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Posts Tagged ‘soup’

As much as I love and embrace summer fruits and vegetables, there is something particularly comforting about produce in the autumn and winter times.  Warmer flavors as well as warmer colors that are rich and mellow invite family and friends to gather around.

This is a very flexible soup in terms of additions or subtractions.  I make it every year and each time it changes.  So feel free to use whatever is available to you locally as long as the flavors make good partnerships.  This soup keeps well for several days in the refrigerator.  In the unlikely event that you have leftovers you want to freeze, this soup freezes beautifully.

2 Tbl. Good quality olive oil

1 large onion (yellow or white), medium diced

3 carrots, medium diced (not the colossal ones; medium size is fine)

2-3 cloves of garlic, finely minced

2 ½ cups of winter squash, peeled and cubed into bite size pieces

(I used butternut squash but other hard winter squashes work fine.)

½ teaspoon allspice

Pinch of ground cloves

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (can add more to suit your taste)

1-2 Tbl. Jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (optional)

Coarse sea salt

1 quart chicken broth (if not using homemade, use no-fat, low or no sodium)

1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes

Several sprigs of thyme (whole) or several leaves of sage (chopped) (your choice)

2 cups of greens: chopped kale, beet greens, or chard leaves  (I used kale)

1 cup chickpeas (or cannellini beans)

(if not using dried peas, drain and rinse the canned peas)

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium high heat.  Add the carrots and onions and cook them, stirring often, until they begin to get soft.  On my stove this took about 4 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for only a minute more.  Be careful not to overcook the garlic or it gets bitter.

Add the squash, allspice, cloves and cayenne.  At this point, throw in a generous pinch of coarse sea salt and the jalapenos.  Stir to mix and then add the broth and tomatoes (with their juices) slowly so it doesn’t splash.

Stir the pot well and add the herbs.  Bring it all to a boil then reduce the heat to medium.  Cover the pot and simmer for about 10-12 minutes.

Add your greens and chickpeas (or cannellini beans) and leave the pot uncovered.  Cook this for another 10-15 minutes until all the greens and squash are tooth tender.

Taste and adjust your seasonings.

(If you used thyme sprigs, remove the sprigs before you serve the soup.)

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My grandmother was an avid cook although not necessarily a good one.  She grew up in an oppressed area where she learned to eat things pulled hastily from the ground, sometimes without lighting a fire to mellow them, and then consumed on the run.

As a result, she didn’t bake well in spite of entertaining a delightful romance with sweets.  Did you know that a sugar cube held between your teeth could sweeten the bitterest brew of coffee?  Or that a cookie baked until it’s hard enough to break a tooth can be a soothingly sweet when it’s dipped into hot tea before eating?  My grandmother knew these things well.

She also knew that one of the most frugal and nutritious soups one can make is a good root based borscht.  Using a beetroot, which contributes the signature deep red color and some carrot , another sweet root, my grandmother built the basis of her soup.

She stood in her tiny kitchen with a cutting board and an old, yet sharp, knife and chopped those roots into tiny pieces.  The carrots were the size of something between a dice and a mince while the beetroot was a slightly larger cube– and occasionally julienned depending upon her mood.

She then made a chiffonade of cabbage and onions.  She did not use the flanken like the other grandmothers I knew but she did include her own homemade beef stock from her stewed beef dishes to the soup.

The result was a delectable combination of roots, broth and vinegar that was stewed on the stove for a couple of hours and then served in small bowls with big spoons and a dollop of sour cream whether you wanted it or not.

Here, decades later, is my rendition of my Grandmothers beet borscht with beets and carrots from our yard.  Everything else was homegrown, homemade or locally purchased.

Recipe, roughly translated:

2 large beets (equivalent of 2 cups)

1 medium carrot, diced into small, very small pieces (about ¾ cup after chopping)

1 large onion, chiffonade slices (at least 1 cup)

1 wedge of cabbage, chiffonade, (equivalent of just over a cup measured)

Approximately 2 cups of beef broth

(you can use chicken but it isn’t as rich or vegetable for a vegetarian meal)

Approximately 1-2 tablespoons of sherry or sherry vinegar

(Red wine vinegar works in a pinch)

Freshly ground pepper and salt (heavy on the pepper)

Sauté one tablespoon of fat (olive oil, butter, beef fat or rendered chicken fat) over a medium flame.  Add the roots and onions.  After they soften, about 10 minutes depending on your stove, add the broth, cabbage, and vinegar.  Bring this mixture to a boil then turn it down to simmer for 30-45 minutes.  The time variation is proportional to the size of your root pieces.  Smaller pieces require less time, larger pieces require more time.

When finished, season the whole pot with freshly ground pepper and salt.  Serve with a sturdy, high quality sour cream and big spoons.  She always threw a pinch of salt over her shoulder before eating and said a silent prayer.  We never knew what she said but the meal always seemed blessed with love.

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This is an excellent soup and when my computer is up and running properly again–and in a trustworthy manner–I will follow-up with the recipe.

For now, my return from vacation introduced me to a computer in the throes of death so I’m currently reloading a new machine. So I’m halfway here.  Thanks for your patience.

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Usually at the end of the holiday season, after grazing at more buffets than one thought possible, the idea of eating another celery stick, another broccoli floret or yet another leaf of endive does not appeal one bit.

Many hosts face this problem:  a platter half filled with subtly wilting crudités sitting atop the coffee table–and the party is over.

A popular “save” for these fresh foods is the peerless Vegetable Stock.  Vegetable stock is a great way to use up the leftover food, save the dollars invested and derive some healthy meals out of the foods.

However, I like to get right on top of things and use those vegetables while they are still fresh.  One of the easiest recipes for leftover crudités is soup.  A collection of food from party platters usually is enough to provide most of the ingredients necessary.

My favorite leftover crudités recipe is as simple as it gets!

Fresh Cream of Broccoli Soup*.

2 tablespoons butter

1 celery rib, chopped

2 carrot sticks, chopped (not whole carrots, remember these are party

leftovers)

1 whole medium onion, chopped

1 smashed garlic clove, peeled

1 russet potato, peeled and diced

6 cups homemade (hopefully) chicken stock (or vegetable stock)

4 cups broccoli florets (trim any dried stem ends)

1 spring fresh thyme

Salt and black pepper to taste

Leftover cubes of cheddar cheese or grated Monterrey jack

(or grated, imported gruyère cheese)

In a large pot, over medium high heat, melt the butter.

Add the celery, carrot and onions.  Sauté briefly until tender, about 5 minutes.

Add the smashed garlic and potatoes.  Stir to coat with butter.

Add the 6 cups of chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

Add the 4 cups broccoli florets and simmer until they are bright green and tender.  Be careful not to overcook the broccoli because it will turn slightly bitter in flavor and become an unappealing khaki green color.  At this point, add the sprig of thyme and let it simmer along with the broccoli.  Remove the thyme before you blend the soup!

When the broccoli florets are knife tender, turn off the heat and remove the pot from the stove.  Cool slightly.  (Are you certain that you removed the sprig of thyme?)  Using an immersion blender, a blender or a food processor, puree the soup in small batches until smooth and creamy.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

When you serve these puréed crudités as soup, only you will know the simple leftover crudités secret.  You can also make this soup using florets of cauliflower but I reduce the stock to 4 1/2 cups stock and add 1 1/2 cups white wine to equal 6 cups liquid and add some grated nutmeg.

For a Gluten Free Soup, be sure to use gluten free or homemade stock.

Diet Buster: If you choose to do so, you can garnish this soup with those leftover cubes of cheese from the crudités platters or use some freshly grated cheese. Some of the folks in our household also like to melt the cheese into the soup when they reheat it.

*Note there is no cream in this cream soup. The potato gives enough of a creamy body to the soup that you can omit the cream (FAT) and enjoy a healthy yet rich tasting soup as you embark on your after holiday dieting.

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