Weekly Winner:  A Humdinger of a Hummus — Soup!

Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before??  Hummus Soup!  It makes perfect sense (not to mention a perfect lunch) but I don’t recall ever seeing a recipe like this before.  I’ve got to admit, among my friends, I’ve kind of become known for my creative takes on hummus — pizza hummus, pumpkin spice hummus, sour cream and onion hummus, buffalo hummus, but honestly I’ve never considered turning it into a soup.

The recipe comes from Cooking Light and has all the fabulous flavors of traditional hummus.  It is creamy without cream and wonderfully lemony and garlicky and simply wonderful.  And super easy to make.  The perfect, finishing touch is the crispy chickpeas and feta. This soup goes down as yet another example of how beige food can be fabulous and amazingly comforting.

Hummus Soup

Serves 6

Ingredients:

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 cup chopped yellow onion (about 1 medium onion)

5 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups vegetable stock

1 3/4 cups water

1 1/8 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

2 (15-oz.) cans unsalted chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and divided

1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

6 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese

Procedure

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saucepan over medium. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring often, until tender, about 4 minutes. Add vegetable stock, 1 3/4 cups water, and 1 teaspoon salt; bring to a simmer. Set aside 1 cup chickpeas; add remaining chickpeas to stock mixture. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a small skillet over medium-high. Add reserved 1 cup chickpeas; cook, stirring occa­sionally, until toasted and browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in cumin and remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt.

Pour stock mixture into a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure lid on blender, and place a clean towel over opening in lid. Process until smooth. Add tahini and lemon juice; process until smooth. Ladle soup into 6 bowls; drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons oil, and sprinkle with cheese and toasted chickpeas.

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Weekly Winner:  Groovin’ on a Green Gazpacho

It’s been hot here in Chicago. I mean stupid-hot!  The kind of heat where you just don’t want to move, let alone turn on anything in the house that will produce heat. I didn’t want to cook but honestly couldn’t imagine eating another salad. I wanted something cold and different. Lucky for me I had a new gazpacho recipe to try out.

I’m usually somewhat ambivalent towards gazpacho simply because most are tomato-based and a bit spicy which to me is like eating a bowl of salsa.The gazpachos I tend to like are a bit different and creamier in texture. Which is why I adored this Green Gazpacho recipe from Food Network Magazine.

The sweetness from the green grapes along with the creaminess from the avocado (I went ahead and used a whole rather than a half) makes this the perfect warm weather soup.

Green Gazpacho

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 cups seedless green grapes

3 scallions, roughly chopped

1-1/2 English cucumbers, peeled and cut into chunks

1 clove garlic

1 small bunch fresh parsley (leaves only)

1/2 avocado (cut into chunks) – I used the whole thing

1/3 cup olive oil

3 Tbsp white wine vinegar

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Procedure:

Pulse the grapes, scallions, cucumbers, garlic, parsley and avocado in a food processor until combined. Add the olive oil and white wine vinegar and pulse again until blended. Add 1/4 cup ice water and pulse again. Add more water if it is not at your desired consistency.

Season the gazpacho with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. Serve topped with the toasted almonds.

Weekly Winner:  Pasta Fagioli?  Basta! — this soup is better!

Is there such a thing as finding salvation in a bowl of soup?  I believe there is.  When it comes time to “lighten up” by eating better and undoing all the damage that the holidays caused, I truly think soup is the way to go.  First of all it is liquid and takes longer to eat than, say a sandwich.  Also it’s hot which slows you down a bit as well. But there is also something deeply satisfying about a steaming bowl of soup.  It truly feeds your soul as well as your appetite.

Having said all that, I am generally more of a fan of puréed and creamy soups than those that are chunky and broth-based.  That is possibly, until now.  This soup is a game changer.

So, what makes Italian Chickpea Soup soup so fabulous?  I mean it is basically Pasta Fagioli but instead of beans it has chickpeas.  I think a few things that makes this so fabulous is that a portion of the soup is puréed adding body and richness to the broth.  Secondly, there’s a nice balance of heat in this soup.  Just enough to wake up your taste buds without blowing your head off.  Finally (and perhaps most importantly) is the generous sprinkling of crisped pancetta that is sprinkled over the top.    This is a healthy, fulfilling, and darn tasty soup and the recipe comes from Cuisine at Home.

Italian Chickpea Soup

Serves 6

Ingredients:

1 cup dry ditalini pasta

3 oz. pancetta, diced

2 Tbsp olive oil

1-1/2 cups diced onions

1/2 cup each diced carrot and celery

2 Tbsp tomato paste

1 Tbsp each minced fresh garlic, rosemary, and sage

1 tsp anchovy paste

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1/2 cup dry white wine

3 cups chicken broth

2 cans chickpeas (15 oz each) drained and rinsed

1 can diced tomatoes in juice (28 oz)

Salt and pepper to taste

Grated Parmesan

Procedure:

  1. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water according to package directions; drain, reserving 1 cup pasta water.
  2. Cook pancetta in oil in a large pot over medium heat until crisp, then transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate; reserve 2 Tbsp drippings.
  3. Sweat onions, carrot, and celery in drippings in same pot, covered, over medium heat until vegetables soften, 5-8 minutes.
  4. Stir in tomato paste, garlic, rosemary, sage, anchovy paste, and pepper flakes; cook until fragrant, 1 minute.
  5. Deglaze pot with wine, scraping up any brown bits.  Cook until wine nearly evaporates, 3-5 minutes.
  6. Add broth, chickpeas, tomatoes, and pasta water.  Bring soup to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 15 minutes.
  7. Transfer 2 cups soup to a food processor or blender; carefully purée and return to pot.
  8. Stir pasta into soup, cook until warmed through, 3-5 minutes.  Season soup with salt and black pepper; top servings with Parmesan and pancetta.

Weekly Winner:  Stealthy, Healthy, Comfort in a Bowl

I truly believe that the right bowl of soup can save your soul. There is something wonderfully comforting and nourishing about hunkering down over a big bowl of steaming goodness.  Usually, my favorite, go-to comfort-food soups include cheese or cream, or at the very least pasta — heck, some include all three!  But this soup, while it does contain a bit of cheese, is satisfying, cozy and surprisingly healthy.  Most importantly, however… it is amazingly tasty!

The recipe for White Bean and Barley Soup with Tomatoes and Greens comes from Real Simple Magazine and there is no false advertising there.  Besides all the attributes I’ve listed above, this soup is a breeze to pull together.

White Bean and Barley Soup with Tomatoes and Greens

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for serving

1 large onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

Kosher salt and black pepper

6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth [full disclosure:  I used chicken broth – sue me!]

1 28oz can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed

1 cup pearled barley, rinsed

1 small bunch collard greens or kale, stems discarded and leaves cut into strips (4 cups) [I chose kale]

1 15oz can cannellini beans, rinsed

1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan (about 2 oz) plus more shaved for serving.

Procedure:

  • Heat the oil in a large pot over medium high heat.  Add the onion, garlic, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender, 8 to 10 minutes.  Add the broth and tomatoes with their juices and bring to a boil.  Add the barley, reduce heat, and simmer until the barley is tender, about 20 minutes.
  • Add the collards or kale and the beans and cook until the greens are wilted and the beans are heated through, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the Parmesan and 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
  • Serve the soup drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with shaved Parmesan.

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: Great Green Goodness!

IMG_1598Maybe it’s the arctic freeze that has Chicago in its unrelenting grip. Maybe it’s the vast, white blanket of snow and ice covering everything I see outside. Maybe it’s simply the fact that it’s February, but lately I’ve been craving the site of something green. And preferably warm … like a soup! Well, my wishes came true because I have never seen a greener bowl of soup…. ever!! Seriously green. Emerald green. Kermit green. (Don’t worry, no celebrity frogs were harmed in the making of this soup).

I’ve also been on sort of a chickpea kick lately. I honestly never thought much about them, but find that I’ve been cooking them a ton lately — for us and for clients. In salads, in side dishes, of course as hummus. So when I saw this recipe for Creamy Spinach Chickpea Soup, well, it’s like the stars aligned and I knew what had to be done. I had to make this soup. And man, am I glad I did! It is fabulous. Actually, I find it better than it has any real right to be considering the short list of ingredients and super-easy preparation.

The recipe comes from Sunset Magazine. And trust me on this, you may think that making the curry-lime oil to drizzle on is fussy and unnecessary — It’s not!!  It is critical to making this delicious soup complex and special. Don’t cheat yourself out of this and it really only takes a second.

Without further ado — the greenest soup to ever come out of this kitchen. And one of the tastiest too!

Creamy Spinach and Chickpea Soup

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

4 1/2 Tbsp canola oil, divided

3/4 cup diced shallots (2 medium)

1 Tbsp minced garlic

2 Tbsp minced fresh ginger

2 cans (15 oz. each) chickpeas, drained and rinsed

5 cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

1 tsp kosher salt

6 cups packed spinach leaves (from about 10 oz. bunch spinach, rinsed well and stems trimmed)

1 1/4 tsp curry powder

1 1/2 Tbsp lime juice

2 Tbsp chopped fresh mint leaves

Preparation:

1. Heat 3 tbsp. oil in a medium pot over medium heat and add shallots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute more.

2. Add chickpeas, broth, and salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until flavors are well blended and chickpeas are very soft, about 25 minutes. Add spinach and cook just until softened and bright green, about 2 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 1/2 tbsp. oil in a small frying pan over medium-low heat. Stir in curry powder and cook until aromatic, 30 seconds. Remove from heat.

4. Whirl half of soup at a time in a blender, starting on low-speed, until very smooth. Ladle into bowls. Just before serving, stir lime juice into curry oil and drizzle over soup. Garnish with mint.

 

Weekly Winner – The Only Time Soggy Bread is a Good Thing

IMG_1480.JPGLet’s be clear: In general, I am not a fan of soggy, sodden bread. I’m much more of a chewy-crusty-bread kind of gal. There is one exception however, and that is with this soup. Its name is a bit of a misnomer I think. Garlic Bread Soup to me, evokes the cheesy, crispy garlic bread that adorns a big plate of spaghetti. This is not that. What it is, however is comforting beyond belief. It is basically a garlicky, eggy broth with big chunks of sodden, gooey bread. I mean that in a good way, really! And it certainly is not an attractive dish. Looking at the picture now it looks like a bowl of flaccid chicken. Oh, forget it! There is no describing this soup in a way that will do it justice. Just make it and see for yourself!

One note on the recipe, which by the way comes from Martha Stewart Living, is that it says it makes 5 cups which serves 4. Uh, no. It does indeed make 5 cups but that only manages to serve me and my husband once for lunch. Double it — you’ll be glad you did.

Garlic Bread Soup
Makes 5 cups

Ingredients:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
8 large garlic cloves, mashed to a paste with 1 teaspoon coarse salt
2 cups bite-size pieces stale crusty bread
6 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
3 large eggs, beaten
Flat leaf parsley, for garnish

Procedure:
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat until hot but not smoking. Add garlic paste; cook, stirring occasionally until very fragrant but not browned, about 10 minutes.

Add bread, and stir to coat. Stir in stock and bay leaf; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes.

Discard bay leaf. Stir in eggs. Cook, stirring occasionally to break up eggs, about 10 minutes. Serve soup garnished with parsley leaves.

 

 

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