01 March 2015

Winter Borscht

Winter Borscht is one of those traditional and substantial soups that can be a hearty lunch or a satisfying dinner in the cold months.  Those of us in the Northeast seem to have more and more of those cold months, for which this type of soup is consoling.  If you are starting with a container of beef stock, then you will need a piece of beef for the soup.  If you are making your stock, use the leftover beef, shin or chuck.  This is one of those recipes where the ingredients are all common, but take a bit of accumulating.  You can shorten the process by using canned beets. If using homemade stock, add two teaspoons kosher salt.

1 ½ pounds beef cut into ½ inch cubes
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
3 beets (about 1 ¼ lb. or 15 oz. can, drained), cooked, peeled, and cut into julienne slices,
4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 small head cabbage (at least ½ lb) grated or cut fine
28 oz. can chopped tomatoes
6 oz. can tomato paste
1 bay leaf
2 Tbsp red-wine vinegar
5 cups beef stock
2 boiling potatoes (about 1 ¼ lbs.) peeled, cut into ½-inch cubes
pepper and salt to taste
1/3 cup snipped fresh dill, plus additional for serving
sour cream for serving

Brown meat in hot oil.
Add onions and garlic and cook until just wilted.
Add tomatoes, tomato paste, bay leaf, wine-vinegar, beets, cabbage, salt and pepper.
Add 5 cups beef stock.
Cover and cook for one hour or until meat is almost tender.
Add diced potatoes and dill and cook until potatoes are done.

To Serve

Add a heaping tablespoon of sour cream to each bowl of soup and sprinkle with added dill.

16 January 2013

January 2011 Correction: Garlic Alert!

This is a correction, with apology, for an error in the “White Bean Soup with Fennel and Tomato” recipe, published in January 2011. When I looked up the recipe recently, in order to make a batch of the soup, I was shocked to see that I had listed 20 cloves of garlic!

Surely I meant 2, but when I made it last week, I settled on 6, which worked, but probably anything between 2 and 6 would be fine, depending on how much you want to spice up this otherwise mild mix.

Leek and Chickpea Minestrone

Leek and Chickpea Minestrone is a variation on the usual Italian comfort food. It has its own distinctive flavor so that even if Minestrone sounds banal, this is worth a try. In addition, it is easy to make.

As I do not eat wheat, the options instead of orzo were rice or wheat-free pasta. I threw in about 1/2 cup brown rice Caserecce, but rice based Fusilli would also have worked in place of the orzo. I used canned, drained and rinsed chick- peas. As always with Italian soups, grated Parmesan is a welcome addition, or a teaspoon of pesto in each bowl would add complexity to the flavor.

3 Tbsp olive oil
3 good size leeks, white and green parts, sliced and washed
2 Tbsp chopped garlic
2 tomatoes, chopped
3 Tbsp tomato paste
2 cups chickpeas (these do not have to be drained and rinsed unless you wish to eliminate any residual salt)
2 tsp rosemary
2 Tbsp basil
1 tsp oregano
2 Tbsp parsley
6 cups chicken stock
½ cup orzo (or brown rice pasta)

  1. Heat olive oil in soup pot.
  2. Add garlic and drained leeks. Cook until leeks are wilted.
  3. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, rosemary, basil, oregano, and parsley. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in chickpeas and stock. Season with pepper and salt to taste.
  5. Bring to a boil and add pasta. Cook until pasta is al dente.

07 January 2013

Mushroom Barley with Beef Broth

Mushroom Barley soup has the ring of an old European dish. This is a thick and comforting winter soup, hearty enough to make a meal, even though it is meatless. It is not, however, for vegetarians as part of its flavor comes from the use of beef broth. Don’t overdo the porcini… they have a strong flavor.

One box of barley is likely to last for years as most recipes call for relatively small amounts. For this problem, the box may prove helpful, with recipes for pilaf, but barley can always be added to vegetable soups in place of rice or in addition to other starches.

If you prefer a smoother consistency, you can take one cup and puree it, which will give the rest a thicker appearance.

1/3 cup dried porcini mushrooms
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 lb. cremini mushrooms, cleaned and finely chopped
½ cup pearl barley
6 cups beef broth
2 Tbsp dry sherry
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp wine vinegar

  1. Soak dried mushrooms in 1 cup warm water.
  2. Heat oil and butter in soup pot.
  3. Cook onions, carrots, and garlic until onions are wilted.
  4. Add fresh mushrooms and cook stirring for 10 minutes.
  5. Increase heat and add barley. Cook until it begins to take on color.
  6. Add broth, soy sauce, and sherry.
  7. Strain liquid from porcini mushrooms. Chop mushrooms and add to pot along with strained liquid.
  8. Cook on low heat until barley is tender, about 40 minutes.
  9. Add vinegar.

27 December 2012

Black Bean Soup with Sherry

My experience with making BLACK BEAN soup has always started with canned black beans, but recently, with the coming of cold weather, I began to think of all the hearty, thick winter soups we like. It seemed time to do the right thing and start from scratch with dried black beans.

A further incentive was the limitation of my husband’s diet. Mr. What’s-For-Lunch is not supposed to eat salt, and canned beans come with their own pre-packed salt quota. Working with dried beans, however, meant planning ahead. Unlike split peas and lentils, black beans need to be soaked, and even after soaking, they require considerable cooking.

Back to the salt issue. Many recipes call for ham or bacon with black beans, but my preference is always to substitute pancetta. So this recipe uses pancetta as a way to add flavor to the vegetables. By pureeing part of the soup, the entire result has a thick, creamy texture. Sour cream can dress up the bowl when you serve, but isn’t required.

2 cups dried black beans
1 large onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped fine
1 stalk celery, chopped fine
1-2 jalapeños, seeded and chopped (depending on size and your spice tolerance)
2 large cloves garlic
6 cups stock (chicken, beef, or vegetable)
4 oz. pancetta
1/8 tsp. thyme
2 bay leaves
1/3 cup dry sherry
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro or 1 Tbsp cilantro pesto

  1. Soak beans overnight or for 3 hours.
  2. Add Thyme and Bay Leaves and cook with just enough water to cover beans until they are tender. (This will depend on soaking time.)
  3. Chop pancetta. In a separate pot, cook pancetta but do not brown,
  4. Add garlic, onion, carrot, and celery. Cook until vegetables are soft.
  5. When the beans are tender, add them to the vegetables, along with the stock, sherry, and cilantro. Cook for 10 minutes.
  6. Remove bay leaves. Take three cups of the soup and puree. Return puree to pot. 

24 November 2012

After the Feast

After the feast… for those of you staring at a turkey carcass, or a casserole of leftover sweet potatoes, there is aid at hand. This is a reminder that for Thanksgiving of 2010 I posted recommendations on what to do with Thanksgiving leftovers.

The entry recommended a series of possible soups, as though the Pilgrims had migrated from a variety of other parts of the world. They all start with making a soup base, but from there on, they have quite different takes on the bird soup. Depending on what you have on hand, give one a try.

22 October 2012

Corn Chowder Au Pistou

Corn Chowder au Pistou is a Provençal take on a very American soup. In fact, for the French people, corn is considered animal feed and serving it to guests is not what is done in a French kitchen.

For the record, I have to admit that I have already stated that corn is enough starch for one soup (see 22 August 2010) and have avoided recipes with corn and potatoes. Nevertheless, here is a spicy recipe with an unusual flavor that uses both corn and potatoes. One thing to watch out for is that the soup has the right consistency: not as sludgy as hot cereal (in restaurants this is usually caused by the addition of flour as a thickener), and not too thin. This can be adjusted at the end by the addition of the cream/milk.

As in many chowders, bacon is called for to give flavor because the vegetables are cooked in the fat. However, as in most recipes calling for bacon, we substitute the Italian version: Pancetta. This is much less salty, a big goal in our kitchen, but Pancetta is delicate, and takes watching as it browns so that there is something left to crumble up at the end. It also gives off only a small amount of fat, so when cooking the vegetables keep the top on the pot to keep in liquid.

You may want to wear gloves when preparing the chilies, but in any case, keep your hands away from your eyes.

10 cups water
6 ears of corn, shucked
¼ pound pancetta, coarsely chopped
2 leeks, white and green parts chopped and well washed
½ pound potatoes, peeled and diced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 jalapeños chilies, finely chopped
¼ to 1 cup half-and-half or low fat condensed evaporated milk

4 cups basil leaves, rinsed
2 cloves garlic
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup grated Parmesan
 To prepare: puree all ingredients in food processor until blended.

  1. Bring water to a boil in a soup pot. Add shucked corn. Cook for 10 minutes.
  2. Take corn out and cool sufficiently to handle. SAVE COOKING WATER.
  3. Cut corn off cobs.
  4. Cook the pancetta in the soup pot until just beginning to turn crisp. Remove to paper towel.
  5. Add leeks to pot and cook covered 5 minutes. Add potatoes. Cook covered 10 minutes.
  6. Add corn, pepper, chilies and the cooking water from corn. Cook for 1 hour.
  7. Remove 3 cups of soup and puree in blender. Return to pot.
  8. Add cream/milk to achieve desired consistency.
  9. Add Pistou to pot and stir to blend.
  10. Add crumbled Pancetta.