Weekly Winner – A Rustic Bowl of Guiltless Comfort

I’ve said it before and I still believe it – a good bowl of soup can save your soul.  Especially if said soup is incredibly easy and comes together quickly.  Silky Tomato Soup with White Beans and Garlic Oil is the perfect example of that. Hearty and comforting, this soup has a bit of spice and enough substance to keep you going through the hectic holiday season. Perhaps best of all is that, while rich-tasting and wonderfully filling, it won’t contribute to the destruction of your diet like a lot of food will this time of year.

I actually made this soup awhile ago — almost two weeks! But have just now managed to post it.  It still stands as one of the best things I’ve made recently.  I found this winner in Cooking Light and will be making it regularly to ensure my own salvation.

Silky Tomato Soup with White Beans and Garlic Oil

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3-1/2 Tbsp olive oil, divided

8 large garlic cloves, sliced

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper

1 (14.5 oz) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup chopped sweet onion

1/2 cup chopped carrot

2 thyme sprigs

1 Tbsp tomato paste

1 cup vegetable stock (I used chicken)

1-1/4 tsp salt

3 lb. ripe tomatoes, chopped

2 oz whole-wheat bread, torn

Preparation

1. Heat 3 tablespoons oil and garlic in a skillet over medium for 4 minutes or until garlic is golden. Add red pepper and beans; toss.

2. Heat remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high. Add onion, carrot, and thyme; cook 3 minutes. Stir in tomato paste. Stir in stock, salt, tomatoes, and bread. Bring to a boil; cook 5 minutes.

3. Discard thyme sprigs. Place tomato mixture in a blender; process until smooth. Divide soup among 4 bowls; top with beans.

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Weekly Winner:  Another Bowl of Lusciousness

It seems as if I’ve been a bit fixated on soups lately.  I always seem to have a stack of four or five new soup recipes that I’m just dying to try out.  The problem with that is then there’s all the soups that I’ve already made and dearly love.  When am I going to eat them?!?  I guess I’m just going to have to hope for a very long, cold winter.

Potato-Kale Soup is absolutely luscious.  Creamy, (without cream) garlicky potato goodness amped up with shreds of glorious kale.  Yes, I am a kale lover.  I like how it stands up to cooking while retaining a nice bite and seems more substantial and tastier than simple spinach.

This soup is so simple, yet totally elegant. It would make an amazing first course at a dinner party.  Me? I had it for a midweek lunch.  But I gotta admit, I felt just a bit fancy as I sat at the table enjoying this soup while going over client menus and checking Facebook.

The recipe comes from one of my new favorite cookbooks – The Chef Next Door, by Amanda Freitag.

Potato-Kale Soup

Serves 6

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp canola oil

2 Spanish onions, diced

10 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1 leek, cleaned and thinly sliced

2 tsp kosher salt, plus more as needed

1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced

6 cups chicken stock

3/4 pound Tuscan kale, ribs removed, leaves coarsely chopped

1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

Optional Garnishes: hot paprika, extra virgin olive oil.

Procedure:

  1. Heat the canola oil in a large, wide saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add the onions, garlic, and leek, season with 1 tsp of the salt, and sweat until the vegetables are cooked down and really soft with no color, up to 10 minutes.
  2. Add the potatoes, stock, and remaining 1 tsp salt and simmer over low heat until the potatoes are fully cooked, about 30 minutes.
  3. Let the potato-leek mixture cool to room temperature, then purée it in a food processor or blender, working in batches as needed, or directly in the pot with an immersion blender, until completely smooth.
  4. Return the purée to the original saucepan and bring it to a simmer over medium heat.  Stir in the kale and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Serve the soup in deep bowls and garnish with a sprinkle of hot paprika and a drizzle of olive oil.

Weekly Winner:  Cheese! Beer! Soup!

 What’s better than soup on a chilly night?  Cheesy Soup.  And what makes cheese soup even better?  Well yes, bacon would definitely make it better but that’s a different recipe.  This time, it’s Beer!

I pulled this recipe back in the depths of winter, certain that it would get made within a week or so.  Well, life got in the way and it got tucked away – that is until a few days ago.  It was a typical chilly early spring night and the perfect time to pull this out and give it a try.  I knew we’d like it…seriously, what’s not to like?  Lots of cheese (including one of my personal favorites, smoked Gouda), beer….and a pretzel garnish.  As with many of the great recipes, this one wound up far greater than the sum of its parts.  Tasty parts for sure, but the finished product was down right decadent and luscious.  And very, very cheesy.

I’m not certain, but I think that I got this recipe from Cuisine at Home.  Regardless of where it comes from it has found a permanent home in my Soup recipe file.

Smoky Three-Cheese & Beer Soup

Makes about 8 cups

Ingredients:

4 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 cup minced onions

1/2 cup minced carrot

1/2 cup minced celery

1 Tbsp minced fresh garlic

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups chicken broth

2 cups whole milk

1 bottle lager beer

14 oz sharp white Cheddar, shredded

8 oz smoked Gouda cheese, shredded

1 Tbsp cornstarch

2 oz cream cheese, cubed and softened

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1/8 tsp smoked paprika

salt, black pepper, and Tabasco sauce to taste

Pretzel nuggets

Procedure:

  1. Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add onions, carrot, and celery; cook until onions soften and begin to brown, 7-9 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.
  2. Stir in flour and cook 2 minutes, stirring often.  Slowly whisk in broth, milk and beer.  Bring mixture just to a boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer until vegetables are very soft, about 20 minutes.
  3. Off heat, puree soup with a handheld blender.  Return soup to stove top over medium-low heat.
  4. Toss cheddar and gouda with cornstarch.  Whisk cheese mixture into soup, by the handful, making sure the cheese is melted before adding more, then whisk in cream cheese until melted.
  5. Off heat, stir in Dijon, Worcestershire, and paprika; season soup with salt, pepper, and Tabasco.  Garnish each serving with pretzel nuggets.

Weekly Winner: Antidote  for Chicago’s Return to Winter

We did it.  We had survived Chicago’s winter!  We made it!  The light was visible at the end of the cold, snowy tunnel.  Temps kept creeping up, inch by inch…degree by degree.  The parka was exchanged for the wool coat, and then an even lighter jacket.  This past weekend, no jacket was required!  We hit 70 on Monday!  And then came Tuesday.

Tuesday blew in with crazy winds and a 40+ degree drop.  It was winter again, or rather still.  We had come so close and got a cruel taste of warmth and then this!  We needed comfort.  We needed warmth.  We needed dairy and carbs!! (And bacon, but then again, when don’t we need bacon?).

The answer was Baked Potato Soup.  This is another recipe that I thought for sure I had written about.  We have made it forever and it is one of our all time favorites.  But apparently not.  So here it is now, in all its rich, hearty comforting glory.  The recipe comes from Cooking Light, and in the interest of full disclosure, I did not use reduced fat cheddar cheese – life is simply too short.  I use the good stuff.

 

 

Baked Potato Soup

Serves 8 (or so they say….more like 4 in my house!)

Ingredients:

4 baking potatoes (about 2-1/2 pounds)

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

6 cups 2% milk

1 cup (4 oz) reduced-fat shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 cup reduced-fat sour cream

3/4 cup chopped green onions

6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. Pierce potatoes with a fork; bake at 400 for one hour or until tender.  Cool.  Peel potatoes; coarsely mash.
  3. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup, and level with a knife.  Place flour in a large Dutch oven; gradually add milk, whisking, until blended.  Cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly (about 8 minutes).  Add mashed potatoes, 3/4 cup cheese, salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper, stirring until cheese melts. Remove from heat.
  4. Stir in sour cream and 1/2 cup onions.  Cook over low heat 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated (do not boil). Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with remaining cheese, black pepper and onions.  Garnish amply with bacon.

Weekly Winner:  Crock Pot Comfort

We have just shattered the record here in Chicago for the coldest February ever. EVER! It is insanely, crazy cold here and when it’s like this, I throw all good eating intentions aside. I need comfort! I need warmth! I need pork!!

Luckily, all three of these are easily had with the Pork and Black Bean Soup that I have been making for years. As a matter of fact, I was somewhat shocked that I hadn’t written about it before, but apparently not.  This incredible recipe comes from Woman’s Day magazine of all places. Not your typical source for foodie-wonderfulness, but hey, they hit the nail on the head with this one.

This is serious, soul-satisfying stuff here. Earthy, spicy, porky, creamy …. well, you get the idea. And it is incredibly easy. If you have a crock pot and you can dump ingredients into said crock pot …. you can have this soup. And you should. Calories and fat content be damned! It’s cold! 

Pork & Black Bean Soup

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon chopped canned chipotle peppers in adobo, plus 2 Tbsp adobo sauce
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 pound dried black beans, rinsed
  • 1 large red onion,  chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic,  finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder,  trimmed of excess fat
  • Kosher salt
  • Sour cream, fresh salsa or chopped tomatoes for serving

Procedure:

  1. In a 5- to 6-qt slow cooker, whisk together the chicken broth, chipotles and adobo sauce, and cumin; stir in the beans, onion and garlic.
  2. Add the pork and cook, covered, until beans are tender and pork easily pulls apart, on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 5 to 6 hours.
  3. Transfer pork to a bowl and, using a fork, break it into large pieces. Using a handheld immersion blender (or a standard blender), purée half the soup.
  4. Stir the pork back into the soup and season with 1 tsp salt. Serve with the sour cream, salsa or tomatoes, if desired.

Weekly Winner: The Perfect Answer to “Polar Vortex 2 – The Sequel” in Chiberia

2015/01/img_1524-0.jpgThis is the type of soup I would usually save for a dinner, possibly even a Sunday Supper. However, within the past three days here in Chicago the daytime temps have hovered around zero and we won’t even discuss the windchill – minus 20 to 30 have been the norm with howling winds. You need something substantial to keep you going through that kind of weather. You need soup. But not some wimpy, pureed, vegetable-based soup. You need meat!

Having said all that, it is also January which means my annual attempt to eat healthier and lighter has also kicked in. What a conundrum! How will I satisfy my need for hearty sustenance with my desire for more veggies and healthy stuff? The answer: Beef and Farro Soup. Yes, it has beef. But it also is loaded with carrots, celery, tomatoes, KALE, and my new favorite grain, farro.

I got the recipe from a recent issue of Food & Wine and while it does take quite a while to prepare, it is super easy to make. And an added bonus is while you are hunkered down in the house waiting for the temps outside to inch into the double-digits (which I’m still waiting for, by the way), the house smells amazing!

Beef-and-Farro Soup

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 9 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 1 head of garlic, pierced all over with a knife
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 cup farro
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 leek, light green and white parts only, thinly sliced
  • 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 3 small carrots, chopped
  • 1 small bunch Tuscan kale, chopped (3 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons white miso
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Procedure:

  1. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the oil.  Season the meat with salt and pepper.  Add half to the casserole and cook over moderate heat, turning, until browned, about 5 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a large plate.  Repeat with the remaining meat.
  2. Pour off all of the oil from the casserole.  Add 1 cup of the stock and stir, scraping up any browned bits.  Add the remaining 8 cups of stock along with the meat, garlic, thyme and bay leaves and bring to a simmer.  Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender, about 1-1/2 hours.
  3. Stir in the farro and bring to a simmer.  Cover and cook over moderate heat until the farro is almost tender, 20 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, leek, celery, carrots, kale, miso and paprika.  Cover and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Discard the garlic and herb sprigs.  Season with salt and pepper.  Ladle into bowls.  Garnish with cheese and serve.

 

Weekly Winner: Perfect Spring Soup for Chicago’s Psychotic Spring Weather

spring chicken soupI have always thought Spring is highly overrated.  Not the season itself, mind you.  I’m all for renewal and pretty flowers and you need something to take you from winter to summer.  It’s the weather I hate.   Especially here in Chicago.  It’s cold.  It’s rainy.  It’s windy — incredibly windy.  All in all it is terribly over-hyped.  This spring is no exception.  I had the air conditioning on over the weekend and I am quite tempted to turn the furnace back on today!  Simply Crazy.

Having said all that, what is one to eat?  The wonderful spring produce is starting to show up, but a salad just doesn’t seem right on blustery, rainy spring days.  This soup is the perfect compromise.  It is warm and soothing, but chock full of fresh, crunchy spring veggies.  The touch of cream along with the pappardelle pasta adds a velvety touch.  All in all a really great soup. The recipe comes from Sunset magazine and will do nicely until this city’s weather decides what it wants to do.

Spring Chicken and Snap Pea Soup

Serves 4

Ingredients:

6 ½ to 8 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

1 ¾ lbs bone-in chicken breast halves (about 2 small) skinned

4 green onions, thinly sliced

1 cup carrots cut into matchsticks

4 oz dried pappardelle pasta, broken into 2-in pieces

1/3 cup whipping cream

2 cups sugar snap peas, cut diagonally in half

¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

½ tsp each kosher salt and pepper

2 Tbsp chopped fresh tarragon leaves

Instructions:

  1. Bring 6 ½ cups broth to a simmer in a medium pot over high heat. Add chicken, cover, and reduce heat to maintain a very gentle simmer. Poach until chicken is cooked through, 25-30 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate; let cool slightly.
  2. Add green onions and carrots to broth, increase heat to medium, and simmer until green onions are just tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add pasta and simmer until just tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Meanwhile, shred chicken from bones.
  3. Stir chicken, cream, snap peas, parsley, salt and pepper into soup. Remove from heat and let stand a couple of minutes until snap peas are bright green. Add more broth if needed. Stir in tarragon and ladle into bowls.

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