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Posts Tagged ‘soup’

I demand a do-over on October. Now.

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The colors are woefully gorgeous. Woeful it is, as the glorious October sunshine that tends to set them off to perfection, causing my jaw to drop in awe has been conspicuously absent, leaving the bright yellow maples and dark red oak trees to show off their glory in nothing more than rain-drenched light. Halloween is bearing down on us, and I have only fleeting images in my mind of how beautiful this month can be in Minnesota. Soon comes November, dreary November and then all the holiday junk and then……well, there’s just winter after that. I need my October to set my mind right before taking that plunge. I need piles of crisp dry leaves to kick through, another sorely missed option of this fleeting month. All the leaves have been far too soggy to play with, and certainly not desirable for your shoes.

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There is some kind of somber romantic beauty caught up in the fog, the burnished colors trying their best to break through the unbroken and gray light. And amongst that backdrop of drab this October, I have craved all manners of comfort through steaming bowls of soup. Fall is perfect for soup, with or without expected weather habits, and the kicky Chorizo and Black Bean recipe here is good for warming the tummy, and chasing away thoughts of the impending gloomy November. Remind me that I need to stock up on candles.

It’s also one of those recipes that sent me to three stores to find a good quality dry-aged chorizo to use in this recipe. Do you ever do anything like that? I kind of like darting into a store and buying one thing, for some reason. Maybe because I do it so often. I do highly recommend using that type, usually in a casing and referred to as Spanish chorizo, as opposed to the loose ground kind. While you likely will get good flavor from both, the dry-aged variety is so agreeably piquant, giving it a better flavor profile. This soup came together as an amalgam of two separate recipes, each stellar in their own right. I couldn’t choose which one to make, so I took the best of both of them and made something new and fabulous.

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Ahhhh hearty soup, warm and satisfying. This was excellent; chock full of good vegetables and beans, chunks of seared sausage and a nice dollop of sour cream to smooth out the heat. It was a land mine of flavor and texture for the eye and the belly. I served it with these yummy cornbread croutons, an outrageously good idea I had recently to use up some leftover cornbread in a different way.

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These snappy little squares are perfect with soup or stew, a delicious tasty extra with amazing toothsome bite. Take your prepared cornbread pieces and cut them into thin slices, no more than 1/4 – 1/2″ thick. Place the slices on parchment covered cookie sheets in a 325° oven and bake them until they are crisped and golden brown, turning once or twice while they bake. This could take about 45 minutes to an hour. You can cook them in a higher oven; they tend to not dry out as completely as a slower temperature but the outcome is completely subjective. Save some to crumble over a salad for a nice touch of crunch. That is, if you can keep yourself from eating them all.

Chorizo and Black Bean Soup
By Kate

This soup comes together pretty quickly, but like many, it will develop deeper flavor after a day, or even more. Adjust the amount of water for the thickness you prefer. The broth is thin, and can be thickened in any manner you prefer if you wish.

3 links Spanish chorizo, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 15-oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-oz can diced tomato, fire roasted if you can find them
1 c. whole kernel corn
2 t. chipotle pepper in adobo (I run the whole peppers through the food processor to make them easier to use- chop a whole one, or more to taste. You can sub ground cayenne pepper to your liking, or dried chili of choice.)
1 t. dried oregano
1-2 t. ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

In your soup pot, warm oil of choice over medium heat and cook onion for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and peppers and cook for about 5 minutes more. Add the chorizo and cook until the pieces are seared and slightly browned. Stir in about a quart of water and gently scrape the fond off the pan. Add in the chipotle, tomato, corn and black beans, and more water to the consistency you prefer. Stir in the cumin and oregano and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.

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I’m the total opposite of this guy.

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Instead of warily watching over the masses, determining who best to give a bowl of soup to and weeding out the undeserving, I would be holding the door open, waving folks inside and pushing bowls into their hands; bowls of steaming, hearty and delicious soup with plenty of great bread for dunking.

I am no Soup Nazi. I’m a Soup Queen. We’re in May now, and I still can be swayed by a bowl of soup; I can read a recipe that is more suited to November’s chill, a thick blanket of fleece and a crackling fire and regardless of the fact that Spring is quite literally bursting out of it’s seams outside, I find myself lusting for that soup. It’s really a huge turn from even a few years ago. I used to never make soup. In fact, it intimidated me and I can’t explain why. I think I tried to make it on several occasions and was met with a thin, watery extraction, flavorless and vague that did nothing to satisfy the need inside of me for warmth or comfort. I can’t say; I’ve obviously blanked out the bad experiences of it. Back then, soup was a can for me, sad as it is. I cranked open a tin container to achieve a highly prized level of comfort, and wistfully dreamed of the steaming pot, bobbing with colorful vegetables and thick cuts of meat, or dripping with toothsome noodles and wished for the ability to do it from the ground up.

Obviously, what I didn’t know about soup was that it really needs to be built from the ground up in order to achieve that amazing soup quality that we all crave. Getting this…..

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requires little else but a few tidbits of knowledge. Armed with that knowledge, I’ve knocked out soups by the score, at least one pot a week and often more.

Mmmmm, you can almost smell it, can’t you?

The origin of soup can be traced back nearly 6000 years. The word ‘soup’ is believed to have evolved from the term ‘sop’, when long before eating utensils were created and everything was consumed with your fingers, getting those precious drops of juices in the bottom of your bowl was necessary. A thick hunk of bread accomplished this task nicely.

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Surprisingly, the word ‘restaurant‘ comes from a term first associated with soup, when in the 16th century in France, a highly concentrated and nutritious food known as a ‘restaurer‘ was sold by street vendors, advertised as an antidote to physical exhaustion. A Parisian entrepreneur opened a shop in 1765 specializing in servings ‘restaurers’, and the term ‘restaurant’ was coined to describe it. The ‘restaurer’ being served was but a humble bowl of soup used as a means to rejuvenate from the trappings of modern life. It’s no wonder that now, many hundreds of years later, when we crave comfort and seek solace from our own modern world, that a bowl of soup feels like a restorative shot in the arm.

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Soup grew in popularity with the onset of canning in the 19th century, and today there are hundreds of options available in the supermarket; dried, canned and all designed to be quick and easy. There is soup for all weather too, and a soup found in all cultures, all cuisines and in every form from around the world. We have classic soups, cold soups, fruit soups and herb soups. It can be called bisque, chowder, stew and consomme. The Chinese have Egg Drop and Birds Nest soup; the Greek have their Avgolemono, Scots their Cock-a-Leekie, the French serve Bouillabaise, Hungarians love their Goulash, Russians their Borscht, the Spanish and Portugese revere their Gazpacho. Heated arguments ensue over which clam chowder is better- New England cream based, or Manhattan tomato based- and Gumbo pots simmer throughout the Southern United States. Ever heard of  Canh Chua? Revithia? Caldo Verde? Lan Sikik? Callaloo? Fasolada? Bourou-Bourou? Kharcho? Snert? They’re all traditional, cultural representations of soup. Anthony Bourdain claimed that he fell in love with food after eating a bowl of Vichyssoise when he was a boy. And in the 80’s, a flash in the pan boy band went by the name Menudo. Soup is everywhere.

There tends to be a mindset about making soup that it has to take a long time in order for it to be good. While there is something to be said about creating a deep and flavorful pot, simmered for hours at a time, with the ingredients on hand and a quick turn with your knife, soup can be on the table in less than an hour. My Recipe Index has lots of good options for both an easy spin on the stove and a good pot to create over a lazy afternoon.

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This soup- Zuppa Arcidossana or Rustic Italian Bread Soup- the recipe that prompted me to make a hearty rich Fall-like pot on a beautiful- but cool- Spring afternoon, was one of the simple means to that steaming goodness. Browsing through the New York Times Dining section each Wednesday often gets me in a state like this; I spot a recipe I know I would love and my mad culinary brain must have it. Now. It’s all Bittman’s fault. The soup was simple, hearty and really flavorful, not to mention very quick.

Zuppa Arcidossana

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings
1 cup 1/2-inch-diced carrots
1 large onion, chopped
3 or 4 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and black pepper
1 cup stale bread (use coarse, country-style bread), cut in 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 pound spinach, trimmed, washed and roughly chopped
1/4 to 1/2 cup ricotta salata, cut in 1/2-inch cubes (feta may be substituted)
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley, optional.

Put oil in a large pot or deep skillet and brown sausage over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. When sausage is cooked through and leaving brown bits in pan, add carrots, onion and garlic, and continue to cook until vegetables begin to soften and brown, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Add bread to pan and stir for a minute or 2; add spinach and continue cooking just until it wilts, a couple of minutes.

Add about 2 cups water and stir to loosen any remaining brown bits from pan. This is more of a stew than a soup, but there should be some broth, so add another cup of water if necessary. When broth is consistency of thin gravy, ladle stew into serving bowls and top with cheese and some freshly chopped parsley if you have it. Serve immediately.

Mark Bittman, NY Times, 4/29/09

KATE’S NOTES:
Browning the vegetables adds a lot of flavor. I browned the carrot, garlic and onion for quite some time before adding in the sausage and giving it a good searing as well. Since you are only adding water, the fond on the pan will add an immense depth to the pot.

I had some leftover green beans from a previous dinner that ended up in the soup as well. The bread I used was a baguette, and it wasn’t stale; I just cut off the super crusty ends and added them into the soup pot. The slices were toasted to make them nice and crunchy, then set in the broth to soften slightly. I added about a teaspoon of fresh rosemary for extra flavor.

Instead of ricotta, I used fresh mozzarella and of course, shaved parmesan which this soup absolutely cries out for in droves. Basil would also make a good garnish on the top.

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Photographing soup is frustrating. And I tend not to do it. A picture can paint a thousand words and I fully believe that, but not with soup. A bowl of soup has a depth that can’t be discerned in a photo; it’s got more flavor in a tiny spoonful than many dishes have overall and to try and photograph it to convey that message is impossible. If you’ve got any great tips, please share.

How I wish you could taste what came out of my soup pot last night. It was one of those days where I had a lot of stuff to do and suddenly it was 3:30 in the afternoon and I didn’t have a dinner plan. I hate that, but it does sometimes rev up my inner Iron Chef and I spend some time flinging open the freezer, the pantry and the fridge to see what’s available to utilize. I was pretty low on vegetables and lacking in any leftover grains. Soup was definitely an idea, but what kind?

Something drove me to open my recipe folder and on the very first page of the Soup category was a clipping from a magazine for Chipotle Chicken and White Bean soup. The plan basically evolved itself. Within 45 minutes we had a steaming pot.

And it was delicious!

Spicy Chicken Chipotle Soup

1# boneless chicken breasts, cut to bite size
1 large onion, diced fine
1 stalk celery, diced fine
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-oz can great northern beans, rinsed
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes with liquid
1 4-oz can diced green chilies
2-3 t. chipotle en adobo
1 qt. chicken broth

In the work bowl of a food processor, place drained and rinsed beans, tomatoes with juice, green chilies, chipotle and about a half cup of water. Process until smooth, scraping sides as necessary. Pour into a bowl; it should be about a quart.

In a stock pot, heat oil and add onions and celery. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until onions begin to brown. Add in jalapeno and cook about 5 minutes more. Stir in the garlic, turn down the heat and cook until very browned and fragrant. Keep stirring to avoid it sticking and burning. When all the vegetables are nicely caramelized, scrape them into a bowl. Add a little more oil to pot. Season the diced chicken with chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper and add to hot pot. Allow to brown, stirring occasionally, until all the pink is gone. Add in the vegetables and processed tomato mix, stir to combine then add chicken broth. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes.

This can be served with broken tortilla chips, a dollop of sour cream, chopped fresh jalapenos or any other appropriate condiments.

KATE’S NOTES:

The pureed bean/tomato mixture gives this soup a decent thickness without added cream or a flour/butter mix. You can alter the chipotle to make it less or more spicy, substitute black beans, navy beans or pinto beans  for the great northerns. I like the deep flavor that the caramelized onion mix gives it, but it isn’t completely necessary. Diced red or green pepper would be very nice in this as well.

(photo courtesy of 550-Soup recipes)

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It’s National Vichyssoise Day;  a chilly November day and we will be honoring cold soup.

Something just isn’t right about this picture. Like Ice Cream Sundae Day, it should be during one of those scorching months of summer where appreciating a cold food is actually a fun prospect, not one to make you shiver.

Vichyssoise- say Vee shee swaz, or Veesh eee swaz– sounds like one of those incredibly complicated dishes that require time and focus, but in truth, it’s a simple potato leek soup that is pureed smooth and served chilled. There is nothing hard about it, nor time consuming. And it’s delicious in either form- hot and chunky (which food snobs would argue that it’s NOT Vichyssoise in that regard but I couldn’t care less about that) or smooth, silky and ice cold.  Julia Child’s recipe was so simple that it didn’t even include chicken stock- it was just potato and leek simmered in water and seasoned with salt and pepper. You can’t get much simpler than that.

The origin of the soup is questionable in whether it’s genuinely French or an American creation. Both countries claim to be the first to produce the dish, but the credit is generally given to Louis Diat, a chef at the Ritz-Carlton in New York City. He produced the soup based on a memory of his childhood where his mother and grandmother would make a potato leek soup and his older brother often poured milk into his bowl to cool it off. Diat thought the soup tasted wonderful and in the summer of 1917 he recreated it for the hotel patrons. Diat was French and his hometown in France was Montmarault, not far from the town of Vichy which became the moniker for his creation. The original menu at the Ritz was French, and the soup was named Creme Vichyssoise Glacee, then changed to Cream Vichyssoise Glacee. Other culinarian historians debate that the soup was first made by French chef Jules Gouffe and published in a French cookbook in 1859. Regardless of who can be credited with the invention, Vichyssoise has a reputation for high class finesse despite being little more than peasant food. Anthony Bourdain lists Vichyssoise as a catalyst for his lifelong passion with food; having been served the soup on a trans-atlantic voyage at the age of 9, he recalls falling in love with the “delightfully cool, tasty liquid.”

I really love potato leek soup, and the simplicity of the preparation. For added flavor, you can roast the potato and the leek until golden brown, then add them to simmering chicken stock. I love using Yukon Gold potato for this soup as it gives it such a gorgeous yellow tone, and eaten as a chunky version or blended smooth, it’s a perfect and soothing soup for a cold day as well as a delicious and light chilled soup in the midst of steaming July. The usual garnish is chives or parsley, and a tiny pat of butter in a hot bowl gives it a nice rich decadence. The milk or cream is entirely optional too; the soup is divine just plain. It’s one of those items where more is definitely not better.

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Officially, we’re looking at National Chicken Soup Day and National Pizza with the Works (except Anchovies) Day.

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Oh right, sorry there Chicken, a little humor insert, but that’s the extent of what I feel for these particular days- not a lot of excitement. How can you get excited about Chicken Soup? Or pizza overloaded with too many toppings? Ho hum…

I love Chicken Soup, don’t get me wrong. Little else can soothe so universally as chicken soup, made fresh with lots of vegetables and soft dreamy noodles. It’s a well known fact that it’s good for colds and sinus infections, but whether or not it’s beneficial isn’t always the reason to indulge; eat it because it’s delicious and a simple and healthy option. Soup is such a great way to offer a meal that is low in calories and high in substance; you can add in a multitude of vegetables and easily achieve a large amount of your RDA in vegetable consumption with one meal. A little goes a long way too.

Soup is a much beloved and oft repeated meal in our house and the sky is the limit for what goes into the pot. I didn’t cook up anything new for this post, but here are some of my favorite soups ever-  Chicken Tortellini Alfredo Soup, a lively Smoky Chicken Tortilla Soup, and a rich and creamy Chili Blanco, then a completely random but delicious Chicken Corn Potato Chowder. This last one isn’t a chicken soup, but it’s wonderful anyway, and as long as we’re talking soups, you should give this Pesto Vegetable Soup a shot.

And now….Pizza.

I’m a minimalist when it comes to pizza; the less on the crust, the better I like it. I’ve had those Everything Pizza’s and it’s just too much stuff. I’m not a fan of onions on my pizza unless they are beautifully caramelized; mushrooms aren’t a favorite either. I don’t like hamburger on it, or canadian bacon, or pineapple or pickles or jalapenos or cheddar cheese or potato or beets……

All right, those last two might be considered a long shot, but the rest is not. A classic combo that I love is sausage and green pepper; I also love just pepperoni with nothing but cheese. I love chicken, tomato and green pepper, I love fresh tomato and fresh mozzarella, with capers and kalamatas. And I love vegetable pizza. But these days, with dairy being on my avoidance list, pizza has taken a backseat in my culinary repertoire and I seriously miss it. Indulge in a slice or two for me, would you??

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{{chicken photo courtesy of Easy Chicken Recipes}}

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Beef, Barley and Leek Soup
Kate’s Version

Split three large leeks down the center and wash well. Slice thinly. It’s a massive amount but will cook down significantly. If you wish for a more onion-y flavored broth, slice a yellow onion also.

Get one pound of good quality sirloin with a little marbling; trim the fat on the edges and cut into 1/2″ chunks. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brown meat in batches over medium-high heat, removing to a bowl as they darken. If you happen to have a good beef bone on hand, adding it to the pot for the cooking process will greatly enhance the beef flavor.

When all the meat is browned, add the onion and leek to the pan, along with 2 cloves of minced garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are slightly soft and browned in some spots. Return the beef to the pan, add in about 1/2-3/4 c. of pearled barley (depending on your love of the grain- I used 3/4 c.), 1 1/2 quarts of beef broth and 1/2 c. red wine. This liquid-to-solid ratio results in a pretty thick soup- add more liquid if you want a thinner option.  If you’re like me and you keep various cheese rinds on hand in the freezer to flavor soups, toss a few in at this time. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until beef is tender and barley is cooked through. This will depend on the type of barley used- mine took about an hour but I kept the heat pretty low.

Additions can be added as well; sliced carrots, cubed potatoes, mushrooms…..the list is infinite. Continue cooking the soup until added ingredient is tender. Just before serving, pour in about 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, or more red wine. Season with salt and pepper.

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Lentil Vegetable Soup

2 c. small french green lentils, washed and picked over
6 c. water

Combine in large stockpot and bring to a boil. Simmer about 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain and reserve. Use any form of lentil you wish; the small green ones hold their shape nicely for a good texture in soup.

In a large soup pot, I heated olive oil. Into the oil went two small yellow onions, diced; about 5-6 small carrots, peeled and diced and one yam, peeled and diced. I cooked the vegetables until soft over medium-high heat, then turned down the flame and allowed them to brown slowly, stirring occasionally. After about 25 minutes, I added in two cloves of minced garlic and a cup of cooked wheatberries. I browned it for another 10 minutes, then added in two cans of diced tomato, a quart of water and the cooked lentils. I brought this to a simmer, then stirred in about 2-3 cups of shredded spinach. I seasoned it with a little white pepper, cumin and Prudhomme’s Vegetable Magic seasoning. Five minutes later I turned off the flame.

The browning of the vegetables was solely to add flavor to the soup. It isn’t important, but I like a deep flavorful soup base and I was out of any kind of base except chicken and I didn’t want that. The variations on this recipe are endless and imaginative; Heidi tosses out lots of options on her site. The saffron cream was very good but the soup tasted delicious even without it.


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