes an entire afternoon but took only 40 minutes! So he had plenty of time, and ambition, to tackle a new soup recipe. Of course, whenever you have the opportunity to make homemade stock of any kind—be it chicken, seafood, vegetable, turkey or ham—you’ll end up with an unparalleled depth of flavor to your soups and gravies. So be good to yourself, and invest in a good pressure cooker.

And to make life even easier, the soup is strained, so there’s no need to peel the celery.

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The prepared celery pieces roast in the oven for about 35 minutes.

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The prosciutto is chopped into small pieces and cooked while the celery roasts.

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Let the prosciutto drain on a paper towel and cool.

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In two batches, the homemade chicken stock is added to the cooked celery and blended.

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Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 lb. celery (about 1-1/2 heads), ribs trimmed and coarsely chopped (about 6 cups), 1/4 cup inner leaves reserved for garnish
  • 20 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. sherry vinegar
  • 1 tsp. celery seeds
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
  • 4 cups lower-salt chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tbs. cornstarch

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Pour the blended mixture into a fine sieve and press out the liquid.

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Adding a bit of cream with cornstarch to thicken the soup slightly.

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Directions

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the celery and garlic with 2 Tbs. of the oil, the vinegar, celery seeds, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and roast until browned in spots, about 35 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat the remaining 1 Tbs. oil over medium-high heat. Add the prosciutto and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate and set aside.
  4. Working in batches, purée the celery mixture with the broth in a blender until smooth. Pass through a fine-mesh strainer into a 4-quart saucepan, pressing hard with a spatula to force the liquid through.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk the cream and cornstarch together. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Whisk the cream mixture into the soup a little at a time until thickened to your liking; you may not need it all. Skim off any foam with a spoon. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with the prosciutto and thinly sliced celery leaves.

by Ronne Day from Fine Cooking

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Posted December 10, 2015

French Farmer’s Soup

Fresh bowl of the French Farmer's soup.

Fresh bowl of the French Farmer’s soup.

Another winning soup recipe found on FineCooking.com from one one our favorite cookbook authors, Molly Stevens. This hearty soup makes the most of root vegetables, paired with baby lima beans. If you’re short on time, you can substitute 3 cups canned limas (rinsed and drained) for the dried beans, and skip the steps of soaking and cooking them, though the flavor won’t be quite as rich.

Because my memories of frozen lima beans during my “wonder years” were unpleasant at best, I was a bit hesitant for Russ to concoct this recipe. I didn’t like the texture of them back then, but using dried baby ones in this soup…. I rather enjoy the texture now. They were so good! Remember, building up layers of flavor is essential for a heady and complex brew.

Dried baby lima beans after soaking all night.

Dried baby lima beans after soaking all night.

Ingredients:

  • 8  oz. (1 1/4 cups) dried flageolets or baby lima beans, picked over and rinsed
  • 1  medium clove garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Kosher salt
  • 2  Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4  lb. bacon or pancetta (optional)
  • 1-1/2  cups shallots and leeks, chopped
  •  Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4  tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 cup peeled carrots, cut in 1/4-inch-thick half-moons
  • 1  cup peeled celery root, cut in 1/2-inch dice
  • 1  cup peeled turnips, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 5  to 6 cups homemade or lower-salt chicken broth or homemade vegetable broth
  • 1  to 2 tsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1  cup homemade croutons
  • 1/3  cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Most of the raw ingredients before chopping. That lovely brown "brain" looking thing on the right is a celery root.

Most of the raw ingredients before chopping. That lovely brown “brain” looking thing on the right is a celery root.

TIP:

Don’t have at least 4 hours to soak beans? You can quick-soak them. In a saucepan, add enough cold water to cover the beans by 2 inches, bring to a boil, remove from the heat, and let soak for 1 hour.

Put the beans in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover the beans by 3 inches. Soak for 4 to 12 hours.

Drain the beans, rinse them, and transfer to a 3- or 4-quart saucepan. Add the garlic clove, bay leaf, and 6 cups cold water. Partially cover to limit evaporation and simmer gently, stirring every 20 to 30 minutes, until the beans are tender and almost creamy inside, without being mealy or mushy, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

When the beans are about three-quarters done, season with 3/4 tsp. salt. If at any time the liquid doesn’t cover the beans, add 1 cup fresh water. Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid, and discard the bay leaf.

Heat the olive oil in a 4- to 5-quart soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the bacon or pancetta (if using) and cook until it browns. Pour the meat and fat into a small strainer set over a bowl and set the meat aside. Spoon 2 Tbs. of the fat back into the pot and return it to medium heat. Add the shallots and leeks to the pot, season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and cook until they begin to soften but not brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in the thyme and cook for 1 minute.

Add the carrots, celery root, turnips, and 2 cups of the broth. Partially cover and simmer until the vegetables are just barely tender, 10 to 20 minutes. Add the beans and 3 cups of the broth, plus 1 cup of the reserved bean-cooking liquid. If you have less than 1 cup of bean liquid, adjust the broth for a total of 4 cups liquid. Return the cooked meat to the pot, if using. Stir and simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes. Add the vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Top each serving with a small handful of croutons and a sprinkle of parsley.

Yields 10 cups.

Make Ahead Tip:
You can cook the beans 1 day ahead. Refrigerate in a covered container.

If you like wine serve it with a glass of Pinot Noir and taste how it enhances the flavors.  I can’t explain how deeply satisfying this soup is. You will have to make it.

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Posted November 20, 2015

Hearty Tuscan Bean Stew

In Tuscany, creamy, flavorful beans transform rustic soups and stews into something special.

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Soaking the beans in salt water overnight helps them cook up creamy, with tender skins. Cooking the beans at a near-simmer in a 250-degree oven leads to fewer exploded beans in the finished stew. Ours was chock-full of heart-healthy kale, even more than the 8 cups called for in the recipe. In addition, Russ threw in a couple of ham hocks to up the flavor quotient, which made for a perfect lunch on a cold winter’s day.

Directions instruct you to add the tomatoes toward the end of cooking, since their acid keeps the beans from becoming too soft. Well, we didn’t have that issue. Even though we soaked the beans for well over 24 hours, they still were not creamy soft after cooking for a couple of hours!

Russ thinks the problem was the beans we used were brought back (OK, smuggled?) from a vacation in Italy. A few months prior we used a bag of the same beans and had similar results in a different recipe. Undeterred, we will make this soup again with local-bought beans because it is so lusciously flavorful. Omit the meat if you want a vegetarian version.

Ingredients

  • Table salt
  • 1 pound dried cannellini beans (about 2 cups), rinsed and picked over
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 6 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (see note)
  • 1 large onion, chopped medium (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 medium celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
  • 8 medium garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 bunch kale or collard greens (about 1 pound), stems trimmed and leaves chopped into 1-inch pieces (about 8 cups loosely packed)
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained and rinsed
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • Ground black pepper
  • 8 slices country white bread, each 1 1/4 inches thick, broiled until golden brown on both sides and rubbed with garlic clove (optional)

Directions

  1. Dissolve 3 tablespoons salt in 4 quarts cold water in large bowl or container. Add beans and soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse well.
  2. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Heat oil and pancetta in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until pancetta is lightly browned and fat has rendered, 6 to 10 minutes.
  3. Add onion, celery, and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and lightly browned, 10 to 16 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in broth, water, bay leaves, and soaked beans. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Cover pot, transfer to oven, and cook until beans are almost tender (very center of beans will still be firm), 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  4. Remove pot from oven and stir in greens and tomatoes. Cover pot, return to oven, and continue to cook until beans and greens are fully tender, 30 to 40 minutes longer.
  5. Remove pot from oven and submerge rosemary sprig in stew. Cover and let stand 15 minutes. Discard bay leaves and rosemary sprig and season stew with salt and pepper to taste. If desired, use back of spoon to press some beans against side of pot to thicken stew. Serve over toasted bread, if desired, and drizzle with olive oil.

It was hearty enough that we didn’t feel the need to serve over bread.

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Posted November 6, 2015

Butternut Squash Soup with Apple and Bacon

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Sundays often find us making a homemade soup-of-the-week, perfect for a quick weeknight dinner or weekday lunch. Recently our interest was piqued with the description of smoky bacon, herby sage, and sweet apple that gives this Butternut Squash Soup with Apple and Bacon layers of flavor.

Although after reading many favorable reviews, a few readers suggested it still called out for an additional flavor boost for a bolder taste, so we incorporated shallots and garlic along with the apples. And because I hate peeling and cutting squash, we bought the precut chunks, which of course still had to be chopped into a finer dice. Luckily our fresh sage plant still had a healthy yield of leaves in early November.

Results? It was delicious!! Next time we’re making a double batch…

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Ingredients

  • 8 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips
  • 2-1/2 lb. butternut squash (about 1 medium), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch dice (to yield about 6 cups)
  • 1 small Granny Smith or other tart-sweet apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch dice (to yield about 1 cup)
  • 4 shallots, diced
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups homemade or low-salt chicken or vegetable broth

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Added the apple, garlic, shallot, sage, salt and pepper to partially cooked squash.

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Tossed half of the cooked bacon on cooling soup mixture before it is pureed.

Directions

  1. In a 5-quart or larger stockpot set over medium heat, cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until crisp and golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels.
  2. Increase heat to medium high. Add the squash to the pot with the bacon fat and cook until lightly browned, 6 minutes (resist the urge to stir it too often or it won’t brown). Stir in the apple, shallot, garlic, sage, salt, and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes (you’ll see more browning occur on the bottom of the pot than on the vegetables). Add the broth, scraping up any browned bits in the pot with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook until the squash and apples are very soft, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool somewhat.
  3. Add about half the bacon to the soup and purée, using a stand or immersion blender (you’ll need to work in batches if using a stand blender). Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Reheat the soup and garnish each serving with the remaining bacon.

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Adapted from Jill Hough’s recipe from Fine Cooking

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Posted March 11, 2015

Galician White Bean Soup

Also known as Caldo Gallego, this soup recipe was taken from our copy of The New Spanish Table by Anya von Bremzen. It is a bracing, nourishing white bean potage which has become something of an ambassador of Spanish cuisine abroad. The greens customarily used for this soup are called grelos (a kind of turnip green.) The consistency varies slightly from cook to cook, but it is usually brothy rather than thick.

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Ingredients

  • 1 large (1 lb.) meaty smoked ham hock
  • 1 veal (or beef) shank, about 1 lb.
  • 6-7 oz. smoky slab bacon
  • 2 small onions
  • 2 small carrots, peeled
  • Coarse sea or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups dried white beans, such as Great Northern or navy beans, soaked overnight in cold water and drained
  • 6 oz. sweet Spanish-style chorizo sausages
  • 3 med. all-purpose boiling potatoes, cut into 1 1/2″ cubes
  • 3 cups shredded turnip, mustard, or collard greens, or kale (our choice)
  • Fragrant extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

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Simmering soup with chorizo sausages before they are sliced down.

Directions

  1. Place the ham bone, veal/beef shank, bacon, onions, and carrots in a large soup pot and add 3 quarts water. Bring to a boil over high heat, skimming the foam off the surface. Reduce the heat to low and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover the pot and simmer until the shank is tender, about 1 1/2 hours.
  2.  Remove the onions and carrots from the broth and discard them (we saved them for another purpose.) remove the ham bone, veal/beef shank, and bacon. When cool enough to handle, pull the meat off the bones of the ham bone and shank, removing and discarding the fat and gristle. Tear the meat into bite-size pieces and set aside. Discard the bones. Remove the extra fat from the bacon. Chop the bacon and set it aside with the other meat. (If you prefer not to use the bacon, simply discard it.)
  3. Skim the fat from the broth. (the broth can be prepared up to two days ahead, chilled, and then degreased.) Add the beans and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, skimming the foam. Cover the pot and simmer the soup until the beans are almost tender, about 1 1/4 hours.
  4. Add the chorizo and potatoes and cook until the potatoes are almost tender, about 15 minutes. Add the greens and simmer for another 15 minutes. Add he reserved meat and cook just until heated through.
  5. If you want the soup to be a little thicker, spoon out a ladleful of beans and potatoes, mash them, and return them to the pot. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chorizo from the soup, slice it, and return to the pot. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper as necessary. Drizzle with a little olive oil if desired.

Since the price of veal shanks was through the roof, Russ opted to buy a more reasonably priced beef shank in its place. End result? A perfect lunch or dinner on a blustery cold winter’s day.

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Posted January 7, 2015

Escarole and Egg Soup

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recipe by Ronne Day from Fine Cooking—

The soothing lemony flavor of this chicken soup is the perfect antidote to a cold winter day — and it was blustery cold on the evening that we made it!

Russ wrote this 5-star review on their website:

Excellent soup. It’s rich without being heavy and the lemon, basil and sundried tomatoes add layers of flavor. Will definitely make again.

Ingredients

  • 3 slices rustic bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbs. minced garlic
  • 1 small head escarole, coarsely chopped (about 4 cups)
  • 1 quart lower-salt chicken broth
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tbs. store-bought or homemade basil pesto
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped sun-dried tomato (optional)

Directions

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450°F.
  2. On a small rimmed baking sheet, toss the bread with 2 Tbs. of the olive oil, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Spread in a single layer and bake until golden, about 8 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 Tbs. oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to brown, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the escarole and cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper, bring to a boil, and remove from the heat. Whisk the eggs with the lemon juice and then whisk the egg mixture into the hot soup.
  4. Divide among 4 bowls and then top with the croutons, small dollops of the pesto, and the sun-dried tomato, if using.

A few notes:

One of the reasons our soups have such depth of flavor is that Russ makes our own homemade stock (chicken, turkey, seafood and pork.) There is no comparison to the boxed store-bought broths, but don’t let it stop you from making this satisfying comfort soup.

Every September, as the herb garden winds down, we harvest the basil and mince it up with some extra virgin olive oil in a food processor. Once mixed, we add the mixture to a silicone ice cube tray and pop them out when frozen and store in the freezer in a ziploc bag. The cubes come in very handy for soups and dishes such as this. (We also store leftover broth/stock this way which is perfect when a recipe calls for a small amount.)

beeth.broth.ice.tray

For the croutons, we bought a small crusty whole wheat sandwich roll which went perfect with the soup flavors. Another great option would be a crusty whole grain loaf.

 

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Posted November 30, 2014

Silky Mushroom Bisque

For our starter course on Thanksgiving, we decided on a homemade soup as opposed to salad. And while we’ve made mushroom soup before, this particular recipe is hands-down the most flavorful!

From Cook’s Illustrated | November/December 2014

Most versions have so much dairy that they could be cream of anything. We wanted the trademark silkiness of a bisque without drowning out the earthy mushrooms.

2014-11-27 07.42.09

Too often the abundance of dairy that gives a mushroom bisque its trademark richness obscures the flavor of the mushrooms. We wanted a silky texture, but we wanted deep, earthy flavor, too. To achieve these goals, we used three kinds of mushrooms—white, cremini, and shiitake. Because mushrooms will exude moisture even without being cut, we cooked them whole in the microwave until they had released most of their liquid. The dehydrated mushrooms browned more efficiently in the pot, which we then deglazed with the reserved mushroom liquid. We kept additional ingredients to a minimum so as not to distract from the mushrooms’ flavor. A liaison of egg yolks and cream whisked in at the end gives the soup a texture that is luxurious without being cloying.

Tying the thyme sprig with twine makes it easier to remove from the pot. For the smoothest result, use a conventional blender rather than an immersion blender. We used Fried Shallots as a replacement for the garnish of cream and chopped chives.

frizzled.shallots2
Cooling the fried shallots.

WHAT IS BISQUE?

Consult a tome on classic French cookery and you’ll learn that “bisque” traditionally refers to a rich, creamy coup made with shellfish. Nowadays, the word is used to describe any creamy soup, shellfish-based or not, that’s a step up in flavor and refinement from plainer creamed soups.

Our bisque contains a full 2 pounds of mushrooms, but we found that there’s no need to slice or chop them. Because mushrooms lack a thick outer layer, they give up moisture readily even when left whole. We simply toss them with salt and microwave them until most of their liquid is released. Then we brown the shriveled mushrooms to deepen their flavor and use the reserved mushroom liquid to help form the base of the soup. MEGA MUSHROOMS: A mix of white button, cremini, and shiitake mushrooms gives our soup woodsy depth.

mushrooms3

chopped.onions.thyme.garni

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound white mushrooms, trimmed
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, trimmed
  • 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme, tied with kitchen twine
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream, plus extra for serving (see below for substitutes)
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Chopped fresh chives

cooking.mushrooms2

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Toss white mushrooms, cremini mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, and 1 tablespoon salt together in large bowl. Cover with large plate and microwave, stirring every 4 minutes, until mushrooms have released their liquid and reduced to about one-third their original volume, about 12 minutes. Transfer mushrooms to colander set in second large bowl and drain well. Reserve liquid.
  2. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are browned and fond has formed on bottom of pot, about 8 minutes. Add onion, thyme sprig, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is just softened, about 2 minutes. Add sherry and cook until evaporated. Stir in reserved mushroom liquid and cook, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in water and broth and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Discard thyme sprig. Working in batches, process soup in blender until very smooth, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per batch. Return soup to now-empty pot. (Soup can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Warm to 150 degrees before proceeding with recipe.)
  4. Whisk cream and egg yolks together in medium bowl. Stirring slowly and constantly, add 2 cups soup to cream mixture. Stirring constantly, slowly pour cream mixture into simmering soup. Heat gently, stirring constantly, until soup registers 165 degrees (do not overheat). Stir in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately, garnishing each serving with 1 teaspoon extra cream and sprinkle of chives.

soup.in.container2
Pouring the bisque from blender into airtight container for keeping over night. We completed “Step 4” the following afternoon.

Substitutes for heavy cream:

1. Milk & Butter

This milk and butter recipe is great when you have a recipe that calls for heavy cream that does not need to be whipped. For each cup of heavy cream in the recipe, melt 1/3 cup of unsalted butter and add it to ¾ cup of milk. Note that if you use low-fat milk, you will want to add 1 tablespoon of flour to thicken the mixture. Stir until well mixed.

2. Evaporated Milk & Vanilla Extract

For this substitute, first be sure the evaporated milk is chilled. After removing from the refrigerator, add vanilla to the milk to make it taste as you want. This mixture is a good one for soup recipes that call for heavy cream.

3. Skim Milk & Cornstarch

If you only drink skim milk, you can still use this as a basis for your heavy cream substitute. In this case, Use one cup of milk and add 2 tablespoons of corn starch or unflavored gelatin to allow the mixture to thicken. Using a whisk, mix the ingredients briskly for 3-4 minutes until the mixture begins to thicken.

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Posted April 2,2014

Spanish-style Soup

As mentioned in an earlier blog about soup, almost every Sunday since the new year started, Russ has been cooking up a batch of soup, mostly to take for our weekly lunches; or for dinner in a pinch when we don’t have time to cook a meal. This very tasty and hearty Spanish-style soup with lentils and chorizo was found online at CooksIllustrated.com.

Sopa De Lentejas Con Chorizo
(thanks for the translation Russ)

The following recipe prefers French green lentils, or lentilles du Puy, but it will work with any type of lentil except red or yellow. Grate the onion on the large holes of a box grater. If Spanish-style chorizo is not available (and of course, we happened to have some in the freezer), kielbasa sausage can be substituted. Red wine vinegar can be substituted for the sherry vinegar. Smoked paprika comes in three varieties: sweet (dulce), bittersweet or medium hot (agridulce), and hot (picante). For this recipe, use the sweet kind.
Spanish-style chorizo sausage, carrots, onions and chopped fresh parsley.

Spanish-style chorizo sausage, carrots, onions and chopped fresh parsley.

INGREDIENTS:
  • 1 pound (2 1/4 cups) lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 large onion
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2pounds Spanish-style chorizo sausage, pricked with fork several times
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 7 cups water, plus extra as needed
  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar, plus extra for seasoning
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoons sweet smoked paprika
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Smoked sweet paprika, sherry vinegar, bay leaves and minced garlic.

Smoked sweet paprika, sherry vinegar, bay leaves and minced garlic.

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Place lentils and 2 teaspoons salt in heatproof container. Cover with 4 cups boiling water and let soak for 30 minutes. Drain well.
  2. Meanwhile, finely chop three-quarters of onion (you should have about 1 cup) and grate remaining quarter (you should have about 3 tablespoons). Heat 2 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add chorizo and cook until browned on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer chorizo to large plate. Reduce heat to low and add chopped onion, carrots, 1 tablespoon parsley, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very soft but not brown, 25 to 30 minutes. If vegetables begin to brown, add 1 tablespoon water to pot.
  3. Add lentils and sherry vinegar to vegetables; increase heat to medium-high; and cook, stirring frequently, until vinegar starts to evaporate, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 7 cups water, chorizo, bay leaves, and cloves; bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low; cover; and cook until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.
  4. Heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil in small saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add paprika, grated onion, garlic, and ½ teaspoon pepper; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 2 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute longer.
  5. Chorizo taken from pot before slicing.

    Chorizo taken from pot before slicing.

  6. Remove chorizo and bay leaves from lentils. Stir paprika mixture into lentils and continue to cook until flavors have blended and soup has thickened, 10 to 15 minutes. When chorizo is cool enough to handle, cut in half lengthwise, then cut each half into ¼-inch-thick slices. Return chorizo to soup along with remaining 2 tablespoons parsley and heat through, about 1 minute. Season with salt, pepper, and up to 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar to taste, and serve. (Soup can be made up to 3 days in advance.)

WHAT MAKES IT SPANISH?

Three quintessential ingredients provide this soup with authentic Spanish flavor.

SMOKED PAPRIKA: Pimentón, made by drying red peppers over an oak fire, offers a distinctive rich and smoky taste.
SHERRY VINEGAR: Lightly sweet sherry vinegar boasts assertive yet balanced acidity.
SPANISH CHORIZO: This heady sausage combines coarsely ground, dry-cured pork with a hit of pimentón.

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS:
To ensure creamy, well-seasoned lentils with intact skins, soak them in a warm brine for 30 minutes before cooking. For a rich, vegetal flavor, sweat onion, carrot, and parsley in a covered pot to provide a background taste to the main ingredients: heady smoked paprika, meaty chorizo, earthy lentils, and tart sherry vinegar. To finish the soup, garnish it with an Indian preparation called a tarka, a mixture of spices and aromatics bloomed in oil.

 

 

 

 

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Posted February 21, 2014

Seriously, what is more satisfying during cold winter months than a hearty, flavorful homemade soup?

Several times a month, Russ and I will cook up one of our go-to favorites like Creamed Cauliflower (without any cream), Celery and Leek, Winter Minestrone (from Michael Chiarello of FoodNetwork.com), Navy Bean and Hammock, or one that Russ created himself, his Tex/Mex Soup. Now this soup can be quite spicy, which is what Lynn likes, or mellowed down for those with a more “delicate” palette. Depending on your tolerance for zest, any soup can be enhanced or dialed back on the spice quotient.

And serendipitous for me, Russ made a Tuscan Peasant Soup the day before I got snowed in (once again.) He found the recipe on FineCooking.com. It is extremely flavorful and includes homemade chicken stock, savoy cabbage, white beans, fresh rosemary, diced tomatoes, and pancetta among other ingredients. The recipe calls for adding grated parmesan and bread crumbs on top of your bowl of soup. Russ also noted similar recipes specify adding a large slice of crusty bread before you pour the soup in the bowl, while others float garlicky croutons on top. Whichever way you prefer, the soup will truly warm your soul…

Tuscan Peasant Soup

Tuscan Peasant Soup

Russ’ Tex/Mex Soup:
Chopped peppers and onions

Prepping the Tex/Mex soup: chopped peppers and onions.

2.peppers.sauteeing

Sauteing peppers, onions and garlic in “Big Red”

3.finished.soup

The finished Tex/Mex Soup

2 sweet bell peppers, diced (your choice of red, orange and/or yellow)
2 fresh poblano chiles, diced
2 med. yellow onions, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 or 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
1 lb. bag frozen sweet roasted corn (we get ours from Trader Joe’s)
2, 15-oz. cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1, 28-oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
4 Tbsp. olive oil
6 cups chicken broth or stock, preferably homemade
1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into cubes
(or leftover cooked chicken)
1 (or more) Tbsp. of Tex/Mex spice (which we came across in someone’s Marlboro Country Cookbook)

1. Heat 2 Tbsp. oil to pot and when hot add chicken. Sautee until cooked through. Drain fat, leaving behind any browned bits.
2. Heat 2 more Tbsp. olive oil. Add chopped peppers, onion and garlic to pot and sautee until soft. Add in the diced chipotle pepper(s).
3. Put in your tex/mex spice, and scrape bottom of pot with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits.
4. Stir in diced tomatoes, defrosted corn, and cooked chicken pieces.
5. Add 6 cups chicken stock.
6. Bring to a simmer, leaving uncovered for at least 20 minutes, longer if you want to reduce more of the liquid.
7. When done, adjust seasoning to taste, and cool before storing in refrigerator.

Some other soups that we have made:

A bean soup concoction to use up ingredients in the frig.

Tuscan White Bean Stew

Velvety Cauliflower Soup

Velvety Cauliflower Soup

Our Christmas Lobster Bisque

Our Christmas Lobster Bisque

Navy Bean and hammock soup from

Navy Bean and Ham hock soup

Michael Chiarello's Winter Minestrone

Michael Chiarello’s Winter Minestrone

Soups, more than most other dishes, can carry an air of mystery. Through the magic of browned meat, long simmering, and aromatic herbs, a good soup provokes the question, “What went into this, anyway?”
–The Kitchn

2 thoughts on “Soups

  1. Pingback: Thanksgiving, Behind the Scenes | Accounting for Taste

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