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.

Weekly Winner: A Sunny, Simple, Sublime Soup

I’m always surprised when simple, easy things turn out so wonderfully complex-tasting.  This soup is the perfect example.  I got it from my new favorite cookbook “America’s Test Kitchen‘s Six Ingredient Solution”.  I have been so impressed and happy with the food I’ve turned out from this book.  I shouldn’t be so surprised,  I trust America’s Test Kitchen implicitly and have always loved their show –  but for some reason, I was skeptical that six simple ingredients could deliver.  And boy did they!

Greek Egg Lemon soupThe soup is Greek Egg and Lemon Soup with Rice — heck, half the ingredients are listed in the title!  I think the one ingredient that actually made this soup incredible was the cardamom pods.  Amazing.  Subtle and surprising.  Make this soup.  Please.  Except for the possible exception of said cardamom pods, I guarantee you have everything you need in your kitchen.  I even had the cardamom pods, but then again, I’ve been accused of being a food geek.

Greek Egg and Lemon Soup with Rice

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

2 lemons

4 green cardamom pods

8 cups chicken broth

½ cup long-grain white rice

2 large eggs plus 2 large yolks

1 scallion

Procedure:

Remove 12 strips zest from lemons using vegetable peeler, then squeeze lemons for ¼ cup juice.  Lightly crush cardamom pods.  Bring broth to boil in large saucepan over high heat.  Reduce heat to medium-low and add lemon zest, cardamom, rice and 1-1/2 teaspoons salt.  Simmer until rice is tender, about 15 minutes.  Using slotted spoon, remove cardamom and zest strips, then return broth to boil.

Whisk eggs, yolks, and lemon juice in medium bowl until combined.  Reduce heat to low, and, whisking constantly; slowly pour 2 cups broth into egg mixture to temper.  Pour tempered egg-broth mixture back into saucepan and cook, stirring constantly until soup is slightly thickened and wisps of steam appear, 4 to 5 minutes (do not simmer).  Divide soup among individual serving bowls.  Slice scallion thinly and sprinkle over soup.  Serve immediately.

Weekly Winner – A Bowl of Luscious, Stinky Goodness

onion soupThis week’s Weekly Winner is not a recipe for people who do not like onions.  I’m not talking about a little onions, I’m talking about onions in all variations – leeks, shallots, big ol’ Vidalias … you get the idea.  It is also not for those of you who are looking for a quick soup to whip up on a moment’s notice.  This recipe is not hard, but it takes time — a lot of time.

Having said all that, if you have the time, and you are not afraid of our smelly friend Allium Cepa (onion) then by all means, forge ahead with this recipe.  It is Creamy Carmelized Onion Soup and I adore it.  It is luxurious, smooth as silk, soul-satisfyingly rich and the perfect thing to make on a day like yesterday, when you are waiting for the first big storm of the winter season to hit.  Alas, we did not get any snow as predicted, but I was comforted by this wonderful soup.  Be warned, your entire house will smell like cooked onions for days.  Mine does.  I don’t mind.  It’s worth it.    I got the recipe from Martha Stewart Living years ago.

Creamy Caramelized Onion Soup

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/4 pounds (3 to 4) leeks, white and pale-green parts only, rinsed well and coarsely chopped

5 garlic, thinly sliced

7 large shallots, about 14 ounces, thinly sliced

2 large Vidalia onions, about 20 ounces, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

3/4 cup dry white vermouth

4 cups homemade or low-sodium store-bought chicken stock

Coarse salt

1 cup heavy cream

Directions

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks, garlic, shallots, and half of the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are deep golden brown, about 25 minutes.

Add vermouth, stock, and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes. Let cool. Puree onion mixture in batches in a blender until smooth, about 3 minutes per batch. Set aside.

Meanwhile, melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add remaining onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is very soft and golden brown, about 45 minutes. Cover, and set aside.

Return onion puree to saucepan. Stir in cream. Reheat over medium heat, stirring, until heated through but not boiling. Season with salt, if desired. Serve, topped with caramelized onions.

Weekly Winner – Best Use of Leftover Turkey

Creamy SW Chicken SoupOK, I seriously meant to post this right after Thanksgiving as I actually made it the day after.  But, you know how things go this time of year.  So anyway, with all the extravagance and overindulgence of Thanksgiving, this soup made the perfect, cozy Friday dinner.

The recipe came from Cuisine at Home magazine and is for chicken, but hey, when life gives you an abundance of leftover turkey, you gotta make do.  Actually I think it was much richer and tastier due to the turkey than chicken would have been.  Either way, a great soup.  Definitely not for the faint of cream or the lactose intolerant among you!

Southwestern Cream of Chicken  (Uh, or… Turkey) Soup

Makes 8 cups

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 poblano chile, seeded and diced

½ cup diced onion

1 Tbsp minced garlic

1 tsp hot chili powder

1 tsp ground cumin

½ tsp ground coriander

6 Tbsp flour, divided

3 cups whole milk

1 cup beer

1 cup chicken broth

½ cup dry converted white rice

3 cups shredded pepper Jack cheese

2 cups shredded cooked chicken

Lime slices for serving

Procedure:

Melt butter in a large pot.  Stir in bell pepper, poblano, onion, garlic, chili powder, cumin and coriander.  Sweat mixture until peppers begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Whisk in 3 Tbsp four to coat vegetables; cook 2 minutes.  Whisk in milk, beer, and broth until smooth.  Bring mixture to a simmer.  Stir in rice; simmer until tender, about 15 minutes.

Combine cheese with remaining 3 Tbsp flour in a resealable plastic bag; toss to coat.  Add cheese to soup a handful at a time, stirring to melt completely before adding the next handful.  Add chicken (or turkey) to heat through – 3 to 5 minutes.

Garnish each serving of soup with lime slice.

Weekly Winner: Great, Green Goodness

I adore soups.  I particularly adore creamy soups.  Nothing makes me happier than when the weather gets a bit chilly and I know its time to start rifling through all my wonderful soup recipes.  I also love spinach.  And while I have plenty of soups that include some spinach, and I have loads of “cream of (something)” soups, I noticed I didn’t have a spinach soup recipe where spinach was the main attraction.  Until now.  And a creamy spinach soup?  Now you’re talking!  This was a luscious, flavorful, soul satisfying soup that could definitely be considered healthy and was relatively low in calories.  Bonus!  I believe I got this recipe from a recent issue of Cuisine at Home Magazine but I’m not entirely sure.  I am sure that it is a definite Weekly Winner.  Here it is: Creamy Spinach Soup.

Creamy Spinach Soup

Serves 8

Ingredients:

1 cup diced onion

3 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. minced garlic

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

3 cups half-and-half

2 cups chicken broth

12 cups baby spinach, divided (7.5 oz)

1 Tbsp minced lemon zest

½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste

Store-bought croutons

Procedure:

Sauté onion in oil in a large pot over medium-high heat until softened, 3-5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.  Stir in flour and cook 2-3 minutes.

Whisk half-and-half and broth into flour mixture.  Bring soup to a simmer over medium-high heat.

Add 8 cups (5 oz) spinach and cook until tender, 5 minutes.  Reduce heat to low.

Puree soup with a handheld blender until smooth.

Stir in remaining 4 cups (2.5 oz) spinach (chopped) zest, lemon juice, and nutmeg; season with salt and pepper.  Serve soup with croutons.

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