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Posts Tagged ‘soup’

It’s officially fall, which makes me want to make soup. And for me the perfect shoulder-season soup is spicy corn chowder. Making it allows me to cook the piles of fresh corn I just can’t seem to stop buying as well as utilize part of the bushel of roasted green chiles I bought with visions of capturing the grand prize at my school’s fall festival chilli cook-off (which I didn’t end up entering — long story — so these will be added to almost everything I make or eat for the next several months).

Unlike most corn chowder recipes, this soup doesn’t call for cream or creamed corn or sugar. It’s relatively light and fresh tasting while also being plenty rich and satisfying. You can take the extra step of scraping the corn pulp into a bowl and squeezing it to obtain about 1/2 cup of corn juice to use to finish the soup, although I’ve tried it both ways and honestly couldn’t tell the difference. I know everyone doesn’t have access to Colorado’s locally grown Sweet Olathe corn, but I’m sure you can get something equally delicious at your local farmer’s market this time of year.

And just a little kernel for thought (sorry, couldn’t resist the, ahem, corny play on words): If you want to avoid genetically modified corn, which I think you might when you read studies like this one, then you’ll need to buy organic ears.

My kids loved this by the way! (No carrots, no celery, bacon and potatoes, need I say more?)

Corn Chowder

Ingredients
8 ears of corn
2 tbs. unsalted butter
1/2 onion, chopped
2-3 slices bacon, cut into small strips
Leaves stripped from about 6 thyme sprigs (just pinch with your fingers and pull down the stem)
1/4 cup flour
1/2 pound small red potatoes, cut in half or quartered depending on their size
1/2 cup milk (I used 2%)
Salt & pepper
6 cups water
2 roasted green chiles (peeled and diced) or one 4 oz. can of diced Hatch green chiles, optional

Peel the husks and silk from the corn. Using a sharp knife (I like a bread knife for this actually), cut the kernels from the corn. You will have a large pile of corn. If you want to extract every last drop of flavor from the corn, use a butter knife to scrape the pulp off the (now kernel-less) cobs into a fine strainer. Let sit over a bowl so corn juice drips into bowl (you can also squeeze gently with the back of a spoon). Set aside.

In a Dutch oven or heavy pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, bacon, and thyme. Cook for 10 minutes until onion is translucent. Stir in flour and cook for another minute or two, stirring constantly.

Add water gradually while continuing to stir, and bring to a boil. Add potatoes and corn and a pinch of salt & pepper. Cook for 15-20 minutes.

Add milk to chowder and season to taste with more salt & pepper. Stir in green chiles if using (I suggest tasting them first to test for hotness; my experience is that these freshly roasted chiles vary widely and some are just too hot). Add reserved corn juice just before serving — and a healthy grind of pepper.

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I called this "weirdly satisfying" because it's really just a big bowl of carrots.

As a kid, I loved Cup-a-Soup. Remember those red boxes of dehydrated noodles, cardboard chicken cubes, and powder? Of course the ingredients list includes some real winners, including Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed Oil, MSG and Autolyzed Yeast Extract (whatever that is, it doesn’t sound too good). Still, when I was 15, this seemed like a good choice, and I suppose it was when you consider most of my friends would sneak to McDonald’s for lunch.

I still love soup. However, nowadays I gravitate to simpler, fresher varieties, like this delicious carrot soup. With six ingredients, it’s a far cry from Lipton’s science experiment concoction, but it’s so thick and satisfying, I don’t think you’ll miss those chicken cubes.

When making soup, it’s important to take your time and allow the flavors to build at each step. Don’t worry, that sounds a lot more complicated than it is. Simply stir, taste, add salt if necessary, then move on. The onions and butter really bring out the carrots’ sweetness. This soup makes a great family supper (with some French bread of course), and it’s also great as a light yet filling lunch. I totally crave it. If your kids like carrots, they’ll love this. If not, well the same recipe works with broccoli or corn.

The big, fat organic carrots with the leaves still on them are usually freshest; they don't languish in plastic bags before you buy them.

Simple Carrot Soup

Ingredients
4 tbs. unsalted butter (organic butter tastes better)
2 onions, diced
1 bay leaf or a pinch of dried thyme (if you happen to have it, toss in one sprig of fresh thyme)
2 lbs. carrots, peeled and sliced into 1″ pieces (again, buy organic if possible)
salt & freshly ground pepper
6-8 cups vegetable stock (or chicken stock)

If you haven't done so already, teach your kids to use a vegetable peeler. It's fun!


In a heavy pot (like a Dutch oven), melt the butter and add the onions and herbs. Cook over medium-low heat until the onions are translucent and very tender, but don’t brown them, about 10 minutes. Add the carrots and a pinch or two of salt. Stir well to coat the carrots with the butter, then cook for about 5 minutes. Add stock, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the carrots are tender but not mushy (about 30 minutes). If you want to puree the soup, transfer it in batches to a food mill or blender, or you can do what I do and stick an immersion blender in there. My method makes a soup that’s partially pureed but not smooth. Check seasoning and add salt if necessary. Serve with a healthy grind of fresh black pepper (I’m not sure why, but this step is crucial; the pepper really sets off the carrots’ flavor I guess).

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Gumbo

Mardi Gras in Denver is pretty lame. I mean, no parades, no hurricanes in to-go cups, and no ridiculously scrumptious late-night beignets from Cafe Du Monde. Still, I like to celebrate at least a little. First, I throw beads at the kids to wake them up for school (hilarious), and then I make gumbo. This year, I decided to make sausage gumbo because I am giving up meat for Lent (and going without sausages for 40 days is truly a hardship). I decided to make Paula Deen’s Gumbo because, well, it’s Mardi Gras, and Paula’s indulgent, southern-style recipes never let you down (they might give you a heart attack, but that’s another story). This gumbo is thick and hearty and delicious, and the kids loved it too. There is no spice at all, except what’s in the sausage. It’s very easy to make, but it does need a couple hours of simmer time.

Of course I tweaked the recipe a little. Instead of chicken breasts, I used pheasant breasts, which is not as weird as it sounds. My husband went hunting with a friend last week, and we had them in the fridge. I don’t love pheasant, but in things like soup, it really does taste like chicken. I also used uncooked venison brats instead of smoked sausage, again because we had them — and I am trying to rid the house of meat before Lent. I would suggest getting some nitrate-free smoked sausage at Whole Foods; make sure it’s the kind you cut and not the kind you crumble. Since I didn’t use smoked sausage, I added a little smoked sea salt (from Savory Spice Shop) to give it that smoky flavor it was lacking.

To thicken the soup, you make a roux — sounds a lot more French and complex than it is. Paula’s recipe called for 5 tbs. of margarine, a substance I don’t buy (basically pure trans fats). I substituted unsalted butter, which is of course pure fat too, but at least not the hydrogenated kind. Other than the butter, though, this is actually a fairly healthy dish. Not exactly light, but hey it is Fat Tuesday, right y’all?

Gumbo (from Paula Deen, host of “Paula’s Home Cooking” on the Food Network)

Ingredients:
3 large chicken breast halves (boneless skinless) or about 5 pheasant breasts
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
1 lb. smoke sausage, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4-5 tbs. butter (Paula uses margarine)
1 large onion, chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped (Paula called for green, I used red)
3 stalks celery, chopped (I used about 5 plus some of the leaves; Iove celery)
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 bunch flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
5 beef bouillon cubes (I used Better than Bouillon Beef Base, which you can get a Whole Foods.)
1 – 14-oz. can stewed tomatoes with juice (All I had was a large can of whole peeled tomatoes, so I used about half of them and squished them up with my hands.)
2 cups frozen sliced okra
1/2 pound small shrimp, peeled and cooked (I used about 10 oz.; to pre-cook the shrimp, just put in a shallow pan of simmering water for about 5 mins. and drain.)
Salt & pepper

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken until browned on both sides then remove (I diced mine into bite-size pieces first so it cooked very quickly). Add the sausage and cook until browned, then remove. Sprinkle the flour over the oil, add 2 tbs. butter and cook, stirring constantly, until brown, about 10 minutes. This is your roux; let cool.

Roux — otherwise known as flour and butter cooked with bits of burned-on meats from the pan.

Now melt about 2 tbs. butter in the Dutch oven over low heat, then add the onion, garlic, bell pepper, and celery and cook for 10 mins. Add the Worcestershire sauce, salt & pepper to taste, and the parsley. Cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Add 4 cups of hot water and the bouillon, whisking constantly. Add the chicken and sausage, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30-45 mins.

Okra seems to thicken the soup so I added a lot of water as it cooked, probably 4-5 cups more than the recipe called for.

Add tomatoes, tomato juice, and okra, cover and simmer for an hour. Just before serving, add the shrimp. Serve over rice.

Paula garnishes her gumbo with chopped green onions and more parsley; I was tired of chopping so made do with some Louisiana-style hot sauce and a cold glass of chardonnay.

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Last week a friend sent this soup recipe to me with the note, “This is divine.” Well, I don’t know about you, but when I see a recipe for something that’s very healthy and has been vetted by a friend (a friend who’s known for her fabulous soups, by the way), I’m very interested. But I must admit I was also a bit skeptical. While I love vegetable soup, this list of ingredients doesn’t contain anything that jumped out at me as “divine” — I mean if there was pancetta or bernaise or aged gouda… But I made it, and it was fantastic. It’s very hearty and flavorful and, with a sprinkle of freshly grated Grana Padano, downright divine.

 

Italian Vegetable Soup

Make sure you have a very large pot because this makes LOTS of soup. Be prepared to save some for lunches or give a pot to the neighbors. It’s easy to make but does require a fair amount of vegetable-chopping —  a great job for a kindergartner who needs to leave her brother alone while he studies for his vocabulary test. Also, if you’re already thinking of making this soup tonight (with whatever veggies you have in the fridge; this ingredients list is what I used, but any combination would be great, plus you could add spinach, scallions, leeks, broccoli, etc.), don’t. Since you need to soak a pound of beans overnight, the earliest you can make this is tomorrow, but I really suggest you do.

Italian Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ lbs. dried white (cannellini) beans
  • Fresh sage leaves
  • 2 whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 6-8 carrots, peeled and sliced into ¼-inch disks
  • 6-8 celery stalks, trimmed and sliced (roughly the same size as the carrots so they cook evenly)
  • 2 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced (these can be smidge larger because they cook faster)
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, washed thoroughly, trimmed of stems, and sliced into shreds
  • ½ head green cabbage, cored and sliced into largish shreds
  • 1 quart vegetable broth (I cheated and used a little chicken stock I had made the night before and then added water)
  • 2-3 tomatoes, chopped roughly
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

The white beans cooked with sage leaves are what give the soup its richness. I think.

Rinse the beans in cold water then soak them overnight. The next day, rinse and drain them, put them into a large pot, add water to cover by 2 inches, and cook with 3-4 sage leaves, a pinch of salt, and garlic cloves for about an hour.

Piles of vegetable chopped by a 6-year-old with a butter knife.

Heat 2 tbs. of olive oil in a large soup pot, add chopped onions, carrots, celery, and a few sage leaves, and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally with a pinch of salt. Add the zucchini and sauté for 5 minutes. Add broth or stock, cover, and bring to a simmer. Then add Swiss chard, cabbage, and tomatoes.

Swiss chard is in season and, as you can tell by its dark red & green color, VERY good for you.

 

At first I didn't think everything would fit in the pot, but it cooks down quite a lot.

Cover the pot and simmer over low heat for half an hour or so. Add the beans and their cooking water, salt to taste, and simmer, covered, over low heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Serve with crusty bread and grated cheese (Parm or Grana Padano). While the soup was simmering, I sautéed the rest of the sage leaves (I had bought one of those packages of organic fresh herbs at the supermarket) to use as a garnish. They were delicious and really enhanced the sage-y flavor of the soup. To do this, heat 1 tbs. butter in a skillet; when the butter is foamy add the sage leaves and cook them until they’re crispy, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and drain on a paper towel (like bacon). These would be good on almost any winter soup or buttery pasta dish. Mmmm.

I'm sure you can imagine what it smells like when you saute sage leaves in butter.

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At some point in the history of my family, someone told someone about the tradition of eating black eyed peas on New Year’s Day. Apparently this ritual dates back to biblical times, when early editions of the bible told Jews to eat “good-luck symbols” (which included black eyed peas, leeks, and beets) on Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year. Somehow, in my non-Jewish family, this charmingly pleasant concept got translated into something like, “If you don’t eat at least one black eyed pea on New Year’s day, start saying your prayers because your days are numbered.”

Needless to say, black eyed peas are critical. Usually, either my mom or my sister makes some kind of southern-style slow-cooked beans and ham thing, which they are kind enough to share with my husband, my kids, and me, but this year — due to plans and whatnot — we were on our own. You’d think a food evangelist would have this covered, right, and get the dry beans soaking the night before, etc.? Well, that didn’t happen, and on Saturday afternoon as we drove home from a day in the mountains, my husband and I looked at each other in panic. “What about the black eyed peas?” Crap.

I’m happy and relieved to report that we swung by the store and bought a can of the peas (Eden Organic brand, which come in a BPA-free can), and I made soup. I even made enough to share with the neighbors, so they’re good for the year, too.

The soup was really good, too. It was good enough, actually, that it doesn’t have to be New Year’s Day to eat it. It was very quick and easy to make, and obviously you can mess around with the ingredients if, say, you want white beans in stead of black eyed peas — go ahead and throw in whatever is lurking in your fridge that looks like it wants to be eaten. I was toying with the idea of adding a cup or so of frozen corn, but my spouse wasn’t feeling it, so I left it out. Worth trying though. With a salad and some bread, it’s a perfect January meal — relatively light and healthy but still warming, hearty, and even kid friendly.

Happy New Year Soup

Ingredients

1 small onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
About 6 celery stalks, chopped
1/2  bell pepper, chopped
1 can of black eyed peas, drained
Olive oil for sautéing
1/2 lb. medium shrimp, cooked, peeled, and cut in half
1 strip of bacon, cut into small strips (uncured, i.e. nitrate free)
6 cups vegetable broth or stock (If you don’t have stock, you can use water but will probably need to add more salt and spices for flavor; extra bacon never hurts.)
White wine (like Chardonnay)
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
2 cups cooked brown rice

Sautée the onions and garlic in about 1 tbs. of olive oil. Add the celery and green peppers and cook until slightly soft. Add about 1/2 cup of wine and cook off until it doesn’t smell boozy anymore. Add the bacon, the back eyed peas, and then the broth and bay leaf, simmer for about 10-15 mins. Add the shrimp and simmer a few more minutes to incorporate the flavor. Test the flavor and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over rice (about 1/2 cup per serving) with a little green habanero hot sauce (or not).

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