Category Archives: Soup

Company’s coming.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

It’s Thanksgiving! Family and friends are about to descend for a dinner you have spent days, if not weeks, preparing for. Right about now then, is when it hits you like a quick punch to the gut: those guests are staying for three nights, and you haven’t planned any other meals.

Wednesday night you’ll order pizza, and a bag of bagels covers breakfast. There are turkey sandwiches for lunch on Friday, but what are you going to do that night for dinner?

Let’s face it, you’re exhausted. After getting a 23 pound turkey on the table with stuffing, mashed potatoes and 8 other side dishes – all ready at the same time, you might add – there is no way you are returning to the kitchen to cook another full diner for 10-15 people.

So, make a pot of soup! It actually does get better after a day or two, so you throw it together on Tuesday. With cold weather forecast all week, you can leave it out on the porch, saving plenty of room in the fridge for Thanksgiving dinner groceries. Best of all, it’s Moroccan, which will be a welcome break from the hearty American fare you’ll be eating until Thanksgiving leftovers finally run out.

Now sit back and enjoy a glass of wine. You’ve got a busy week ahead of you.

Moroccan Meatball Soup

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb. ground pork*
  • 1/2 pound ground lamb
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp hot Paprika
  • 1 tbs chopped, fresh thyme
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/2 tsp each cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • 4 medium sweet potatoes, cut in a 1/2″ dice
  • 1 bulb celery root, cut in a 1/2″ dice
  • 1 large carrot, cut in a 1/4″ dice
  • 6-8 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 pound spinach, chopped
  • Sherry vinegar

*If you are also celebrating Hanukkah this week, leave out the pork and increase your lamb and beef to 3/4 lb. each.

Instructions:

  • In a medium bowl, mix together lamb, pork and beef with egg, paprika and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. To check seasoning, fry a small meatball and taste.
  • Shape mixture into 1” meatballs.
  • Warm 1 tbs olive oil in a 6 quart soup pot placed over medium heat. Fry meatballs in batches until browned. Reserve on paper towels to drain fat.
  • Pour off all but 2 tbs fat from the pot and add onions. Cook 5 minutes until soft.
  • Blend spices with a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir into onions and cook 1 minute.
  • Add remaining vegetables to the onions. Season with salt and pepper, and sauté for 5 minutes.
  • Add stock and cook until vegetables are fork tender.
  • Return meatballs to pot and cook 5 minutes until heated through.
  • Add spinach and cook until wilted. 2-3 minutes.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper and vinegar.
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This is so difficult you may not even want to try.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

The gift of a spaetzle-maker, originally intended for the giver’s daughter – “Honestly, you’re more likely to use it.” – has plagued me for years. It sat in the cupboard leering, challenging me to finally take it from it’s simple, clear plastic wrapping and make a batch of the quickly simmered soup dumplings.

For some reason, however, making doughs, an activity involving things like measuring and specific ingredients, always seems so foreboding, a challenge best left to classically trained pastry chefs and German grandmothers.

Last week, the need to dress up my recipe for asparagus soup drove me to research spaetzle. Custards felt fussy, and a garnish of wild mushrooms just lazy. Mushroom spaetzle, though daunting, seemed the perfect solution. We carefully measured each ingredient only to discover that sweet, light Oyster mushrooms disappeared in the rich dough. We pressed on, sautéing hearty, bold Criminis for a second batch. They were delicious and we were in love.

So, was it worth the painstaking pain and suffering? Should spaetzle be left to the chefs? The answer is “no.” Made with four ingredients, simmered and served, spaeetzle couldn’t be simpler. Guten appetit!

Mushroom Spaetzle

Serves 6-8

Spaetzle makerIngredients:

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped Crimini mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup Madeira wine
  • 1 tbs chopped parsley
  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk

Directions:

  • Warm oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Add mushrooms and cook until softened and golden on edges. Add wine to pan and scrape up any brown bits. Cook until liquid has evaporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper
  • Chop mushrooms and parsley together until minced.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a simmer.
  • Meanwhile, whisk together flour and salt. Add mushrooms and whisk to combine.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Add to dry ingredients and whisk until it forms into a smooth dough.
  • Press dough through a colander, or spaetzle-maker, over simmering water. Cook for 2-3 minutes and drain.
  • Serve with butter or over soup.

Asparagus Soup

Serves 6-8

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 2 bunches asparagus, about 2 pounds
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tbs chopped parsley, reserve stems
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 2 medium red potatoes, diced
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts thinly sliced
  • 2 tbs butter
  • Sherry vinegar

Directions:

  • Snap tough ends from asparagus. Add ends to a 4 qt saucepan with stock, thyme, bay and parsley stems. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Melt butter in a soup pot over medium-low heat. Simmer potatoes and leeks in butter. Add a little water as needed. Cook until potatoes are soft.
  • Strain stock into soup pot and cook for five minutes. Cut remaining asparagus into 2” pieces and add to stock. Remove 10-12 tips after 3 minutes.
  • When asparagus is just tender, pass soup through a food mill or processor. Stir through parsley.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper, butter and vinegar. Garnish with asparagus tips.

Stock stock.

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Asian soupI’m a strong advocate for homemade stock. Store-bought not only lacks the same depth of flavor, but even low-sodium versions end up too salty when reduced. The answer? Make your own.

Vegetable stock is a simple mix of carrot, onion and celery, thyme sprigs and parsley stems, bay leaves and peppercorns. Simmered for 30-40 minutes, it’s flavorful and ready just as you finish the rest of your vegetable prep, easily completed for a Tuesday night meal.

“But,” you say, “I want to make chicken stock.” Simple, just add chicken parts. If you are lucky enough to live near a market that breaks down whole chickens in to breasts, wings, legs and thighs, then you can buy backs and necks for about $1 per pound. Simmer for three hours and you have beautiful, rich stock.

“But wait,” you say,” I never have three hours to cook anything.”

I’m going to make an assumption, and forgive me if I offend, but sometime in the next, let’s say 45 days, you are going to wake up on Saturday morning just a little hungover. Your big plan for the day is to sit on the couch with a giant cup of coffee and watch Tyra Banks chew out models for 8 hours straight (or you’re just checking out the models). Either way, there is no reason that a big pot of stock can’t be simmering on the back of the stove.

We’ve posted recipes for chicken stock and vegetable stock before. Here are two stocks that we use for Indian or Asian sauces, soups and braises.

Asian Stock

Perfect for soups, stir-frys and sauces.

Ingredients:

  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 leek, roughly chopped
  • 1 sheet kombu seaweed
  • 1-2 cups Shitake mushroom stems
  • 2 tbs soy sauce
  • 2 tbs rice wine vinegar

Directions:

  • Place all ingredients in a stock pot and cover with 8-10 cups water.
  • Simmer for 40 minutes and strain solids reserving stock.

Indian Stock

This special stock adds additional richness to Indian-flavored dishes. You could also use it for soup with the addition of lightly browned pieces of carrot, potato and chicken.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs ghee or butter
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 leek, roughly chopped
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 2 whole cloves

Directions:

  • Melt ghee in a stock pot over medium-high heat. Add carrot, celery, onion and leek and cook until browned.
  • Add cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. Cook for 1 minute more and fill with 8 cups water.
  • Simmer for 40 minutes and strain solids reserving stock.

Stock is magic.

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Thanksgiving dinner is a pause. I somehow put everything down for three days and focus on bringing one meal to the table. In a life filled with multi-tasking and the constant feeling that I lost a week somewhere in 2003 that I desperately need to get back, it’s a moment of peace.

That peace begins with a deep breath and a pot of stock. Even before I’ve finished the menu, the house fills with the scent of roasting meat and rough-chopped aromatics. Stock is effortless and rote, a handful of ingredients with no complex techniques, simply roasting and simmering with a little deglazing in between.

But, for its simplicity, stock adds great complexity and depth to the meal that lades the table Thanksgiving day. It brings satisfying richness. It elevates pan drippings into gravy, layers the simple sugars that glaze sweet potatoes and parsnips, transforms day-old bread into moist, herbed stuffing. Let’s hit the kitchen.

Rich Turkey Stock

Ingredients:

  • 6 pounds turkey parts like necks, legs or wings, cut in 3-4″ pieces*
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 large carrot, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 1.5 cups dry white wine or dry Vermouth
  • 4 ribs celery, roughly chopped
  • 6-8 parsley stems, about 2″ each
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp whole peppercorns

*You’re looking for cheap meat, less than $3 a pound, with some bone in it. Have your butcher chop it down for you.

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  • Place turkey pieces in a single layer in a heavy bottomed roasting pan (you’re going to put the pan on the stovetop later). Do not crowd the turkey. Roast in two batches if needed.
  • Roast the turkey until rich brown, about 1 hour. Remove turkey to a large stockpot.
  • Add carrots and onion to the same roasting pan. Toss them in the rendered fat from the turkey and place in the oven. Reduce heat to 375.
  • After 30 minutes, toss the roasting vegetables in the tomato paste and return to the oven. Turn the oven back to 400 and roast for 10-15 minutes until golden brown, watching carefully not to burn. Remove vegetables to stock pot with roast turkey.
  • Place the roasting pan over two burners on medium high and add white wine. When wine comes to a simmer, scrape up all the brown goodness. When wine reduces to 1/4 cup, add additional water if needed to finish scraping the brown bits from the roasting pan.
  • Pour deglazed pan juices into stock pot and add remaining ingredients.
  • Fill pot with cold water to cover turkey and vegetables by 2 inches.
  • Bring the pot to a simmer over medium low heat, partially covered. It will take about 45 minutes. Skim off any foam that collects on the surface.
  • Continue to simmer stock, partially covered, just a bubble or two every few seconds, for three more hours. Be careful not to let it come to a boil. Add more cold water if needed to keep meat covered. Skim any additional foam that collects on the surface.
  • After three hours, strain the stock and remove the solids, discarding them. Strain the stock through a fine sieve and then one more time through a sieve lined with a  layer of paper towels or double layer of cheese cloth. You will have to change out the towels or cheese cloth several times, as they become clogged.
  • Place strained stock in the fridge overnight. In the morning, skim the coagulated fat from the surface.
  • Taste a little stock with a pinch of salt. If needed, reduce stock by up to 25% to concentrate flavor. It should make about 3-3.5 quarts.
  • Refrigerate for three days, or freeze up to 6 months.

Earthy and French

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Photograph by Sam Armocido

God did just fine creating cauliflower. Pure, creamy and white, it needs nothing more than a quick steam before  tossing with salt, pepper and farm-fresh butter. That, however, is not the shortest path to impressing you with my culinary creativity. So, last week in the test kitchen we were faced with a decision: sweet and Indian or hearty and French? We stayed up until 1 AM and tried both. Here’s effort number one.

Cauliflower provides the comforting weight of potatoes with a mouth feel as light as zucchini or yellow wax beans. We found earthiness and luxury in Crimini mushrooms, sliced and sautéed, finished with thyme and white wine. Yukon Gold potatoes, relatively low in starch, gave heft without weighing our stew down. We needed depth, and found it in garlic and anchovy paste. A spicy, robust olive oil finished the stew richly.

We had achieved cauliflower stew Nirvana: hearty enough for a cold, damp fall night, but light enough that we weren’t crawling to bed from the dinner table.

You’re freaked about the anchovy paste, aren’t you? Your nose is wrinkled in disgust at the thought of that fishy, salty brown paste, oozing like toothpaste from a tube. Anchovy paste adds necessary layers of flavor in a dish that might otherwise feel one-dimensional. You won’t taste it. It’s one of those perfect stealth ingredients, delivering lots of flavor without getting caught. So go ahead, squeeze a little in, and don’t tell your kids or your picky eater of a boyfriend. They’ll never know.

Hearty Cauliflower Mushroom Stew

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs butter
  • 2 cups sliced Crimini mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup dry Vermouth
  • 1 tbs chopped, fresh thyme
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp anchovy paste
  • 3 Yukon Gold potatoes*, in 1/2” dice
  • 3 cups vegetable stock (here’s a quick and simple recipe)
  • 1/2 head cauliflower, cut in florets
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tbs Moresca Olive Oil**
  • Nutmeg

*This past weekend, Dan at Agora Farms introduced me to the Eva potato. Named after the mother of the Cornell researcher who developed it, Eva is creamy and white, with bold flavor (who knew potatoes could have flavor?!) and medium starch. They make a perfect, creamy mash, just sayin’…

**Sapore’s latest introduction, Moresca is a bold, spicy oil perfect for dipping bread, tossing with pasta, arugula and walnuts and gave great depth as a finish to this stew.

Directions:

  • Melt butter over medium heat in large sauté pan. Sauté mushrooms until golden brown on edges. Deglaze with Vermouth. Season with thyme, salt and pepper. Reserve.
  • Heat olive oil in same pan. Sauté onions until translucent, add garlic and anchovy paste and cook 30 seconds.
  • Add potatoes and cook until onion begins to brown on edges.
  • Stir in the stock, cover and cook until potatoes have started to soften.
  • Add cauliflower and fresh thyme. Cover and cook until cauliflower is crisp tender.
  • Uncover and let broth thicken. Season to taste with Moresca oil, salt, pepper and nutmeg.

The pumpkin whisperer.

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Photo by Sam Armocido

Good food starts with good ingredients. Like “haste makes waste” and the Lord’s prayer,  this simple truism about food is fixed in our minds, but its meaning is rarely considered. So is the fact that the best recipes begin with thoughtful consideration of the ingredients we use.

Galeux d’Eysines is a pale, peach-skinned pumpkin covered in peanut-like warty growths. Those “peanuts” are the result of abundant sugars building up under the skin. The dense, bright-orange flesh is relatively non-fiberous, delivering the smoothest purée of any pumpkin I know and, though sugary-sweet, the flavor is delicate.

While hearty Hubbard squash and Marina de Chioggia pumpkin inspire rich recipes, the peanut pumpkin wants a lighter touch: a stock infused with its flavorful seed mass, savory boar sausages and mildly-earthy, sweet Shitake mushrooms deglazed with dry Madeira wine.

Being the pumpkin-whisperer probably won’t get me my own television series, but it did deliver a spectacular soup recipe. And that’s far more important, isn’t it?

“Peanut” Pumpkin Sausage Soup

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 6-8 Shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced, stems reserved
  • 3 cups Galeux d’Eysines pumpkin purée, seed mass reserved
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 Wild boar sausages, casings removed*
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup Madeira or brandy
  • 1 tbs chopped, fresh thyme
  • Fig Balsamic Vinegar*

*If you can’t get to Canales Quality Meats at Eastern Market in DC, grab a pork and sage sausage, or just a pork sauce and mix in some dried sage leaves. Fig Balsamic should be on the shelf at your grocery store, but you can definitely order this really good stuff from Sapore Oil and Vinegar

Directions:

  • Simmer stock in a 2-3 qt saucepan, for 20 minutes, with the Shitake stems, pumpkin guts, bayleaf and thyme sprigs.
  • Meanwhile, in a 4 qt soup pot, brown sausage in 2 tbs olive oil. Breaking it up as it cooks. When browned, remove with a slotted spoon and reserve.
  • Add 1 tbs olive oil and onion to pot and cook until softened.
  • Return sausage to pot, strain in stock and cook for five to ten minutes.
  • While the soup simmers, sauté Shitake mushrooms in 1 tbs olive oil over medium heat. When mushrooms have softened and edges begin to brown, deglaze pan with Madeira, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Add pumpkin purée to pot and cook five minutes longer.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper, and a tablespoon or two of butter. Serve garnished with mushrooms and Fig Balsamic Vinegar.

Strictly off the record.

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Last night I jumped in front of the camera for the first time. After two hours and two recipes – a vinaigrette and cider-braised Delicata squash – we were all hungry and tired, so I threw some together dinner.

Digging through the vegetable bin I found two medium zucchini and a red pepper that had hours of viable edibility remaining. Into the pot they went with onion and garlic, and the last of a container of homemade stock. After a good press through the finest setting of my food mill, I added a good spicy yellow curry powder I had on the shelf. A little butter and cream for richness and the soup was ready to serve.

Honestly, this recipe was never supposed to be published. But, like some of the best food, it was created without a plan – no recipe. We had to rely on taste as the final arbiter of success.

Now enjoy. And if you don’t like how it tastes, change it. Make it better. Then tell me what you’ve done, so I can make it in my kitchen.

Curried Zucchini Red Pepper Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 -2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium-large zucchini, about 4-5 cups diced
  • 1 large red pepper, diced
  • 3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1-2 tsp yellow curry powder
  • Sherry vinegar
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 2-3 tbs fresh cream

Directions:

  • In a 3-4 qt saucepan, over medium heat, sauté onion until softened, 3-4 minutes.
  • Add garlic and cook 30 seconds or so until fragrant.
  • Add zucchini and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until liquid evaporates and vegetables begin to soften.
  • Stir stock into vegetables, add thyme and cook, covered, until vegetables are soft enough to mash with a fork. About 15 minutes.
  • Press solids through a food  mill and return to the stock. Alternatively, purée with an immersion blender or in your food processor.
  • Season to taste with curry powder, a splash of vinegar, butter and cream. A little bite of heat is nice in this soup. Add a pinch of cayenne if needed.