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Posts Tagged ‘soup’

I started taking French cooking classes at my local community college, and it’s been the calorie-rich highlight of my weeks. Because the course is conducted in German, I not only get to learn the finer points of butter and egg yolks, I can also practice my umlauts. It’s been a great experience, and I wanted to share the highlights with you here. Think of this as French cooking class light: all of the good stuff, none of the overcooked chicken livers.

So far, the dish that has impressed me most was one of the easiest.  I mean, really, who gets excited about lentil soup? Sometimes I feel like despite the massive number of ingredients and herbs I throw in, it’s just uninspiring.

Leave it to the French to elevate the humble brown lentil.

Well, this French lentil soup has taught me the wisdom in keeping it simple. Its flavor is practically the inverse of the time and ingredients involved.  Not only is it easy to make and flavorful, I like it enough that I’d serve it to company. The French must be on to something.  They know a) how to extract the most flavor from a few key ingredients, and b) not to muddle up dishes with too many herbs and competing flavors.

Simple, non?

Without further ado, here’s the recipe.  I’d love to keep talking it up, but it’s a rare sunny day in Berlin, and the sidewalks are calling my name!  I’ll report back with more French hits soon.

-3/4 c. brown lentils (or French green “du Puy” lentils; I’ve made it both ways), rinsed and picked over
-1 sm. onion, chopped
-2 strips bacon, chopped
-2 Tbsp. butter, divided
-2-3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar, divided
-3 1/3 c. vegetable broth, warm
-1/2 bunch fresh parsley
-3 sprigs fresh thyme
-handful of celery tops, optional
-scant 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
-freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. In a medium pot on medium-low heat, sauté the chopped bacon to render some of the fat, about 2 min. Keep the heat low so that the bacon does not get crispy. Add the chopped onion and 1/2 tablespoon butter and sweat until translucent.

2. Add the broth, 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, and the lentils to the pot. Cover and simmer 20 minutes.

3. Add the parsley (whole), thyme sprigs, and celery tops to the pot. Simmer covered 10-15 minutes more, or just until the lentils are tender. Check doneness occasionally to prevent overcooking.

4. In a small saucepan or skillet, brown the remaining 1 1/2 Tbsp. butter. Set aside.  It should be a deep golden brown, but not black. (more…)

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Seasonally, this pumpkin soup is probably better suited to mid-October than mid-March, but no matter.  It’s irresistible any time of year.  Do not pass go; do not collect $200. Get in my belly!

Apologies.  That must have been my Id talking.

What my unconscious is trying to say is, you should make this soup happen.  In your kitchen. ASAP.

That is all.

-1 1/2 lbs. fresh pumpkin (I used muscat pumpkin, but acorn/butternut squash or even sweet potatoes should work, too)
-2 tsp. fresh sage, minced (or 1 tsp. dried)
-1 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary, crumbled
-3 shallots, peels on
-olive oil, for drizzling
-1 leek, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced and rinsed of sand
-1 Tbsp. butter
-1 carrot, peeled and diced
-1 lg. celery stalk, diced
-1 bay leaf
-1/2 c. white wine
-4 c. chicken/veggie broth
-1/2 tsp. granulated garlic
-1/4 tsp. cinnamon, or to taste
-pinch of ground ginger
-dash nutmeg
-1/2 c. evaporated milk
-3 Tbsp. heavy cream
-3 Tbsp. sherry (optional)
-salt and pepper, to taste

Garnish with your choice of:
-roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas), chopped
-ground paprika
-roasted corn (recipe follows)
-chopped parsley
-heavy cream

1. Cut the pumpkin into large chunks, halve the shallots, and place on a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with sage, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Roast at 350F until fork-tender and golden.

I peeled the shallots, but roasting with the peels on would have been better.

(more…)

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fried polenta

It’s official:  all this cold, dark weather has put me on a comfort food kick.  If the forecast is to be trusted, sunset hits Berlin at about 4:30pm. Honestly, I haven’t seen the sun make an appearance on any recent afternoon.  It’s just been gray, gray, gray.  Then pitch dark.

autumn leaves

As close to a sunny day as you get in Berlin.

So how does a SAD girl beat the blues?  With vitamin D supplements, the occasional jog, and frequent carby, cheesy, meaty homecooked meals.  If I make it through winter without having to buy new jeans (or more Spanx), it will be strictly by the graces of my under-30 metabolism.

I was very pleased with myself for inventing the following recipe until a friend pointed out that it’s quite close to the Midwestern classic, tamale pie.  Whether you see this as Tex-Mex-Italian fusion or classic comfort food, see that it makes it onto your dinner table—stat!

chili polenta

cooking chili

Chili con Carne:

-1/2 lb. ground beef
-2 Tbsp. chili powder (or to taste)
-1 small onion, finely chopped
-1 clove garlic, minced
-1 Tbsp. tomato paste
-dash of sugar, preferably brown
-1/2 c. red wine (optional), beer, or water
-3/4 c. tomato juice
-1 tsp. beef bullion base (optional)
-1 regular can kidney beans, drained (14.5 oz.)
-1 regular can diced tomatoes (14.5 oz.)
-2 tsp. cumin
-1 tsp. unsweetened cocoa
-cayenne pepper, to taste
-salt and pepper to taste

1. Brown the ground beef on high heat in a medium pot, breaking up into small pieces and seasoning with half the chili powder, salt, and pepper.

2. Turn the heat down a bit and push the beef to the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. Fry the chopped onions in the remaining oil, sprinkling with a little sugar to aid browning.

3. Mix together the beef and onions and stir in the garlic and tomato paste. Deglaze with red wine, scraping up the brown bits into the sauce. Let the wine cook off.

4. Reduce the heat and pour in the tomato juice, bullion (if using), beans, diced tomatoes, cumin, cocoa, and remaining chili powder.

5. Simmer uncovered for 1-1.5 hrs. Add water or more tomato juice if it begins to look dry. Taste for seasoning, adjusting chili powder, sugar, salt, and pepper to your preference. (more…)

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potato soup

Image via The Big Blend

Cool weather just screams out for hearty, homey food, don’t you think? The weather dropped a good 15 or 20 degrees (Fahrenheit…have to specify now!) this past month in Berlin, and I’ve been craving comfort food. This chunky, creamy potato soup fits the bill without being a total fat-bomb. It’s great as is, but feel free to kick it up a notch with some grated cheddar or a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of homemade croutons and fresh snipped chives.

potato soup ingredients

Don’t let the German-language label mislead you…that thar’s evaporated milk.  And there’s no celery in this photo because I spontaneously added it later.  For me, soup making is a bit of alchemy!

sauteed shallotsA little butter is key to this recipe’s success.

homemade stock

In a soup of so few ingredients, homemade broth is a nice touch.

Soup:

-1 3/4-2lbs. potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
-1 1/2 stalks celery, pureed in blender or very finely chopped
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1 onion, finely chopped
-1 shallot, minced
-handful of parsley, chopped
-approx. 4 c. chicken or vegetable broth (depending on how thick you like your soup)
-1 c. evaporated milk (not condensed milk)
-cayenne pepper, to taste
-pinch of dried sage
-salt, pepper, and white pepper, to taste
-pinch of nutmeg
-2 bay leaves

-1 Tbsp. butter
-olive oil

To serve: fresh chives, sour cream, cheddar cheese, homemade croutons (recipe follows)

1. Melt butter and a splash of olive oil over med-low heat in a large stock pot. Add onions, shallot, and celery. Cook gently until almost translucent.

2. Stir in garlic, being careful not to burn. Next, add broth, evaporated milk, bay leaf, sage, and parsley.

3. Add peeled, chopped potatoes to pot. Simmer uncovered until tender. Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste.

4. Thicken the soup. Either 1) use a potato masher to break down some of the potatoes and thicken the soup or 2) remove the bay leaves and about 3 cups of cooked potatoes to a bowl and puree the remaining contents of the pot with an immersion blender. Return the reserved potatoes to the soup.

5. Heat through and serve with your choice of toppings.   Enjoy with a chunk of crusty bread!

Homemade Croutons:

-2 slices thick cut bread of your choice (whole wheat is good)
-1 tsp. butter
-salt

1. Cut bread into bite-sized cubes.

2. Melt butter in a skillet.

3. Add bread cubes. Fry until golden. Sprinkle with salt and serve atop your favorite soup.

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kale

Image via: www.mariquita.com

My friend, Brooke, loves greens, and she says they’re amazing in this soup her mom makes.  It’s a simple recipe, and simply delicious.  Add your choice of herbs to taste.*

-2 cans (16 oz.) cannellini beans [drained]
-1/2 large bag kale (pre-washed), large stems removed if necessary
-1 onion, chopped
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1 lg. box chicken stock, plus 1 tablespoon chicken base or one bullion cube
-salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste
-1 lb. kielbasa sausage
-olive oil (more…)

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Superbowl Sunday seemed like the perfect weekend to perfect a classic Cincinnati chili recipe.  And how:

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img_0088 (more…)

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This soup is all mine, and is pretty damn good, if I say so myself.

Base:

-2 c. soffrito (small-diced carrot, celery, onion)– about 2 lg. celery ribs, 2 medium carrots, 1/2 an onion
-olive oil for sauteeing
-2 bay leaves
-2 small cloves garlic
-1 tsp. Italian seasoning
-salt and pepper to taste
-dash seasoned salt
-32 oz. chicken broth
-lots of fresh chopped parsley
-dash of powdered bay leaf
-tsp. of minced rosemary and thyme
-3 cups fresh kale or curly endive, rinsed well and picked over

1.  In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, sautee the soffrito in a bit of olive oil. Reduce the heat and add the garlic, Italian seasoning and remaining spices, sautee just until fragrant—do not brown.

2.  Add the chicken stock and about 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil.

3. Make the meatballs:

-1 lb. mixed ground beef and veal (meatloaf mix also works)
-approx. 3/4 c. good unseasoned bread crumbs (I like Whole Foods fresh from the bakery)
-splash of milk– approx. 1/4 c.
-salt and pepper, to taste
-3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
-1 Tbsp. minced onion
-2 small cloves garlic, minced
-lots of chopped parsley
-bit of Mrs. Dash or seasoning blend
-lots of pepper and few pinches of salt
-1 tsp. Italian seasoning

 Form into nickel-sized meatballs by rolling in your palm and dropping gently into the barely simmering broth.

4.   Add the kale to the broth. Stir gently.

Then add:

-2 more med. carrots cut thick on the diagonal.

Simmer uncovered for at least an hour.

Serve over hot cooked pasta such as macaroni or tubettini.

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