Tag Archives: soup

White Bean and Spinach Soup

I’d say that in the past few months, I’ve been quite successful in my quest to stop feeding my family scrambled eggs for dinner all the time.  But I’m still not much of a planner.  Which means that the dinner hour is often neigh by the time I roll into the kitchen, wondering how our evening meal is going to materialize.

At times like these, it helps to have a well-stocked pantry.  And freezer.  This is one of those recipes that you can spend all afternoon making–or it can take 30 minutes if you keep the right ingredients in stock.  In this case, the right ingredients are an onion, a leafy green vegetable, a good vegetable broth, and some well-seasoned home-cooked white beans.  (Of course you can substitute canned beans, but you must first brown an onion, then toss in a handful of chopped garlic and sage for a few minutes, then add the beans and cover with water or vegetable broth and simmer to let the flavors blend.)

Do you cook your own beansMake your own broth?  I do, because I find the homemade versions of these things so much better and SO much cheaper than anything I can buy.  This might seem inconsistent with my professed inability to plan ahead, but I just do it every once in a while when I will be home on a Sunday afternoon: put a huge pot of beans on the stove or make eight quarts of stock.  It helps that I have a large freezer to store these things in.  What do you people do in Manhattan?  Anyway, I will start sharing recipes for some of the pantry basics that make it easier for me to get a good meal on the table quickly.  Another day.Today, White Bean and Spinach Soup: Grab a quart of good vegetable broth and a few cups of well-seasoned white beans from your freezer.  Warm the beans in a soup pot with a cup or so of broth while you saute an onion over high heat in a separate pan.  Once the onion is nearly golden and nearly caramelized, use a slotted spoon to scoop about half your beans into a blender and puree them with the onion and another cup of broth.  Add the puree to your soup pot and stir in a big bunch of chopped spinach (chard, kale, or other greens would also be great).  Simmer until the greens are tender, then thin the soup to your desired consistency with additional broth and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve under a shower of Parmesan shavings or a drizzle of olive oil, with crusty rolls on the side.  (The one pictured is a mini whole wheat soda bread, recipe to come after a little more experimentation.)  And what’s that gorgeous salad, you ask?  Radicchio? Endive? Apples? Blue cheese?  Oh, yes.  Hop on over to the lovely blog Salt On the Table for the full recipe.


Roasted Maple Squash Soup

Some days you need something delicious in a hurry. Preferably something warm, if it’s February and you live in Seattle. Preferably soup.  In fact, hopefully you have some of this soup stashed in your freezer.  If you don’t now, you will soon.

This is the kind of soup that can turn you from a recipes-only cook into a confidently-winging-it cook.  It’s kind of foolproof that way.

Roasted Maple Squash Soup: Roast a winter squash.  Any winter squash.  Roast a few, while you’re at it.  Cut each in half, rub the cut sides with oil, bake face down on a rimmed sheet at 400 degrees until soft.  (Scoop out the seeds and save them in your freezer to make vegetable broth.)  Scoop the roasted flesh into a soup pot.  (Put the peel in the freezer with your seeds.  Mmm, homemade veggie broth.  That will be another post.)  Cover your squash with broth, maybe one that you’ve made yourself.  (Come to think of it, you could make a quick broth now with those seeds and peels: cover with water and add 3/4 tsp. salt per quart of water and maybe a chopped onion or some herbs, simmer 30 minutes and strain.)  So: roasted squash, broth, salt and maple syrup to taste.  Simmer, mash or puree the squash, adjust the seasonings.  Maybe that’s it.  Maybe you’re feeling indulgent?  Try a splash of cream or coconut milk.  Make sure you make some extra soup for the freezer.

Vegetarian Split Pea Soup

I like to have a pot of soup around.  It can be simmering on the stove or left over in the fridge or even packed away in the freezer–I just like to know it’s there.  I eat a lot of soup.  It’s a quick lunch, an easy dinner, and you can always double the recipe to feed even more of the people you love.  (But let’s be clear: I almost always double the recipe whether company’s coming or not.  See above.)

I make lentil and bean soups often but, strangely, I don’t think I had ever made split pea soup before this week.  You know why? Because the recipes always call for an “optional” ham hock.  Whatever that is.  And I can never believe that recipes calling for “optional” meat are going to be any good if you leave the meat out.   I automatically skip over any recipe that calls for bacon and then implies that the vegetarian version will be just as good if you simply omit the bacon.  The bacon is the FLAVOR in that recipe, and a good vegetarian recipe builds flavors in a different way, through spices and cooking technique.

But when I made that Smoky Cauliflower Frittata recently and J said it tasted meaty, I had the obviously-delayed epiphany that the flavors that bacon and ham hocks add are smoke and salt.  I was ready to make split pea soup.  I went right to the source for my recipe: Pea Soup Andersen’s Facebook page.  This recipe is vegetarian in the original, but just to be on the safe side–in case those ham hock recipes are on to something–I replaced the cayenne with hot smoked paprika anyway.

This just the kind of recipe I like: simple, flavorful, hearty. I doubled the recipe, of course, but I supposed you don’t HAVE to.  (A double recipe made a truly huge pot of soup.  The original recipe says it makes 8 bowls, which is a regular-big pot of soup.) 

To make a regular-big (not truly huge) pot of Vegetarian Split Pea Soup, dice a large onion, a large carrot and a celery stalk and saute in olive oil until the vegetables soften and the onion is translucent.  Add 1/4 tsp. dried thyme and 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika and stir, then add 2 c. sorted and rinsed green split peas, 8 c. water, a bay leaf and 1 1/2 tsp. salt.  Maintain a peppy boil for 20 mins, then reduce heat and simmer until the split peas are very soft, probably about an hour in all, stirring occasionally.  Season with salt and pepper.  I originally planned to puree the soup, but once I cooked the peas down to mush I loved that texture too.   It tastes great both ways, but I think the pureed version looks a little more elegant.

If you want to get fancy, you could top the soup with another sprinkle of smoked paprika or some homemade croutons.  Or serve it with a nice easy bread or homemade rye crackers.  Or just keep it in the fridge to reheat (thinned with a little water) for lunch this week.

Soup Swap Magic

Tonight, I magically turned six quarts of my Lentil Rosemary soup into six OTHER quarts of soup by attending a Soup Swap in my neighborhood.

As a bonus gift with my soup, I included the bread recipe I posted here, which makes just about any soup into a hearty meal.

My 6 quarts of lentil soup became one quart each of French Onion soup, Cream of Wild Mushroom soup, meaty chili, Mushroom and Barley soup, Beer, Cheese and Bacon soup, and Lively Up Yourself Lentil soup.  And I made a bunch of new friends at the same time.


White Winter Dinner: Cauliflower Soup and Pizza Bianca

The children in my house–those who are old enough to exercise free will, anyway–have developed a color-based hierarchy to determine the acceptability of vegetables.   Orange: yes! Green: probably not!  Yellow: yes!  Red: no way unless it’s pizza sauce! Or something like that.  It’s hard to keep track.  I thought this was ridiculous until I stopped and considered my own palate’s prejudices, which usually demand a variety of colors to find a meal delicious.

Digging through the fridge for tonight’s dinner, though, a single-hued meal started to take shape in my mind.  Maybe all the white, white snow was getting to me.  Cauliflower soup.  A a pale celery salad.  A garlicky white pizza.  I was going to do it.  I got right up to the point of piling on pizza toppings when my resolve failed me and I had to saute a pile of chard and spinach (what is a meal without green?!) and then, having already jumped off the white-meal rails, I crumbled a chunk of smoked salmon over the half the pizza as well and breathed a sigh of relief.  A little color makes the meal, I say.

First, the creamy, delicate, 5-ingredient (counting water and salt!) Cauliflower Soup: Sweat half a thinly-sliced onion in 3 Tb. olive oil for 15 mins without letting it brown, then add a broken-up head of cauliflower, a tsp. of salt and 1/2 c. water.  Cover and cook 15 mins, then uncover, add 4 1/2 c. hot water, more salt to taste, and simmer uncovered 20 mins.  Puree and let stand 20 mins. to thicken; add 1/2 c. or more additional water to thin the soup if desired as you reheat it, season to taste with more salt, and garnish each bowl with cracked pepper and/or a swirl of olive oil.  The recipe is from Food52, a website that I find myself increasingly enjoying.  Is this where all the Gourmet Magazine readers have gone?

While the soup is simmering, make a Spicy Garlic Oil by mixing 2 Tbsp. olive oil with a big minced clove of garlic and 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes.

Then get your pizza crust started.  Our go-to recipe is from Annie Summerville’s Fields of Greens and makes way more than you need for one pizza, so halve these amounts if you don’t want a pizza crust to use later in the week (you can also freeze it).  Or, hey, use your favorite recipe or a purchased crust.  If you’re doing as I did, whisk 1 Tbsp. yeast into 3/4 c. warm water and set aside.  In the bowl of your KitchenAid, combine 3/4 c. milk, 1/4 c. olive oil, 1 tsp. salt, and a couple Tbsps. each rye flour and fine cornmeal (if you have either handy) for texture.  Stir in your now-foamy yeast mixture then put in the dough hook and incorporate 3 1/2 c. flour (you can use some whole wheat, if you like; we like to use at least part Italian 00 flour for the incredible texture it gives the dough).  Anyhoo, let your machine knead it into a nice ball (add more flour if it is too sticky), then oil the bowl, roll your dough ball around in it, and let it rest covered while you get your toppings ready.

Preheat your oven as hot as it goes, and put your pizza stone in if you have one.  For the Pizza Bianca you can roll the dough nice and thin because your first layer is cheese rather than sauce, which will protect the dough from getting soggy.  So roll or stretch out a nice big thin crust onto a piece of parchment paper, which will make moving it easier later, and layer on shredded mozzarella, chunks of goat cheese, some winter greens sauteed with garlic until fairly dry, and some hot-smoked salmon if you are inclined that way.  Then brush the crust of the pizza with some of the spicy garlic oil (this great tip came from a recipe on Epicurious, although I had made a very similar pizza many times before) and scoop most of the rest of it over the pizza.  Slide pizza, parchment paper and all, onto a pan or straight onto your pizza stone and bake until the bottom is crisp, about 7-9 minutes if the crust is thin. When it comes out of the oven, brush the crust again with the remaining garlic oil.

Serve the soup and pizza with a crisp salad; ours tonight was celery and blue cheese but I think this meal would also be great with another of my favorite winter salads: just celery, a fennel bulb and/or a sweet pepper, and an apple, all sliced paper thin, with the juice from the apple as the only dressing.

National Soup Swap Day is this Saturday!

Are you ready?  This website has everything you need to know to make your Soup Swap a success.  If you miss Saturday…well, there’s the rest of the year.  But aren’t you ready for a freezer full of soup?

Wondering what to make?  I’m making this Lentil Soup with Rosemary.  But the Best Soup of 2011 wouldn’t be a bad option, either.  Or a great vegetarian chili.

Happy soup swapping!

Winter Vegetarian Chili

The chili purists bicker about beans, no beans, veggies, no veggies, whatever.  This recipe is not for them.  They’d flip out over this one. It’s smoky, meaty, tomato-y, all the things a good chili should be–but it’s vegetarian.

This is a secret, shh, but this chili has wheat berries* in it.  I know, it’s crazy.  But they’re great.  They are combined with black beans to give the chili texture and rib-sticking density, while the flavor is anchored by chipotles and cumin and elevated by lime and cilantro at the end.  This is my go-to winter chili.

To make this Winter Vegetarian Chili, start by cooking about a cup of wheat berries in water to cover by an inch and a teaspoon of salt.  (Cooked wheat berries freeze well, though, so why not make more while you’re at it?)  Bring them to a boil and simmer for about an hour, until pleasantly chewy.  Meanwhile, get your chili going: saute a chopped onion with a chopped red pepper for a few minutes, then add 5 minced cloves of garlic, 1 tsp. oregano and 2 tsp. each of chili powder and cumin.  Once the spices start to get toasty, stir in 1-2 tsp. of pureed chipotles until fragrant (I buy canned chipotles in adobo and puree the whole can with the adobo sauce; the puree keeps in the fridge forever, as far as I can tell).  Then add a big can of chopped tomatoes, 3-4 c. of cooked or canned black beans (with some of their liquid, if you cooked them yourself), some of the liquid from the cooked wheat berries, a Tbsp. of brown sugar and salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer for a while and then add your drained cooked wheat berries and cook for a few minutes longer.  Squeeze in a whole lime at the end.  I first found this recipe in Eating Well, which basically means it’s health food.  But don’t let that stop you from topping your bowl with some grated cheese and sour cream in addition to avocado, a lime wedge and cilantro.  And you can never go wrong with a chunk of corn bread.

*What’s a wheat berry, you ask?  It’s the whole wheat kernel, it looks a little like brown rice, and it cooks up into a nutty, chewy, delicious little bite of good-for-you-whole-grain.  Wheat berries make great salads, I’ll tell you about that another time.  And when you’re shopping for them, pick hard red wheat berries instead of soft white ones–but if white wheat berries are all you have, don’t worry, they’ll work just fine.

Zippy Noodle Curry with Tofu, Sweet Potatoes and Chard

J and I spent a week taking cooking classes in Chiang Mai once when we were kicking around Thailand for a few months.  (We also spent a week taking foot massage classes in Bangkok.  Both were pretty nice weeks.)  We love Thai food and occasionally dig into the freezer and pantry to bring the scents and flavors of Thai cooking into our home.

One of my favorite foods in Thailand was a rich, creamy noodle curry called khao soi.  This is not a recipe for khao soi.  You should definitely get yourself a bowl if you find yourself in Chiang Mai, though.  THIS is a very simple recipe based on the Big Curry Noodle Pot recipe in Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Cooking.

In Zippy Noodle Curry with Tofu, Sweet Potatoes and Chard, “zippy” refers to both the flavors and the speed of making the dish.  (I’m funny, huh?)  Saute an onion, 1 big cubed sweet potato (I steamed mine first, but I think it was unnecessary) and some chopped garlic in a glob of heavenly-smelling coconut oil with 1-2 Tbsp. red or yellow curry paste.  Add a cubed block of extra-firm tofu and a few handfuls of chard leaves sliced to ribbons and stir to coat.  Pour in 2 c. veggie stock, 1 can of lite coconut milk, 2 tsp. turmeric, 2 Tbsp. soy sauce, and 1 Tbsp. sugar and simmer until the sweet potatoes are soft.  Meanwhile, cook 8 oz. fresh egg noodles in a separate pot.  Add cooked noodles and the juice of a lime to the curry.  Garnish with chopped cilantro, green onions and peanuts, and serve with chopsticks and a spoon.  Thai chile flakes, soy and/or fish sauce, and lime wedges at the table will let everyone perfect the dish according to their own taste.

Spinach-Mushroom-Swiss Egg White Frittata and Lentil Soup with Rosemary

As a mostly-vegetarian (and especially during this time in my life when I’m nursing babies), I find that one of my challenges is getting enough protein without overdoing it in the fat/calorie department.  (Not that I’m OPPOSED to overdoing it in the fat/calorie department–but, you know, moderation in all…nah, scratch that.)  So anyway, I am tentatively experimenting with things that I don’t normally consider food, like egg whites from a carton–which I can only bear to do because our chickens have stopped laying for the winter–and low-fat cheeses.  So if that sounds terrible to you, stop right here and skip to the soup below.  But if you’re looking for a way to add protein to your diet and/or cut back on fat and calories, this frittata isn’t half bad.

A Spinach-Mushroom-Swiss Egg White Frittata could really have any combination of veggies and cheese, of course, but here’s what I did: Cook nearly a pound of mushrooms like crazy over high heat in a little olive oil until they release their liquid and it evaporates and they get nice and brown. Then and only then, add a pinch of salt, then some handfuls of spinach, then another pinch of salt.  When the spinach wilts, take the pan off the heat and scoop the veggies into your waiting bowl of 16 oz. egg whites beaten with 4 whole eggs, more salt, a splash of water and 4 shredded slices of lite Jarlsberg cheese.  Return your pan to a medium-low burner, wipe it out and add a little more olive oil, and pour in the whole mixture.  Once the edges of the frittata have set, I like to transfer the pan to a hot oven to finish baking, then brown the top by flipping on the broiler for a well-supervised minute or two.  This was lunch today on a slice of toast with a drizzle of lemony, salty harissa oil–and it will be breakfast for the rest of the week.

To recover from my slight queasiness over the very idea of low-fat cheese, I needed a good honest lentil soup for dinner.  This is a pure, clean recipe, courtesy of Alice Waters from her book In The Green Kitchen.  Of course, I doubled the recipe, because you know how I feel about soup–and about leftovers.  Both divine.

Lentil Soup with Rosemary: Finely dice 2 small onions, 4 ribs of celery, and 4 carrots.  Sautee with a tsp. salt until the onion is lightly browned, then add 6 big cloves of chopped garlic and the chopped-up leaves of a big branch of rosemary.  When these additions become fragrant after a minute or two, add 2 c. sorted and rinsed tiny black or French green lentils,  3 1/2 quarts of water, and another Tbsp. salt.  Bring to a boil and simmer until everything is very soft, about an hour.  Season to taste with salt and black pepper and serve each bowl with a dollop of greek yogurt.

The Best Soup of 2011

I’ll give you that it’s 2012 already.  But when this soup showed up on 101 Cookbooks recently, it reminded me of how much we loved it last year.  Friends came over for dinner and I made a few little things to go along with it, too.

First, Nash’s Field Pea or (if you don’t have Nash’s Field Peas, poor you) Split Pea Soup with Curried Brown Butter: I, myself, like to make a big pot of soup–enough to serve unexpected company or to have leftovers for the freezer.   So you could scale this down if you prefer a smaller quantity.  Saute 2 big onions, 6 minced cloves of garlic, and 1/2 to 1 tsp. red pepper flakes in a knob of butter.  When soft, add 3 c. field peas (well sorted and washed and soaked overnight)–or, once the field peas run out, green split peas.  Add 3 quarts water, bring to a boil and simmer until soft.  If you’re using split peas or lentils this might take 30-60 minutes.  If you’re using last year’s field peas from Nash’s, it might take all day.  When the peas are soft, mix in 2 tsp. salt and 1 can light coconut milk.  Puree well, then add additional salt to taste.  In a separate pan, brown 1/4 c. butter, then sizzle in 4 tsp. Indian curry powder for one minute.  Mix most of the curried brown butter into the soup, then serve bowls drizzled with the remaining curried butter and chopped chives.

This Easy Little Bread is just as its name implies and goes great with (butter or cheese and) soup.  Dissolve 2 tsp. yeast in 1 1/4 c. warm water, then mix in 1 Tb. honey.  Meanwhile, mix 1 c. all-purpose flour, 1 c. whole wheat flour, 1 c. oats and 1 1/2 tsp. salt in a large bowl.  Mix wet ingredients into dry until well combined, then scoop dough into a buttered loaf pan.  Let rise for 30 minutes, then bake for about 40 minutes at 350.  Cool on a cooling rack.

A Lemony Kale Salad kept the meal from being too brown: Chop 1 washed, stemmed bunch of kale to smithereens in a food processor.  Toss in a handful of currants and a handful of toasted pine nuts.  Mix up a dressing of 1/4 c. lemon juice, 1/4 c. olive oil, 1/4 c. microplaned parmesan, a minced small clove of garlic, and salt and pepper to taste.  Toss it all together with more parmesan.

And finally, a Meyer Lemon Olive Oil Cake, made from lemons we picked from the tree outside the window when were in California last week.  It’s from Rustic Fruit Desserts, and it’s a family favorite (we call it “glaze cake”).  First, preheat the oven to 350 and coat a 9″ cake pan with olive oil, then granulated sugar.  Beat 3 room-temperature eggs, 3/4 c. sugar, and the zest of 5 Meyer lemons at high speed for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine 1 1/4 c. all purpose flour with 1/4 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. baking powder.  Mix 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla into the egg mixture, then add 1 c. olive oil while the mixer is running at low speed.  Add flour mixture just to combine, then scoop it into the pan and bake for 25-30 minutes.  Glaze with 3/4 c. powdered sugar mixed with 2 Tbsp. Meyer lemon juice.