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Category Archives: soups and stews

Hello there roasted carrot soup

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 At this time of year of resolution lists, starting fresh and eating right  I’d  love to tell you a story of how this  carrot soup was born of some just made commitment to healthier eating but alas I have no such story.  The simple truth is I bought too large a bag of grocery store carrots and needed to […]

creamy tomato soup

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I’m in the process of pre-spring cleaning my pantry so I’m cooking only with items I already have on hand.   That worked out perfectly when I had to make the last minute chocolate treat for Valentines Day and everything I needed for the recipe was already in the house.  During the colder months I shop by stocking up on as much as my cabinets and refrigerator will hold without it all going bad before I’ve had the chance to use it.  I’ve usually got tons of canned goods and beans and pasta on hand to not have to wonder what’s for dinner?   As we get closer to spring and the return of a larger selection of fresh vegetables and fruits, I don’t stock up as much and I try to use up all that’s in my cabinets as I look forward to cooking with fresh ingredients.

This winter I found myself with more canned tomatoes than planned.  Crushed, whole-peeled plum and diced-you name it every variety of canned tomato is taking up space in my cabinets.  A few weeks ago while grocery shopping, even though I knew I already had enough to sustain us through winter, I couldn’t resist a phenomenal sale and ended up buying a dozen more cans.  The reward for my impulse buy was when I got home I found there was barely room for twelve more 28 ounce cans of tomatoes and I had to remove everything from the cabinets and  rearrange in order to fit them in.

Lucky for me, I know of plenty of ways to use up an ample supply of canned tomatoes.  Crushed tomatoes went into the chili made for Super Bowl Sunday, plus pasta sauces for lasagna, spaghetti Bolognese, and ziti.  Diced tomatoes added zing to bean soups and the whole plum tomatoes got roasted for creamy tomato soup.

 I can never get enough of eating soup and you can expect to see more and watch as they morph from soups eaten on cold winter days into soups more appropriate to spring and warmer weather.  What I like about this tomato soup, and you will too, is that although it’s called creamy-there is not a drop of cream added.   Yet it is as rich and creamy as any cream-based soup.  When making tomato soup the last thing I want is for it to taste like tomato sauce that you eat with a spoon, so I stay away from anything traditionally found in tomato sauce like garlic or oregano.  I like to compliment the canned tomatoes by adding fresh in season ingredients.  Leeks add a mild onion flavor to this tomato soup.  Sautéed until tender and melting they help make the soup silky and smooth.

The simple ingredients keep this soup bright and fresh tasting.   I served this soup last year for a Mothers Day Brunch I hosted and it was the star of the show.  Served  in little shot glasses along with tiny grilled cheese sandwiches, it was hard for anyone to just have one.  A creamy tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches?  It doesn’t get any better than that.

recipe: creamy tomato soup, thank you Jack Bishop

NOTE: thankfully leeks can be found in every grocery store, clean them well as instructed.

ingredients:

2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes

1 tablespoon light, or dark brown sugar

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 medium leeks, white and light green parts, halved lengthwise, washed, and sliced crosswise into thin strips

kosher salt

1 tablespoon double-strength tomato paste (the kind in a tube)

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups good vegetable broth

cayenne pepper

directions:

Move an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 475 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil.

Drain the tomatoes in a strainer set in a bowl to collect the juices. With your fingers, carefully open the tomatoes, one at a time, letting the juices and seeds drop into the strainer. Place the seeded tomatoes on the foil-lined baking sheet.  Sprinkle with the brown sugar and roast until the liquid has evaporated and the tomatoes are just beginning to color, about 20 minutes. Discard the seeds in the strainer and reserve the juice in the bowl. You should have about 2 1/2 cups strained tomato juice.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. When the foaming subsides, add the leeks and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring often, until the leeks have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and nutmeg and cook, stirring often, for 1 minute. Add the flour and cook ,stirring often, for 1 minute. Whisking constantly, add the vegetable broth until the mixture is smooth(without lumps of flour). Add the reserved tomato juice and roasted tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer to blend the flavors, about 10 minutes.

Puree the soup in batches in a blender until perfectly smooth. Return the soup to a clean saucepan and adjust the seasonings, adding salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Warm and serve, or refrigerate in an airtight container for several days and then warm over low heat before serving.

ham bone split pea soup

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I had to put ham bone in the name of this split pea soup because that’s where most of its wonderful flavor comes from.

I’m still in a soup making kind of mood and will be until at least mid-Spring when I transition from soups made with root vegetables and beans to lighter versions made with Springs first offerings.

Every Thanksgiving I bake a ham and when dinner is over, and we’ve all had second and third helpings, I trim as much meat from the bone, to use later for sandwiches and omelets, then I wrap up the bone and any meat still clinging to it and store it in the freezer.  It’s sole purpose is to sit in the freezer and wait until I’m ready to make split pea soup.

Every time I open the freezer to take out frozen bread, or ice cream or butter it’s sitting there in my line of vision as if  to say “Are you ready yet?”.  Nope not yet.  I have to be in a certain kind of mood for split pea soup.  I have to be craving something smooth and peppery and hammy that can be scooped up with a spoon.   That ham bone can sit in my freezer for months waiting patiently as I open and close the freezer door grabbing any and everything but the ham bone.

Then one day just as it seems I’m reaching for the ice cream I’ll grab the ham bone.  Oh, happy day.   

 I don’t like a lot of stuff in my split pea soup.  I like a clean smooth soup, so I skip the onions and carrots and get all the flavor from the ham bone.   Taking time to roast the ham bone does wonders for enriching the flavor of the stock which transfers to the soup.  I also don’t like flecks of black pepper suspended in my soup, so rather than using a pepper grinder I opt for wrapping whole peppercorns in cheese cloth along with a few garlic cloves, bay leaf  and a fat  sliver of lemon peel.  

One reason why split pea soup has a permanent position in my soup repertoire is because it’s a few simple ingredients that add up to something that tastes fantastic and seems like more work was put into its making than actually was.   This is another soup that freezes and reheats well.  One thing about split pea soup is that it does tend to thicken as it sits.  If you’re like my husband you’ll be fine with this and just add spoonfuls of it to rice.  If you’d rather be slurping your soup just add water or chicken stock to loosen it up.  Be warned, though,  after doing this and then having it sit around it will tighten right back up again.   One solution for this-don’t let it sit around, just eat it!

recipe: ham bone split pea soup

note:if you don’t have a ham bone don’t worry.  I didn’t say you had to make this soup this instant.  Plan to have a baked ham for one Sunday dinner, after you have finished slice off any meat for cooking later and wrap up your ham bone. Store in the freezer until you are ready to make this soup.

One cooked ham bone (see note above)

10 whole peppercorns

1 bay leaf

3 cloves garlic, unpeeled

1 fat sliver of lemon peel. from fresh lemon, peeled with a peeler

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 bag ( 1 pound) green split peas, picked over and rinsed

olive oil for drizzling

directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Place the unthawed ham bone on a rimmed baking sheet.  Roast the ham bone for about 35-40 minutes being careful not to burn.  Some charring in places is ok for a ,more smokey flavor but do not burn.

Place the roasted ham bone in a large soup pot and cover with cold water.  On medium high heat bring to a gentle boil, skimming off any foam that accumulates at the top.  

Place the peppercorns, bay leaf, garlic and lemon peel in cheesecloth and tie with cooking string. Drop into the pot and push down with spoon to submerge a bit (it will float back up).

 Turn the heat down to low and simmer gently for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  Skim off any foam that appears.

After 2 hours remove the ham bone and the cheesecloth with the aromatics.  Do not throw out the cheesecloth.  Put the ham bone aside.  You can eat any remaining meat or if you like save it to garnish your soup.

You can pour the stock through a strainer if there are any pieces of bone or meat in the stock or use a skimmer to remove.  Depending on the size of your pot you should have about 8 cups of stock.

If you strained the stock put it back in the pot along with the cheesecloth wrapped herbs. 

Add the peas to the pot and 2 teaspoons kosher salt

Bring the soup to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce to medium-low; simmer for about 1 1/2 hours until the peas have softened and broken up and the soup is thick.  Remove the cheesecloth with the herbs.  Taste the soup and add more salt if needed. 

Thin with more water or regular chicken stock .

Drizzle with olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice if you like.

Note: usually I don’t start a bean soup with hot stock but because I make the stock and cook the beans immediatly after in this instance I do. 

hearty beans and greens soup

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I call this time of year the sick season. Colds,flu,allergies and hay fever abounds. At some point someone around me will be sniffling,sneezing or coughing and wheezing. It’s a virtual video game as I dip and dodge germs freed from the mouths of sick people. That can prove impossible if the sick person actually lives with you. I don’t like being sick. Being sick hampers you and stops you from getting done what needs to be done. Being sick forces you to slow down and take a few minutes to rest your body. Which is not a bad thing, unless you have things that need to be done sick or not.

As I write this there is a sick person in my home. He needs to get better and soon. People who know me also know that these past couple of months I have been miserable with allergies; swollen, itchy,watery eyes and just an overall feeling of bleh. I am just now starting to look and feel better. I do not need some sick person getting me sick. Though I cannot force medication down this sick persons throat I can make him a nice pot of good for you soup.

Soup is the answer to being sick and especially in colder months. I don’t know whether it is scientific or just all in our heads but no one can argue that, after having a hot  bowl of soup when you are sick, you don’t feel a little better. My sick person needed soup and since I had to make it I figured I would make one that would benefit me as well.

My favorite type of soup to eat is a beans and greens soup. Full of folic acid and vitamins K and A (from the greens) and lots of protein and fiber(the beans) I always feel like I’m doing something good for myself when I eat it. For years I’d used  a basic recipe for this soup; drain a can of cooked white beans, add a can of broth,season with garlic and olive oil,add chopped escarole. I was very happy with it until I tasted a version from a local pizzeria. Their version was rich and complex and smokey. After having that version I knew right away what made the soup different(and better) than my own.It was that smokey flavor that came from something I’d been eating since childhood;  ham hock.

 Say hello to my little friend. It may not photograph very well but it tastes darn good. This is a ham hock. I don’t need to bore you with what part of a pig it comes from,all you need to know is that it is salty and unctuous and fatty and good.  It’s  perfectly at home in a beans and greens soup or any soup because it adds a warm,smokey flavor to the broth and that’s what sets it apart from soup made without one. You don’t need to do anything to this  ham hock, just drop it into a pot of water for a few hours and let it do its work. With a spicy chile d’arbo added to the broth it’s the perfect soup for making you feel better.

Thankfully, I don’t need a sick person as a reason for making this soup. The ingredient list is short and simple so be sure and make a large batch and freeze the extras for when you are feeling sick or just want soup.

Recipe: hearty beans and greens soup

ingredients:

3 smoked ham hocks

2 pounds dry cannellini beans(or other dry white bean),picked through and rinsed

1 medium onion,peeled and cut in half

1 small carrot, cleaned but unpeeled

1 medium celery stalk

10 whole peppercorns

1 dried chile d’arbol

1 head of garlic, cut in half and cloves left intact

1 bay leaf

1 parmesan rind (optional- I never throw away the rinds from my aprmesan cheese. I wrap and keep in the freezer for flavoring soups and stews)

1 bunch of escarole, rinsed and coarsely chopped

parmesan cheese, grated or crumbled

hot sauce(optional)

Directions:

Put the ham hocks in a large pot and cover with cold water. On medium heat bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. After five minutes turn the heat to low, so the water is at a slow but steady simmer.  Simmer the hocks like this for an hour.

After an hour add the dry rinsed beans, the onion,carrot,celery,peppercorns,bay leaf,chile d’arbol and garlic. After one hour of cooking remove the whole vegetables,the chile and the bay leaf. Pick out as many peppercorns as you can.

Continue to cook the beans until they are tender. This may take a half hour or more depending. So check by removing a few beans and tasting or squeezing to see if they are soft. If the beans are still firm continue to cook until softened.

After the beans have cooked fully, add the chopped escarole and cook the soup about 5 minutes more until the escarole is wilted.

Serve ladled into bowls with warm crusty bread.  Chop the meat from the ham hock and serve in the soup or alongside .  Add the crumbled parmesan cheese and a few dashes of hot sauce if you like.

 

 

 

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