Archive for the ‘Soups’ Category

One potato, two potato

October 28, 2012

A simple potato soup makes a comforting dinner

Faced with dire forecasts of a record breaking storm, we tried to figure out what foods we could prepare that were as comforting as they were nourishing.

With a good supply of local potatoes recently purchased at the Trenton Farmer’s Market, I figured we’d do some soup.

All was good until it came time to start the process. I couldn’t find the recipe I was looking for but, really, how hard is it to make potato soup.  A little stock, a little seasoning. A thick slice of rustic bread, toasted and topped with just a bit of cheddar cheese, a salad and to wash it all down, a glass of Guinness.

Simple Potato Soup

  • 3 pounds (approximately) potatoes, peeled, cut in 3/4 inch pieces
  • 1 quart (approximate) vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 cup milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cooked, crumbled bacon for garnish

Place the cut up potatoes in a large enough pot that will accommodate them. Add the stock to full cover the potatoes (add a little water or more stock if need be). Over medium low fire, bring the stock to a soft boil and cook, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are cooked through. Using an immersion blender or, working in batches, a food processor, blend the potatoes into the stock until they are a nice, velvety consistency. Add the milk and check for seasoning. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Stir well and let sit on low flame for a few minutes more. Serve in bowls garnished with crumbled bacon.

It’ll take your mind off the weather outside.


Zuppa di Ceci

February 2, 2010

Today Ann and I joined two friends for a “burgers and beers” lunch at a downtown spot.   Since we had a larger than usual lunch, we wanted something lighter for dinner.

Soup came immediately to mind.  But I’m not all that thrilled with canned soups.  The day’s schedule didn’t leave time for a big, made from scratch production so I threw a dart and checked out one of my favorite cookbooks, Marcella Hazan‘s The Essentials of Italian Cooking.  I had a sense Marcella might have a suggestion.

If I haven’t already talked about Marcella, she is to Italian cooking what Julia Child was to French cuisine. Before “Molto” Mario Batali or Lidia Bastianich, Marcella was setting the bar high for American’s who wanted to learn authentic, classic Italian techniques for food preparation. 

Hazan’s first book, The Classic Italian Cookbook: The Art of Italian Cooking and the Italians Art of Eating, was published in 1973.  My soft cover copy is tattered and worn from use.  And my hardcover copy of Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (her first two books combined and updated in 1992) is starting to show wear and tear as well.

Thumbing through the soups I decided to try Zuppa di Ceci (Chickpea soup).

It sounded good, would take less than an hour and I was pretty sure we had everything needed already on hand.*

Indeed, the soup was easy to put together from basically healthy ingredients.  It was satisfying without laying heavy on the palate or the stomache. 

Marcella didn’t let me down.

Here’s my take on her recip. Keep it handy and the ingredients in the pantry and I think you’ll agree: quick, easy, satisfying.

Zuppa di ceci

Zuppa di Ceci (Chickpea Soup)
Serves 4 (as a starter, 2 as the main course)

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 4 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 1/2 tsp finely crushed rosemary leaves
  • red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
  • 2/3 cup canned Italian tomatoes (about 4 tomatoes), roughly chopped, with their juice (up to 1/3 cup of additional juice).
  • 1 19 oz can chickpeas
  • 1 cup beef or vegetable broth
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • salt, if necessary

1. Place oil and garlic in cold, medium-sized sauce pan. Saute over medium-high heat until the garlic is well browned. Remove garlic and discard. 

2.  Add the rosemary (and the red pepper if using) to the oil, stir then add the chopped tomatoes with their juice. Cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes or until the tomatoes separate from the oil.

3. Add the drained chickpeas and cook for 5 minutes , turning them in the sauce. Add the broth and bring to a boil and cover and keep at a steady, moderate boil for 15 minutes. Taste and correct for salt and add freshly ground pepper. Serve hot. (We hit each bowl with a touch of freshly grated pecorino romano. But the soup is good without it.)

*Actually, I didn’t have any canned, whole San Marzano Italian tomatoes or chickpeas in the cupboard.  But I knew I was heading out on errands and could easily locate the needed ingredients.  I’ll be sure to keep those items in stock going forward.

Mushroom soup

January 3, 2010
The sugar plums that recently danced in my head seem to have settled around my waist for a long winter’s nap.  The inevitable (at least for me) holiday bloat has achieved maximum proportions and now it’s time to get back to some more healthy and moderate eating habits.
With the weather having turned cold again, soup sprang to mind.  So I decided to try my hand at a hearty, satisfying but healthy pot of mushroom soup.
This was not going to be a rich and fat filled cream of mushroom soup as envisioned by Campbell’s, Knorr’s or some other commercial mass producer.  Rather I was looking for something a tad lighter in calories yet flavorful enough to satisfy. 
Mushrooms are, in and of themselves, quite nutritional.  They are rich in the B vitamins, Potassium and Selenium; low in fat, high in fiber; and the provide all the required amino acids to be considered a complete source of protein.  And they taste good…not a claim that can be made by every healthful food.
Search around your pantry, the fridge and the cupboards.  You probably have all you need to whip up a batch of mushroom soup:
  •  Fresh and/or dried mushrooms
  • Shallot, onion and/or garlic
  • Butter and/or Olive Oil
  • Stock of some sort
  • Salt, pepper and maybe some fresh herbs (parsley or thyme) 
Here’s what I used: 
  • 8 ounce package of fresh “Baby-Bella” (Crimini) mushrooms
  • 1 cup of dried “woodland” mushrooms
  • Two large shallots
  • 1 Tbs. Butter
  • 2 Tbs. Olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Dry fino sherry
  • 1 sprig Fresh thyme
  • 1 quart Mushroom stock 
I began by soaking a cup of the dried mushrooms in two cups of boiling water.  Then I went about gathering the rest of my ingredients so that, by the time I was ready to add the reconstituted mushrooms, they had been soaking for 20-30 minutes.  You could omit the dried mushrooms and just use all fresh mushrooms, coarsely chopped.
Over medium high heat, I melted about a tablespoon of butter in a four and a half quart sauce pan.  Before the butter melted completely I added about two tablespoons of olive oil to the pan.  This raised the smoking point of the butter a little, kept the whole recipe a little lighter and added another level of flavor. You could use all butter or all olive oil.
With the butter/oil mixture hot, I added the minced shallots and sweat them until tender, but not caramelized. I’m very fond of shallots but if you don’t have some on hand, a 1/4 up of chopped onion and a clove of garlic could be substituted.
I tossed a couple of whole sprigs of fresh thyme and some fresh ground black pepper in with the shallots and stirred. If you have dried thyme on hand instead, you could add it later when you add all the stock.
Coarsely chop the fresh mushrooms and add to the pot.  Stir occasionally until browned and cooked down.  I drained the dried mushrooms and reserved the liquid.  Once the fresh mushrooms had cooked down a bit, I stirred in the dried ones.  At this point, I removed the thyme sprig from the pot.
I took a quarter cup of Fino sherry and stirred it into the pot, taking care to gather up any of the fond and stir it into the liquid.  A cream sherry might have been better, but the Fino was what I had on hand and open; a Marsala might be good; or any red or white wine you enjoy would probably work as well. Once the pot was deglazed, I added the reserved mushroom soaking liquid being careful not to let any of the grit that had settled out get into the soup pot.  I then added a quart of boxed, organic mushroom stock (chicken or vegetable stock would work just as well). 
Reducing the flame to low, I used an immersion blender to puree the contents of the pot.  If you don’t have one of these culinary magic wands, you can use a food processor or blender.  Just be sure to cool the mixture first to avoid a messy and potentially dangerous eruption.
Once pureed, add salt and adjust seasonings to taste.  Reheat and serve.
It’s a simple, tasty and healthy tonic for whatever ails you.