Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Soups & Stews’ Category

a soup to carry you through winter

What’s to like about winter? A low-slung sun. A bluer sky than blue. The last golden leaves to cling. Grass  that crunches under foot. Children’s boots and mittens.  Hot cocoa. The glow of candles near your bath. Longer hugs. And soup.

This is winter’s version of pistou, a Provençal vegetable soup, and I believe it is very possibly the finest winter soup I’ve ever made. It is, in fact, so fine a soup I’m going to be adapting it to different  kitchens and circumstances. (Slow-cooker and pressure cooker versions will follow before winter’s done with us.) It’s gob-full of vegetables, heavenly hearty, and will warm you to your chilly toes.

This makes an enormous potful. We took half out to our mom and the half we have remaining is enough to feed a table full. There’s quite a bit of chopping involved, but sharpen your knife and trust me…it will be so worth your time.

WinterProvencalVegetableSoup-7

_____

Provençal Vegetable Soup

_____

Extra-virgin Olive Oil – 5 Tablespoons

3 plump, moist Garlic cloves

Onions 4 medium, cut in ½ – 1-inch pieces

Leeks – 3 medium, white & tender green parts only, rinsed, quartered & thinly sliced

Bouquet Garni: several fresh or dried bay leaves, fresh celery leaves, thyme sprigs & parsley – either tie together or put in a wire mesh tea strainer

sea salt

Carrots – 8 medium, scrubbed & cut into thin wheels

firm, yellow-fleshed Potatoes (Yukon Gold) – 1 lb. (500 g)  peeled & cubed

Celery ribs – 4 ribs with leaves, cut into thin pieces

Butternut Squash or raw Pumpkin – 2 lbs. (1 kg), peeled & cubed (yield: 1 qt. or 4 c.)

Farro or Spelt – or substitute Barley – 1 cup, rinsed & drained

can peeled Italian plum Tomatoes in their Juice – 28-ounce (750 g) can

Tomato Paste – 2 Tablespoons

small White Beans – such as navy or flageolet (see NOTE)

Cranberry Beans (such as Borlotti) (see NOTE)

mixture chopped Kale & Spinach *

freshly-ground coarse Pepper

freshly-grated Pecorino Romano cheese – ¾ cup

freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese – ¾ cup

_________

NOTE: If using fresh beans, 1 pound of each in their shells. If using dried beans, 8 ounces (250 g) of each  – pick them over, making sure you have no little pebbles, rinse the beans, place in a large bowl & cover with boiling water;  allow to soak for 1 to 2 hours. Please note the different instructions – step 2 below – based on whether fresh or dried beans are used.

* – a bag of frozen chopped kale & spinach works great for this. Add as you’re ready to serve – each time you heat up a new potful of soup, add a handful or 2 of this mixture and you’ll have bright green in each bowl.

_______

WinterProvencalVegetableSoup-1

1. In a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot, combine the oil, onions, leeks, bouquet garni and salt to taste,  then stir to coat. On low heat, sweat the onions & garlic mixture – cooking with the lid on for several minutes until what’s in the pot is softened and fragrant. Drop in the carrots, celery, squash, potatoes, farro (or spelt or barley), the tomatoes with their juice, along with the tomato paste. Add four quarts (4 liters) cold water. If you are using DRIED BEANS – add only 3 quarts cold water at this time. Cover the stock pot and bring to a simmer. Gently simmer for 30 minutes. Taste for salt & add as needed.

WinterProvencalVegetableSoup-4

Read more

the guinea pig goes to college

The past two weeks have been quite out of the ordinary around here. It all started when the Guinea Pig went back to school…Stanford is training him how to be a business leader…I know…he’s really kind of somethin‘! I decided to use this time as a bit of a retreat of my own and do the sorts of things I don’t generally do when he’s around.

I set up a long table in front of the big window where I normally shoot my food photos. Outside that window are maybe half a dozen different sorts of bird feeders and a place for birds to drink. Nearby are the tall trees where they nest. For days and days, I sewed together squares of colorful flowers and polka dots for the little one who calls herself Lala. As my machine whirred, I watched the birds, literally by the hundreds, swoop in, grab their nuts or thistle, catch their wind and retreat to a nearby branch. I watched the fog rise and descend like a quilt’s airy batting, forming tiny glittering crystals on everything it touched. I watched a determined squirrel (already obese) hang upside-down, each sticky little paw clutching tight a different branch, as he filled his cheeks, trying hard to empty the bird feeder before again losing his balance.

These have been unusually cold days, with both a glorious sun and a freezing fog alternating through the day.   It’s been quiet and serene at this window and I’ve had a chance to contemplate the sorts of things I’d hoped to, love lots on my dogs, and sew a quilt for Lala. This all came at a good time, coinciding as it did with a new year.

I made a discovery early on…without the ever-grateful G.P. here to share the table, some of the joy of cooking has been absent. I’ve eaten very simply…which isn’t all bad. And I’ve eaten a lot of leftovers. This earthy warm tagine got me through several wintry nights…

YamCarrotTagine-2

Served over couscous, this syrupy, caramel-y tagine makes a delicious vegetarian meal served with salad. But it would also go well paired with grilled or roasted meats. Substitute butternut squash or sweet potatoes for the yams, or small shallots for the pearl onions if you like.  You don’t need a tagine to prepare this dish – use a heavy-bottomed casserole dish if that’s what you have. (And if you don’t have preserved lemons…I suppose you could make it without…or…here’s a thought: you could make some!)

_______

a Tagine of Yam, Pearl Onions, Carrots, Prunes & Preserved Lemons

2 to 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil along with a pat of Butter

Fresh Ginger Root – 1½-inch piece about the thickness of your thumb, minced or grated

2 sticks Cinnamon (or 1½ to 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon)

10 ounces Pearl Onions* peeled (See NOTE below on how to peel)

2 pounds Yams or Sweet Potatoes, in bite-size chunks

2 medium Carrots, in bite-size chunks

¾ cup Pitted Prunes

2 teaspoons Maple Syrup

1¾ cups Vegetable or Chicken Stock

Preserved Lemon (rind only) from ½ lemon, small dice

small bunch Cilantro Leaves, roughly chopped

several Mint Leaves, chopped

salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

__________________

*  (or 10 – 12 very small shallots)

In a heavy-bottomed casserole dish or a tagine, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the ginger and cinnamon sticks and stir for one minute. Toss in the peeled pearl onions and when they begin to color, toss in the yams or sweet potatoes, the carrots and the preserved lemon. Sauté for several minutes, then drop in the prunes and maple syrup. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, top with a lid and cook for about 20 to 25 minutes…until vegetables pierce easily with a fork. 

Read more

creamy carrot soup & preserved lemons

On a winter’s afternoon, weeks still before Christmas, a good friend Carolyn and I came together in my kitchen. We’d amassed on the counter several bags of organic lemons, sea salt, a few herbs and spices, and a collection of pretty jars.  We washed, sliced and stuffed the lemons with salt. We packed them tight into their jars. Then tighter still. We dropped bay leaves and pink peppercorns and allspice berries in behind them, and then squeezed juice enough from other lemons to cover them. We talked about what we’d do with them and who we’d give them to as gifts for Christmas. In six weeks they’d be ready. Carolyn hadn’t tasted them before, so she could hardly wait.CarrotSoup-1Some time – too long ago – I posted on how to preserve lemons. I (kind of) promised that I’d share recipes that used these indescribably delectable “preserves”. (In all truth, though, you don’t really need a recipe in order to use them. You can strew them on a salad or in the salad’s vinaigrette; or in with roasted or steamed vegetables; make a simple sauce sort of extraordinary; add them to stews or soups; flavor grilled or poached fish with them. I reach for them several times a week, at least!) Over the next couple months I’ll share a good handful of really good recipes. One of them will be from my friend Carolyn who invented it on the spot (she does that sort of thing, and created herself a beautiful shrimp dinner in about 15 minutes.) She told me about it and I made it and we loved it. (Expect to see more from Ottolenghi too.)

This one today is from Mike – Mike, married to my daughter, is a good good cook. They received a jar of Preserved Lemons for Christmas. One day my girl and I were on an outing and she raved about the dinner Mike had made the other night. By that afternoon, I was texting Mike…

He generously shares his soup:

Creamy Carrot Soup with Preserved Lemons

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 -3 Tablespoons butter or olive oil

 2 cloves of garlic, minced

1½ teaspoons finely minced ginger root

 2 cups chicken stock (or good vegetable stock)

2 Tablespoons dry sherry or white wine

8 to 10 medium carrots, sliced thinly

1 to 2 sections of preserved lemon, diced finely (See NOTE)

1 to 1¼ cups milk (from whole milk to 1% to your preferred milk alternative)

Salt & Pepper (white if you have it) to taste

NOTE on preserved lemons. By “sections” we mean quarters of lemon. After soaking in a briny liquid for 6 weeks, the flesh of the lemon has given over much of its juice to the jar. The rinds of the lemon have softened, and in a way quite impossible to describe, have mellowed, given up their acidic bite and become more roundly-flavored, very lemony still, but not mouth-puckeringly so. To use them, you remove the flesh (either discard it or toss it back in the jar) and use only the rind, which you rinse well first and then (generally) finely dice. If you cook with it, it will impart its lemony-ness to the dish but in a way you can’t quite put your finger on. If you use it fresh, without cooking first, you get little lemony bursts.

CarrotSoup-2

If you don’t want to make them yourself, you can find them in many markets. That said, they’re easy and (we think) fun to make…especially with a friend.

CarrotSoup-3 Read more

a simple post on a simple, luscious soup

dear readers, after the last two posts and all those   w o r d s   I must have bored you to teary yawns! Don’t think I don’t care about such things. I’m the first second to recognize you deserve a break!

So here, just one simple recipe, one photo and very few words from spree.

(I can’t launch into this recipe without first telling you –  I am so incorrigible! – that a recent study names beans as one of the top food categories implicated in promoting brain health into old age. The recommendation was for one to two servings per week (at a minimum.) Along with them,  the “super foods”. You know the ones.)

So, with very few words, may I simply offer you a bowl of luscious, comforting, healthful and delicious soup? Here, first…let me swirl my best olive oil on it. You deserve nothing less!

Chickpea Soup

4 servings

  • 2 cups (300 g) dried chickpeas
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove (or 2), chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 fresh thyme sprig
  • a good pinch of cumin
  • a good pinch paprika
  • Chicken stock or vegetable stock (water is ok)
  • Salt & white pepper to taste
  • Your very finest olive oil (the one you’d serve the queen, or your future mother-in-law)

A day before, soak the beans in a large bowl. Fill with fresh cold water by several inches, and allow to sit overnight.

(I recently read – in Cook’s Illustrated – that if you add a ribbon of Kombu seaweed to your dried beans, you can actually do without the soaking, and it has a way of eliminating some of the side-effects as well as improving the texture of all beans cooked with it. I’ll try that next time. Too many words!) Read more

smokin’ hoppin’ john

From down south in New Orleans there comes a Cajun dish of black-eyed peas and rice, traditionally served on New Year’s Day. Hoppin’ John they call it. Eaten on the first day of the new year, it’s purported to bring good luck for the remainder. I figure when something tastes this good, it’s bound to be lucky! Most often made with ham and bones, this is a vegetarian version – don’t be dissuaded you meat-eaters – it’s brimming with smoky flavor from smoked paprika and chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.  (Now you see where the smokin‘ comes from.)

If you use frozen black-eyed peas and white rice, you could assemble this in well under an hour. And is it ever affordable! (With money saved….here I go with the pitch again…you could donate to a local food bank or shelter and help another eat well. That just may be doubly lucky.)

Smokin’ Hoppin’ John

makes 4 very generous servings

  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup uncooked medium- or long- grain rice (brown or white)
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1½ cups dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight, cooked and drained – or use a 20 oz. bag of frozen black-eyed peas for immediate use (see NOTE)
  • 2 – 3 cups vegetable both (or, if you prefer, chicken broth)
  • 1/4 cup beer
  • 1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, minced
  • 1 t. salt

Optional Garnishes:

  • chopped green onions
  • grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • chopped fresh parsley
  • shredded cheddar
  • hot sauce (especially Cholula chipotle-style)

Soak black-eyed peas overnight.  Cover with water to level 2 inches above beans.  Gently simmer until done.  Drain and set aside. (If using frozen beans, simply proceed to the next step.)

NOTE: on the black-eyed peas. I have a preference for beans I cook myself. They hold together better, have just the perfect “doneness” and I think a bit more flavor. HOWEVER, frozen black-eyed peas make a totally acceptable alternative to cooking the long way and I wouldn’t hesitate to go that route if at all pressed for time.

Over medium heat, warm the oil in a large saucepan or heavy-bottomed pot.  Add the onion and cook until the onion is softened and sweaty, about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic and rice and stir well.  Allow rice to toast for 1 minute.  Add the smoked paprika and 1 teaspoon salt and stir to coat the mixture well. Read more

Smoky corn & sweet potato chowder

We woke in the dark, piled on layers of clothes and loaded cameras in the car. We gassed up and fearlessly set out in the sub-arctic temperatures of sunny Arizona, our hearts tilting toward Grand Canyon. Because it was dark and there was little else to look at, I became fascinated with the external temperature indicator on the dash. We left Sedona at 22°F. We climbed higher, through Oak Creek Canyon in the blue black frigid darkness and the temperature kept dropping. I couldn’t resist taking pictures of the numbers on the dash. 15°, 9°, 0°. Past Flagstaff, we changed directions, I think we were heading north, but I know we were heading colder. Somewhere up there on this wide white expanse, the temperature dropped to -15°. That’s 15°  below ZERO! I texted the proof back home.

I try not to get too terribly excited when my husband’s driving, but I was shrieking in my own head – I’d never been in a place this cold before, “I” was breaking records here! He (the rational one who considers our safety) thought of turning around and heading back. What if we stopped the car and it wouldn’t start again? Then where would we be? Me (the fool, who thrills to adventure) thought this was really cool! Happily, the fool prevailed – we drove on.

In another hour or so, we arrived. The brilliant sun shone. Long icicles dripped crystal drops. Blue-black ravens made their cracking sounds high in the branches above us.

Bundled tight, we ran for the edge to see to the bottom. It was dizzying, glorious!

We snapped our dozens of photos including one of our own long shadows holding hands. Then we headed for the warmth of the lodge, with its rockers on the porch, its grand-scale stone fireplace, and the soup we remembered from the last time we were here.

Last time, I’d even begged for the recipe for that soup. And they gave it to me!

We kept flipping the menu over, front to back, and back to front again, sure we’d missed the soup somehow. It wasn’t there.

We asked our server and were told that another restaurant in the canyon serves it regularly and that it only makes its way up to the big lodge on occasion. This was not to be such an occasion. There was no soup for us that day.

Did it dim our enthusiasm? Not one bit.

~ ~ ~

But with corn chowder still on my mind when we returned home, I had to make a pot. This pot though varies hugely from the one we’d eaten at the canyon. That one used a half gallon of cream. I kid you not. A half gallon! Granted it fed quite a few people, but there was just no way I could bring myself to do it.

I’m pointing no fingers, but I’ve noticed we’re all eating quite well this time of year. Sneaking cookies and egg nog, seconds on gravy and mashed potatoes. But here’s an offering that’s very low fat, creamy with no cream, sweet with no sugar, colorful with no candied sprinkles. What’s more, it’s inexpensive and easy to prepare.  Here’s how:

______________

Smoky Corn & Sweet Potato Chowder

(about 6 good servings)

1 medium-large yellow onion, chopped  (2 cups)

4 cloves garlic, minced

one 3- to 3½-inch jalapeno pepper, finely diced

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1½ teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)

1 Tablespoon cumin seed, dry roasted & then ground (or 4 teaspoons ground cumin)

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¾ teaspoon liquid smoke

6 cups chicken, turkey or vegetable stock

2 medium-large sweet potatoes, in ½-inch cubes

6 cups frozen corn (3- 10 oz.bags)

1 large red bell pepper, medium-diced

_____

Garnish:

  • corn tortillas – sliced in ¼-inch slices, fried until crispy in small amount of olive oil
  • finely diced red onion
  • finely diced red pepper
  • small bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped

SweetPotatoCornChowder-1

Roast the cumin seed in a dry skillet, medium-low heat until its begun to brown and its aroma is rising. Grind using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder. (Alternately use ground cumin. But the flavor of toasted cumin is wonderful and worth the extra step.)

Read more

chicken tortilla soup

Here’s a soup that pleases crowds. Everyone in our family makes and serves this soup and everyone, from little kids to (occasionally) grumpy grandpas, loves it. A fairly long list of ingredients, but it’s a soup easily concocted, and easy to double or triple when entertaining bigger groups. If a soup can be casual and fun, this one is.

~ ~ ~

Chicken Tortilla Soup

(serves 6)

  • four 6-inch corn tortillas
  • about 2 teaspoons olive oil (to brush on tortillas) + 1 Tablespoon (to sauté vegetables with)
  • 2 – 14 ounce cans low sodium chicken broth (or 28 ounces of your very own!)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 -14.5 ounce can Mexican-style stewed tomatoes with juice (or see photo for alternative)
  • 1 small can of green chiles, chopped (mild)
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can cream of corn (the only time I ever use this stuff!)
  • 1 bay leaf
  •  ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ large yellow onion, chopped (1½ cups)
  • ½ red pepper, chopped (about ½ cup)
  • 2 generous Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 12 ounces chicken breast meat (from a grilled, roasted or rotisseried chicken) (see NOTE)
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro

(NOTE on the chicken: If you use an home-done oven-roasted chicken, save the juices from the bottom of the pan. Refrigerate and remove the fat from the top, and incorporate the tasty juices into your soup.)

Garnishes:

  • sour cream
  • tortilla chips (Tostito lime chips are great here!)
  • grated cheddar cheese
  • sliced or chunked avocado
  • a drizzle of hot sauce of your choice – or a sprinkle of the seasoning blend of your choice (like the fabulous “Uncle Jim’s Secret Spice” – if you’re lucky enough to be Jim’s sister)

(Please imagine shredded cheddar on the bowl below.  Sadly, I forgot to add it before I grabbed my camera, so anxious to lift the spoon, I was!)

If you wanted to add rice, or zucchini, green beans,  mushrooms, or a little sweet potato, you could customize this soup entirely to suit your tastes. Didn’t I tell you it was fun?

Read more

gazpacho

Have you ever wondered how to take a refreshing summer salad and turn it into a soup? I hadn’t either, but apparently the Spanish had, and the result is gazpacho: Cool refreshing gorgeous coral pink velvety deliciousness! If you’ve never tasted gazpacho, this is far better than you would imagine. (Believe me, this is nothing like v-8 juice.) If you’ve had and appreciated gazpacho before, you may very well love this version! With the incorporation of country bread, very good olive oil and aged sherry vinegar, it’s got a depth and complexity of flavor that leaves you licking your happy lips and holding out your glass for maybe just a little more. This can be a first course, served in champagne glasses if you like! Or serve it for lunch or on a hot summer evening along with some crusty bread and cheese. Absolutely no cooking required.

Classic Gazpacho

(serves eight)

For the Soup:

  • 2  cups cubed day-old country bread, crusts removed
  • 2 medium-size garlic cloves, chopped (see NOTE)
  • 1 small pinch of cumin seeds or ground cumin
  • coarse salt (kosher or sea)
  • 3 pounds ripest, most flavorful tomatoes possible, seeded and chopped
  • 2 small Kirby (pickling) cucumbers, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large Italian (frying) pepper, cored, seeded and chopped (see NOTE 2)
  • 1 medium-size red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup fragrant extra-virgin olive oil (of very good quality) 
  • 1/2 cup chilled bottled spring water, or more as needed (optional – I didn’t use, and was very satisfied with the result, but you may choose to add)
  • 3 Tablespoons sherry vinegar, preferably aged, or more to taste

For the Garnishes:

  • Finely diced cucumber
  • Finely diced peeled Granny Smith apple
  • Finely diced slightly under-ripe tomato
  • Finely diced green bell pepper
  • Slivered small basil leaves
  • Toasted, Herbed coarse bread crumbs

Place the bread in a bowl, covered with cold water and allow to soak for 5 to 10 minutes. Drain the bread, squeezing out the excess liquid.

Place the garlic, cumin, and ½ teaspoon salt in a mortar and, using a pestle, mash them to a paste.

Read more

Chicken Soup with Egg-Lemon Sauce

It’s pitiful to beg, I know, but I’m coming dangerously close to it.  Just look over the recipe below, imagining the pairing of these ingredients, and you’ll want to try this soup. (OK, I want you to, but let’s not quibble.) This is one of those comfort foods, and – I’m fully convinced – a cure for what ails. It’s somehow “creamy” with no cream (thanks to the arborio rice.) It’s full of flavor, while still being gentle and so easy to eat. It’s aromatic (thanks to the generous amount of dill and the perfume of the lemon.) It’s a soup equally good in summer as in winter, so Spring would be the perfect time to prove it to yourself! Take the challenge – try this soup – you will not be disappointed! It’s positively kissable.

At the start of “Citrus Month,”  I promised you a soup from Yaya and Papou’s homeland. This is the one. In Greece, until fairly recently, chickens were considered a great delicacy. Except on important feast days, chicken dishes would have been reserved for children and the sick.  This chicken and rice soup, with an egg and lemon “sauce” stirred in at the last moment, was served as a much-loved, one-pot meal at Christmas.  Nowadays, I’d venture to say you can find this on any Greek restaurant menu – but please let me know if you’ve ever tried one better.

The secret to any good soup is in the stock, and this one is no different. If you’re pressed for time, you could use a pre-roasted chicken and a high-quality, store-bought (or previously prepared homemade) chicken stock – but the gentle, two-hour-long cooking of a whole chicken imparts the most delicate, silken of flavors to this broth. If you need to take the short-cut, about 2-1/2 quarts or so of good stock should prove about right, and the meat from about one-half of the chicken. (In either case, please use a free-range, organically fed bird.)

Chicken Soup with Egg-Lemon Sauce (Kotopoulo Soupa, Avgolemono)

(makes 4 to 6 main-course servings – or  6 to 8 for first-course)

  • one 3-to-4-pound free-range chicken, quartered, plus 2 pounds chicken backs, necks and/or wings
  • 1 large onion, halved
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and quartered
  • 2 bay leaves (if your bay leaves are more than a year old, toss them and start new)
  • 10 – 12 peppercorns
  • 2 Tbl. olive oil
  • 5 scallions (white and most of the green parts), thinly sliced
  • 1 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 2/3 cup of medium-grain rice, such as Arborio
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4-6 Tbl. freshly-sueezed lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To greatly reduce the fat content of the resulting broth, and how much skimming is required, I like to start by first removing the skin and all visible fat from the quartered chicken. Remove the fat from the backs of the chicken as well. Place the chicken parts in a large pot and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and skim off any foam. Reduce the heat to low and add the onion, carrots, bay leaves, salt and peppercorns. Cover and simmer for two hours, adding a little more water if needed, until the chicken begins to fall from the bones.

Read more