Weekly Winner: The Green Theme Continues … with Easy Peasy Soup

IMG_0435It appears I’m not quite done with my “Greening of the Menu”.  This is one big bowl of green! And while Spring Pea Soup with Spiced Cream is a welcome comfort on a cold rainy day, the peas, chives and swirl of cream hints that spring maybe… just maybe… is right around the corner.

The soup, which could not be easier to prepare, comes from Fine Cooking magazine and is ready in less than 30 minutes.  The only slightly unique ingredient is Za’atar, a spice blend that is available online, in spice shops, or at some better grocery stores.  There are also recipes online for making your own with spices and ingredients I guarantee you have in your pantry. The real magic of this soup is its simplicity, both in preparation and in flavor — there’s nothing to hide the taste of peas. The spiced sour cream is addictive!  Swirled in it combines with the warm soup to make is just slightly exotic tasting.

Spring Pea Soup with Spiced Cream

Serves 4

Ingredients

3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil; more for drizzling

1 medium sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced lengthwise

1 small clove garlic, very thinly sliced

5 to 5-1/2 cups shelled fresh English peas or frozen peas (no need to thaw)

Kosher salt

3/4 cup (6 oz) sour cream

1 1/2 tsp za’atar

Cayenne

1 lemon wedge (optional)

3 Tbsp thinly sliced fresh chives

Flaky sea salt

Procedure:

  1. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic, and cook, stirring frequently, until tender but not browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Add 2-1/4 cups water and bring to a boil. Add the peas and 1-3/4 tsp kosher salt. Boil until the peas are tender, 3 to 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat.
  2. Transfer to a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth, adding water by the tablespoon to thin the soup if desired. Keep warm
  3. In a small bowl, stir the sour cream, za’atar, and a generous pinch each of cayenne and kosher salt.
  4. Taste the soup; if it seems a little flat, add a squeeze of lemon juice and stir.  Season to taste with salt.  Serve swirled with the spiced cream and sprinkled with the chives, sea salt, a pinch of cayenne and a drizzle of olive oil.
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Weekly Winner: A Rockin’ Riff on Ramen

For whatever reason, I’ve always been intimidated to make ramen. I’ve always felt it was a dish best left to all the fabulous ramen shops that are scattered throughout Chicago. I thought that any attempt I made would just be “faking it” and I would wind up with a poor imitation of a really good, complex soup.

The secret to ramen obviously lies in the broth. It has to be rich, unctuous and totally comforting. You simply can’t pour some store-bought broth into a bowl and add ramen noodles and call it ramen. That is, unless you are in college — I know I lived on that stuff). Luckily for me (and all of us), Food & Wine magazine has changed the ramen game for all of us. Miso Chicken Ramen is the rich-tasting, soul-satisfying, comforting soup I craved, but its super easy and comes together in just about a half hour.

Miso Chicken Ramen

Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 qt chicken stock or low-sodium broth

3 Tbsp white miso

1 Tbsp soy sauce

1/2 lb shredded cooked chicken (about 2 cups)

Ice

2 large eggs

Two 3-oz packages ramen noodles, seasoning packets discarded

Shredded carrot, thinly sliced scallion and Sriracha, for serving

Procedure:

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the stock, miso and soy sauce; bring to a boil over high heat, whisking to dissolve the miso. Add the chicken and simmer over moderate heat for 2 minutes. Keep hot over low heat.
  2. Set up a small ice bath. Fill another medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add the eggs and simmer over moderate heat for exactly 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the eggs to the ice bath to cool. Carefully peel the eggs and cut them into half lengthwise.
  3. Meanwhile, return the saucepan of water to a boil. Add the ramen and cook until just softened, about 3 minutes. Drain well and transfer to 2 large bowls. Ladle the broth and chicken over the noodles and top with the eggs. Serve with shredded carrot, thinly sliced scallion and Sriracha.

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.

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.

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