Tag Archives: Soup

Garlicky broccoli soup

Growing tired of frozen, packaged, and carryout food, I spent the weekend in the kitchen of a family member, stocking up my freezer with soups, stews and other refreshingly homemade meals.  I got the idea for this soup from the Washington Post food section, and I think it turned out quite well!

Soup in any form is just such a soothing and healing meal; I crave it even during this unseasonably spring-like weather.  I pumped up this soup with more ingredients and some protein in the form of lentils to make it a heartier meal, but you can’t really go wrong with a base of garlic+broccoli.

Ingredients

4 heads broccoli (about 1.5 pounds)
6-7 cloves garlic
2 leeks (or one medium onion)
1 medium-large carrot
2 stalks celery
1/2 cup green lentils or split peas
12 cups water
Salt
Pepper
Thyme/oregano/Italian seasoning/etc
Splash vinegar

Finely chop all veggies.  Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-low heat.

Add the garlic, reserving about a tablespoon, and saute for 1-2 minutes, stirring so as not to burn.  Add a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper and a few sprinkles of Italian seasoning of choice.  Add the leeks and saute until tender and translucent, about 3-5 minutes.  Add the carrots and celery and cook for another couple minutes to take the edge off. Add the remaining garlic.  Deglaze with a splash of vinegar.

Cover in about 12 cups of water, add the lentils and let simmer for at least an hour, until the water has reduced some and a flavorful broth has been created.  Chop the broccoli into bite-size chunks and add to the pot.  Cook until soft and then take an immersion blender to the soup to coarsely chop up the soup a little more.  If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can use a regular blender or food processor, or just simply chop up the veggies more finely beforehand.

In the meantime, cook your pasta or other grain (rice would also be good).  I like to keep them separate and add the pasta as I dish each bowl out so the broth is not absorbed.

Allow to cook for another 30-60 minutes, tasting occasionally.  If it tastes too bland, you probably need more salt and/or more time.  Don’t be afraid.

While this dish lacks the complex flavor of some soups, its simplicity is its strength.  There is not too much chopping or prep involved, and you can get other chores done while it simmers — a great dish to make and freeze for later!

And I am so happy to finally have a home-cooked meal 🙂

-R

Advertisements

Vegetable soup: a compendium

Well the impatiens in my garden have keeled over, I’ve pulled out my winter coat from the depths of my closet, my windshield is routinely covered in frost, and tomorrow is DECEMBER.  I guess this means the cold weather is here to stay, huh?  And what better way to welcome it than with a comforting bowl of vegetable soup.

I think that if I were to come up with a list of my favorite comfort foods, any kind of noodle soup would rank solidly at #1.  And though there is a lot of chopping and waiting involved, concocting a vegetable soup is pretty much fool-proof.  It’s not only delicious, but packed with nutrients too.  And then you have the leftovers to store in your freezer and enjoy all winter!  Really, I can’t think of anything negative about soup.

Of course there are endless possibilities when it comes to soup, and sometimes inspiration is the hardest part.  I have racked my brain (and googled) to come up with a comprehensive list of basic elements of a good vegetable soup:

A successful soup will be simple in its execution; avoid adding in too many vegetables or proteins as this will muddle the flavor.  But do experiment with different combinations of the above, plus your own imagination — mine is by no means an exhaustive list (especially in the seasoning column)!

Putting it all together

To me, measuring the ingredients would be kind of antithetical to the whole purpose of soup — so don’t worry about amounts, just throw whatever you have together!  If you end up with more veggies than you’d like, well then just top it off with more water.  Problem solved.

Begin sauteing your aromatics in your oil of choice — butter if you want something rich, olive oil if you’re more health-minded.  I would recommend always using garlic plus maybe one other — I usually default to leeks (I don’t have a good reason why, but I think they taste better than onions in soup).  If you are making an Asian-inspired recipe, ginger would be necessary too (as would vegetable and/or sesame oil).

Once the aromatics have cooked down, toss in your chopped veggies, salt, pepper, and seasoning.

If you are using cabbage, I like to add it at this stage too since it is stiffer than other greens.

As for the seasoning, you’ll note that this is my longest column and yet I did have to edit it down significantly from the original.  I literally have an entire full-sized cabinet in my kitchen devoted to herbs and spices and the possibilities for your soup are truly endless.  Use what you have and think in terms of “themes.”

Classic:  parsley, oregano, thyme, dill, bay leaf
For more earthy flavors, add (sparingly):  rosemary, sage, tarragon, smoked paprika
Asian:  cilantro, lemongrass, cumin, Thai basil, lime (add fresh cilantro/basil at the end)
Curry:  cumin, cinnamon, cardamon, coriander, cloves, turmeric, fenugreek, bay leaf
Southwestern:  cumin, oregano, chili/powder, bay leaf

When your veggies have softened and your spices are highly fragrant, deglaze the pot with a few tablespoons of liquid.  A nice white wine is always good, if you don’t have that use white wine vinegar.  Red or marsala wine will offer a heavier flavor.  If you want Asian flavors, you would obviously want to use soy sauce and rice wine vinegar.

Cover this mixture with liquid — stock will provide more depth of flavor, but water is good too as long as you let it simmer thoroughly.  I usually use about half and half.

Bring to a simmer and stir in your greens (if you haven’t already) and protein.  Add a conservative amount of pasta, rice or other starch — I always accidentally use too much — toward the end, being sure to leave just enough time for it to cook.  You can also cook them separately and toss them in as needed to avoid absorbing all the liquid.

You should allow your soup to simmer for no less than an hour; the flavors will intensify the longer it cooks.

I recently made a classic “no-chicken” noodle soup, with leeks and garlic as my aromatics, celery, carrots, mushrooms and cabbage as veggies, deglazed with vinegar and seasoned with oregano, thyme, rosemary and dill.  I only had one can of vegetable broth and used plain water for the rest.  I added in some thin egg noodles and the soup came out great!

Two nights ago, I made this soup:

Aromatics:  garlic and leeks
Seasoning:  thyme, oregano, bay leaf, salt and pepper
Vegetables:  about 10 chopped grape tomatoes, for a bit of flavor
Green:  curly kale
Protein:  cannellini beans
Deglaze:  white wine vinegar
Starch:  wide egg noodles, a little bit of barley
Liquid:  low-sodium stock and water

Served with some soft garlic knots:

Next to a roaring fire with a good IPA:

Sends you RIGHT into a food coma.  mmmmmmmmmmm.

I think I’m gonna go have some of the leftovers for lunch…right now.

-R

Delicata squash soup with wild mushrooms

Delicata is an heirloom variety of squash that I’ve just discovered this year.  With sweet orange flesh, it is fairly similar to most other winter squashes, though delicata squash is particularly rich in flavor.  Its low fiber content makes it ideal for purées and its thinner skin makes it easier to peel.

I was inspired by this recipe, but made a few changes.

Ingredients:
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
2.5 cups delicata squash (about 3-4 small squashes)
A handful of wild mushrooms — I used shitake and chanterelle
3 cups vegetable stock
2-3 T arborio rice
Salt, pepper, seasoning to taste*

*The original recipe calls for a smoked ham hock.  I omitted this to keep it vegetarian, but to lend a hearty, smoky flavor added some Penzey’s Chicago seasoning, which is infused with hickory smoke essence.  Other vegetarian alternatives include smoked paprika, liquid smoke, or even a dried chipotle pepper or two.

Directions
Heat butter in a dutch oven on the stovetop and saute onions for around 30 minutes, until they are caramelized.
Preheat oven to 225.
In the meantime, peel the squash.  Raw delicatas can be easily peeled with a regular vegetable peeler.

Remove seeds and pith and cut into coarse chunks.
Toss everything into the pot with the ovens, cover and roast in the oven for about 1.5 hours until squash is very tender.
Use an immersion blender to puree the soup, and serve!.

Note that when I followed the amounts in the original recipe, the soup came out very thick — more like a vegetable puree.  I therefore increased the liquid amount to 3 cups when posting here, but it is something to keep in mind depending on the consistency you prefer.

I really enjoyed the heartiness of this soup.  It would be a great first course for a Thanksgiving meal — if there is no room in your oven you could try forgoing the  roasting and just cook on the stove top.  Or, roast in advance and keep warm on the stove top.  Either way, it is the perfect soup for a chilly autumn day.

-R

Curry spiced butternut squash soup

It has been a miserably rainy day here in the midatlantic…so what better way to warm up than with a bowl of soup?

I had some leftover butternut squash from the gnocchi I made this past weekend, so I decided to use it in a basic soup recipe with my own touches.  The beauty of butternut squash soup is that it lends itself so easily to tweaks and adjustments, feel free to experiment yourself with the seasoning and consistency.  Below is just the combination I prefer.

Since I was using leftover squash, I had kind of an odd amount left; the good thing is it is not difficult to adjust the amounts of other ingredients by taste depending on what you have on hand.  It is not necessary to strictly follow the amounts I have written down below.

Ingredients

3 cups or about 1.5 medium-sized butternut squash, microwaved, de-seeded and peeled
1/2 cup coarsely chopped tomato
1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
About 4 cups low-sodium vegetable stock.  Add more if you like a thinner consistency
1-2 tablespoons curry powder*
salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
Heat oil in a large pot.  I used ghee and sprinkled some cumin seeds in as well.  Cook the onion and garlic until translucent, add the tomato and cook until it starts to “wilt.”  Add the squash and the stock, cook until simmering, and puree.
I like to use an immersion blender for this as it cuts down on the mess.  I have this one and for $30, it is a worthwhile investment.  If you do not have one, just just transfer to a food processor or blender and then return to the pot.
Season with curry powder, salt and pepper to taste.  I ended up using just a little more than a tablespoon of curry powder and a teaspoon of salt and pepper.

Simmer for about 30 minutes.

Garnish with some smoked gouda and enjoy!  It’s that easy!

* Curry seasoning
I prefer not to use pre-mixed curry seasoning as you have no idea the quality or age of the ingredients used.  It is easy to make your own.  Note that “curry powder” does not denote any particular combination of spices, but here is what I used:
1T toasted cumin seeds
1 cinnamon stick
4-5 cardamon pods
1t coriander seeds
toast on a dry skillet and grind in a coffee grinder.  Add 1t turmeric, 1t ginger powder and 1/2t cayenne (more if you want it hotter).  This yielded enough to use in several separate recipes.

-R