Archive for the ‘Soups’ category


June 22, 2019

A wonderfully tasty and refreshing cold soup, perfect for the summer when the markets are bursting with super-fresh produce. There are jillions of recipes, here is mine. All proportions and amounts are approximate. The soup benefits from sitting for a few hours before serving, in the fridge, but it is not strictly necessary.

4 large ripe tomatoes
1 medium or 2 small cucumbers
1 small or 1/2 large sweet bell pepper, yellow preferred (for the color)
1/4 red onion
1 clove garlic
Jalapeño pepper, to taste (or omit)**
4 c tomato or V-8 juice
2 TB sherry vinegar
1/4 c best olive oil

** An option to the jalapeño is to allow each diner to stir in hot sauce to their liking at the table.

Halve the tomatoes along the equator (not thru the stem) and remove seeds and pulp with a spoon. Set pulp aside in a strainer and save juice. Dice the tomatoes and put in a large bowl.

Seed and dice the cuke and sweet pepper, put in the same bowl.

Thinly slice, then dice, the onion. If it smells harsh, soak in hot tap water for 10 min, drain, then add.

Finely mince the jalapeño, if using, and add.

Peel the garlic and put thru a press into the bowl.

Add the tomato/V-8 juice plus the reserved juice, the vinegar, olive oil, and pepper. Stir well. Add salt if needed. Chill, preferably for a few hours, and serve.



Cream of mushroom soup

January 4, 2019

During my childhood this was a favorite, out of the red and white can. Now I make my own, and it’s much better (as you might imagine). The mushrooms you use will make a difference; if you use only the standard white supermarket ‘shrooms it’ll be tasty, but adding some “wild” ones makes a big difference. I am not suggesting you go out in the woods and start picking, that can be dangerous, but many different varieties are now cultivated and available in markets. Some are available dried, as well, and I particularly recommend dried porcini for their great flavor.

2 oz dried porcini mushrooms
1 – 1.5 lb fresh mushrooms
1 medium potato, peeled and roughly chopped
1/3 c chopped onion
1 garlic clove, peeled and halved
A few grinds of black pepper
1/2 stick butter
4 c vegetable stock
1 c heavy cream (preferred) or half’n’half
2 TB dry sherry
Chopped parsley or chives

Cover the dried mushrooms with boiling water and soak for at least 15 min. Trim the remaining mushrooms, washing if needed, and chop coarsely.

Melt the butter in a heavy soup pot and when hot add the fresh mushrooms, potato, onion, pepper, and garlic. Cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring. The mushrooms may give off some liquid, that’s OK. Add the dried mushrooms and their soaking liquid and the vegetable stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 min. Let cool slightly and then use a blender to puree completely. Return to pot and stir in the cream and sherry. Serve garnished with the parsley or chives.



Congee with chicken, scallion relish, and crispy shallots

March 24, 2018

Congee is Chinese comfort food at its best. At its simplest it is, like fried rice, something to do with your leftovers – cooked rice, some shreds of meat and vegetables, cook in broth until the rice is soft and soupy. But it can be made as a more formal recipe, as this one, and is worthy of serving to guests.

The chicken:

2 large chicken thighs with bone and skin (about 1 lb)
1 tsp black pepper
1 TB oil
2 c low salt chicken stock
5 scallions, white and green parts, in 1 inch lengths
2 inch piece ginger cut into coins (no need to peel)
4 garlic cloves, halved (no need to peel)
1/4 c Chinese rice cooking wine or dry sherry
1/3 c soy sauce
2 whole star anise
2 tsp Chinese hot pepper paste (optional)

Heat the oil in a soup pot and brown the chicken well on all sides. Remove excess oil from the pan. Turn chicken skin-side up, add all remaining ingredients, then simmer gently for 60-90 minutes until the meat is very tender. Remove chicken from the pan and take the meat off the bones, discarding bones and skin. Set aside. Strain cooking liquid thru a fine-meshed strainer. Set the broth aside and discard the solids. Shred the meat and set aside.

The Relish

5 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
1 fresh hot red pepper such as a Thai bird chili or a ripe jalapeño, seeded and thinly sliced
1/4 c soy sauce
1/4 c unseasoned rice vinegar

Mix all ingredients and set aside

Crispy shallots

Thinly sliced shallots, about a cup
2 c vegetable oil

Place oil and shallots in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a gentle bubbling and stir occasionally until golden brown. Strain and spread on a paper towel, salting lightly.

Note: Strain the shallot-cooking oil thru a paper coffee filter and save it. It can be used for frying again or as a tasty change to your salad dressing.

Final prep

1 c raw short-grained rice
Chicken cooking liquid
4 c water
2 c low salt chicken broth
Shredded chicken

Put all except the chicken in a heavy bottomed soup pot and bring to a simmer. Cook gently for 1 to 1-1/2 hour, stirring frequently, until the rice is very soft and soupy. Add some more water if needed. Remove from heat, stir in the chicken, and serve in bowls, passing the relish and shallots separately.

Instant pot black bean soup

March 11, 2018

This hearty winter fave is ready in little more than an hour.

1-1/2 c dry black (turtle) beans, rinsed but not soaked
8 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
1 tennis ball-sized onion, peeled and chopped
1 red bell  pepper, seeded and chopped
1 or 2 jalapeño pepper(s), seeded and chopped
3 large or 4 small cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 bay leaves
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp white pepper (or use black pepper)
6 c chicken or vegetable broth
2 tb chopped cilantro


More chopped cilantro
sour cream

Using the pot’s saute setting, cook the bacon until just starting to brown. Remove most of the rendered fat, leaving about 1 TB behind. Add the peppers, onion, and garlic and continue to saute, stirring, for another 5 minutes.

Add all remaining ingredients except cilantro, stir, and seal the pot. Pressure-cook on high pressure for 40 min, then let the pressure release on its own. Stir in the cilantro, adjust salt if needed, and serve with the garnishes.

Chicken wild rice soup in the slow cooker

February 15, 2015

An old favorite made even easier by use of the slow cooker. Freezes well.

1 c raw wild rice, rinsed (see note 1 below)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 1 lb
1 c diced onion
1/2 c each diced celery and carrot
1-1/2 tsp poultry seasoning (see note 2 below)
A few grindings of black pepper
1/2 c dry white wine or 1/3 c dry white vermouth
6 c chicken stock (if homemade is not available, I like Swanson’s low sodium)
about 2 c water or milk
1/2 stick butter (optional)

Note 1: Wild rice is not really a rice but the seed of a grass. Still, the seeds are shaped like rice grains, hence the name. There are two kinds: Cultivated wild rice is (well, duh) cultivated, it is mechanically harvested and dried under artificial heat. The grains are very dark, almost black. Natural wild rice is harvested by hand from wild growing plants and dried without artificial heat. The grains are brown to dark brown. It is more expensive, but a lot tastier. This recipe will work with either kind, but will be better with the natural wild rice.

Note 2: Poultry seasoning is a commercially available mix of herbs and spices: thyme, sage, marjoram, rosemary, black pepper and nutmeg in the brand I use. Lacking it, the thyme, sage, and black pepper are the important ingredients for the soup.

Put all ingredients except the last two in the slow cooker and cook on low, covered, for 6-8 hours. Remove the chicken and use 2 forks to shred it. Return to the cooker and add water or milk to get the desired consistency. Add the optional butter, if using, Cook for another 30 minutes or so until the heated through and well blended. Check for seasoning and correct if needed. Serve.

Turkey meatball soup

July 12, 2013

I “invented” this one damp and chilly day while scrounging around the fridge trying to use up what was on hand. It turned out so well that I decided to write it down.

  • 1 lb ground raw turkey (preferably not turkey breast)
  • 1 c dry bread crumbs preferably from homemade bread
  • Lots of freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 TB Italian seasoning (a commercially available mix of dry thyme, rosemary, etc.)
  • 1/2c finely diced onion
  • 1 large egg

Mix the above ingredients by hand. Cook a small bit in the microwave and taste for seasoning, adding more if needed. Form into 1 inch meatballs and set aside.

  • 1c coarsely (3/4 inch pieces) chopped onion
  • 1c coarsely chopped celery
  • 1c coarsely chopped carrots
  • 1c thickly sliced mushrooms
  • 2 cloves garlic minced

In a soup pot over medium high heat saute the above in 2TB olive oil for about 5 minutes. Add

  • 2 quarts homemade chicken stock (if you do not have homemade, I suggest Swansons)

While this is coming to a simmer, brown the meatballs in a skillet using 1 TB olive oil (in 2 batches if necessary). As they are done browning add to the soup. Then add

  • 1-15 ounce can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 small bunch Swiss chard, chopped (stems and leaves)

Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Check for seasoning and serve.

Beef and barley soup

March 22, 2013

Yeah, you can get this in a can, blech! When made right, it is a truly excellent and satisfying meal. First, cook the meat and make the stock.

3 lb beef shortribs
1 c carrots in large chunks
1 c celery in large chunks
3 shallots, peeled and quartered
4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1 c red wine
few sprigs fresh parsley, stems removed
1/2 tsp dried thyme
4 c water + additional if needed
1 tsp salt
10 whole black peppercorns

Heat a TB of oil in a large skillet until shimmering. Pat the ribs dry with a paper towel and add to the pan (you may need to do this in 2 batches to avoid crowding the ribs). Brown slowly over medium heat, turning, until nicely browned on all sides. Transfer to large stock pot. Repeat with the second batch of ribs, if needed. Don’t worry about any fat that accumulates, it will be removed later.

In the same pan, saute the carrots, shallots, and celery over medium-high heat, stirring now and then, until starting to brown, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for another couple of minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil, scraping the pan to dislodge any “brown bits” from the bottom. Boil until reduced in volume by about half. Add to the stock pot along with the parsley, thyme, salt, pepper, and water. If needed, add more water to cover the ribs by about an inch.

Bring to a simmer and then reduce heat to get the most gentle of simmers. Cover and cook for about 3 hours. Remove the ribs, take the meat off the bone, and shred into the size you want for the soup; set aside. Discard bones and trimmings. Strain the stock thru a cheesecloth-lined colander and discard the solids. If necessary, skim off any excess fat from the surface. You should have about 5 cups. Can be done ahead.

Now, make the soup.

The beef stock and meat
2-3 large onions peeled and cut into thin half-rings (about 1 quart)
1/2 c pearled barley
2 tsp pomegranate molasses (see note)
1 c frozen pearl onions
3 TB unsalted butter
2 c chicken stock

In a large skillet, melt the butter and cook the sliced onions slowly, with a big pinch of salt, stirring once in a while, until browned and soft, 30 to 45 minutes. Add the chicken stock and pomegranate molasses and stir to scrape up any bits stuck to the pan. Add to the beef stock along with the barley and bring to a gentle simmer. After 15 minutes add the pearl onions and continue simmering until the barley and pearl onions are done. Add reserved meat, correct seasoning.

This soup can be served with country bread or cornbread. It can be made a day ahead and reheated.

Note: Pomegranate molasses is a great addition to your pantry. It’s a thick syrup that combines tartness with sweetness, and small amounts add a hard-to-describe flavor undertone to many dishes. I even like to mix it with seltzer for a refreshing drink. Available at middle eastern markets.

Really good beef stock

January 29, 2013

Good beef stock, or broth as some people call it, is a real treat. It is essential for good French onion soup and has a host of other uses. The canned stuff is OK for some uses, but does not stack up against homemade. It’s a bit of work, but it can be frozen almost indefinitely. In addition to the usual beef bones, this recipe uses ground beef to add more flavor and an interesting technique with egg whites to clarify the stock.

First steps:

10 lbs beef bones, ask your butcher to cut them into 2-3 inch lengths
3 medium or 2 large onions, halved and peeled
2-3 large carrots cut in thirds, no need to peel
3 stalks celery cut in thirds
about a dozen whole black peppercorns
2 tsp salt

Put the above ingredients, except salt and pepper, in a single layer in a shallow baking pan and roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer solids to your stockpot. Place the baking pan on a burner and add a couple of cups of water. Bring to a simmer, scraping up all the brown bits that are stuck to the pan. Add to stockpot. Don’t worry about the fat, you’ll get rid of it later. Add water to cover by an inch or two and the salt and pepper. Cover, bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 4 hours, stirring once in a while. You want a really gentle simmer, with just a few bubbles rising to the surface every second. Do not let the stock come to a full boil or it will become cloudy.

At the end of the 4 hours use tongs to remove and discard the bones. Strain the stock through a coarse strainer (such as a pasta strainer) into a 2nd pot or large bowl and reserve the cooked vegetables. Rinse out the stockpot and strain the stock again, this time through a finer strainer, back into the original pot. Discard any bits that the strainer collects. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Final steps

1 lb ground beef
the reserved vegetables, chopped
8 egg whites

Remove the stock from the fridge. The fat will have congealed into a layer on the top; remove this and either discard or save for another purpose. Mix the ground beef, vegetables, and egg whites in a bowl and then stir into the stock. Bring to a slow simmer, stirring now and then. As it nears the simmer, stop stirring. After a little while of simmering, a foamy “raft” will form on the surface – this is the ground beef and chopped vegetables bound together by the egg whites, and this is what will trap all the small particles in the stock. Once it reaches the simmer, cook for an hour without stirring. Check after a few minutes – the raft may have developed an opening in the middle. If not, use a knife to cut a slit – this helps the stock to circulate.

After the hour of simmering, remove from heat and let cool slightly. Gently push the raft to one side and ladle the clarified stock through a cheesecloth-lined stainer (to catch any stray bits of the raft) into a large bowl. That’s it! You can correct for salt now but I prefer to wait and adjust the salt for each individual recipe. Discard the raft, or your dog or cat might really like it!

Easy clam chowder

December 21, 2011

“Easy” because you don’t need live, in-the-shell clams—although you can certainly use them.

4 slices good, smoky bacon
2-6oz cans of whole or chopped clams
1 8oz bottle clam juice
1 c minced onion
2-3 c peeled and diced potato
2 TB flour
big pinch dried thyme
3/4 c milk
3/4 c heavy cream (or sub 1-1/2 c half and half for the milk and cream)
1/4 tsp ground white pepper

Drain the clams and set aside. Combine the liquid from the cans with the bottled clam juice and, if needed, add water to make 2 cups.

Dice the bacon and cook in your soup put until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon. Add the onion and potato to the fat remaining in the pan and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring. Stir in the flour and thyme, and stir for a minute. Add the clam juice and simmer for about 10 minutes until the potatoes are tender and the soup has thickened. Add the cream, milk, clams, bacon, and white pepper. Taste for salt, although you probably won’t need any because the clam juice is salty. Bring just to a bare simmer (don’t boil!) and serve.

Black bean soup

November 4, 2011

I love black bean soup, and this recipe is a favorite. It makes judicious use of canned ingredients, so is fairly quick and easy.

  • 1/2 lb andouille sausage thinly sliced (preferred) or 1/2 lb smoky bacon cut into 1 inch pieces.
  • 2 c diced onion, more or less
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced finely
  • 1  can (15 oz) chicken broth
  • 1 can (15 oz) chopped tomatoes with juice
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 3 (15 1/2-ounce) cans black beans, drained but not rinsed (save the liquid)
  • 1 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeds removed, diced (adjust to taste)
  • Liquid smoke seasoning, to taste

Garnishes (choose what you like, at least 2)

  • Chopped cilantro
  • Lime juice
  • Thinly sliced scallions
  • Sour cream
  • Grated cheddar cheese

In a soup pot, saute the sausage over medium-high heat for a few minutes, then add the onion, garlic, and jalapeno. Saute for 5 minutes and add all the remaining ingredients except the liquid smoke. Simmer for 1 hour. At this time you should taste and add salt as needed, and also the liquid smoke if you like (the sausage or bacon may have added enough smoky flavor). If the soup is too thick, add the reserved bean juice. Serve with your choice of garnishes.

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