potato soup with smothered onions

December 16, 2013 § 38 Comments

Here it is.  The best potato soup I have ever eaten.  Honestly.  And it comes to us from the late Marcella Hazen.  The potatoes produced a naturally thick and creamy texture and along with the well cooked onions and Parmesan cheese this soup became an endearing flavorful mid week dinner on a freezing December evening.   We served it with a rustic olive baguette.  If you are a fortunate owner of this fine cookbook you will find this recipe on page 96.

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I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 2 pounds boiling potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds onions, sliced very thin
  • salt
  • 3 1/2 cups stock
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, plus extra for serving
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley

M e t h o d

Peel the potatoes, cut them into 1/2 inch cubes.  Rinse in cold water and set aside.  Put the butter, oil, all the sliced onions and a healthy pinch of salt in a soup pot, and turn on the heat to medium.  Do not cover the pot.  Cook the onions at a slow pace, stirring occasionally, until they have wilted an become colored a pale brown.   Add the diced potatoes, turn up the heat to high and sauté the potatoes briskly, turning them in the onions to coat them well.  Add the stock, cover the pot, and adjust the heat so that the stock comes to a slow, steady boil.  When the potatoes are very tender, press most of them against the side of the pot with a long wooden spoon.  Stir thoroughly and cook for another 8 to 10 minutes.  If you find the soup becoming too thick, add up to a ladleful of stock.

Before turning off the heat, swirl in the grated parmesan and the parsley, then taste and correct for salt.  Ladle into individual plates or bowls and serve with additional grated cheese on the side.

homemade tomato soup

October 14, 2013 § 53 Comments

For this particular recipe a medley of tomatoes straight from the vine went into this garden tomato soup.  A very sweet and firm fleshed tomato called “Plum Lemon”, which is a russian yellow tomato that looks like a lemon!  An heirloom striped tomato which looks like a bell pepper and also harvested were several plum tomatoes to add to the mix.  Straight from the vine and into the soup pot.

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The yellow ones are not lemons…they are yellow plum tomatoes!

This soup had a slight tanginess to it as well as an herbal infused flavor which came from sprigs of fresh cut greek basil and thyme.  I chose to keep the sprigs whole and remove at the end in order to keep the soup texture silky smooth.   Both the thyme and greek basil seem to have a toughness about the leaves and I was looking for a nice smooth finish.

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I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 pounds tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • a few fresh thyme sprigs
  • a few basil sprigs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • sprinkling of pepper
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • a pinch of sugar (optional)

M e t h o d

Place the oil and butter in a large heavy bottomed pot and heat until butter melts.  Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until soft, about 8-10 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, thyme, basil, salt and pepper and stir to mix.  Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat until the tomatoes have collapsed, 6 – 8 minutes.

While the tomatoes cook, heat the stock until beginning to boil.  Using 1/2 cup stock in a cup, whisk the flour to make a smooth paste.  Add the flour paste and the remaining broth to the pot and bring to a boil.  Simmer for several minutes on very low heat, stirring frequently.  Turn off heat and cool enough to handle.

Using a hand blender (or blender) purée the soup until well mixed.   On several occasions I have read by adding a pinch of sugar to tomatoes rather it be a sauce or soup, helps to soften the acidity of the fruit and boost the tomato flavor.  I did add a pinch of sugar and I can not say if this had an effect on the soup or not.  It was so delicious and it seems using fresh tomatoes right off the vine you can not go wrong.

At this point I passed the soup through a sieve to catch the skins and bits to achieve a silky smooth texture.  I think this step is optional, it was wonderful even left a bit rustic and chunky.

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Topped with oven toasted croutons, fresh grated pecorino cheese and a few greek basil leaves.

Serves 4.

minestrone con il pesto

September 30, 2013 § 43 Comments

This is a perfect soup for day three of a constant downpour here in Seattle.  Years ago I was skimming through a friend’s cookbook and found this recipe.   I asked her for a scratch piece of paper and all she could find was a sticky pad.   Using a red ink pen, I proceeded to handwrite  the recipe in the tiniest penmanship I could in order to fit it on the two sides of the 2×4 sticky paper.   Here we are nearly thirteen years later and I finally made the soup!

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The flavor base of this soup is exceptional.  You first make a buttuto, which is a combination of onion, celery, garlic, carrot and pancetta (or bacon).  The name buttuto (italian) means to strike or, in this case, chop.   Once you have chopped your buttuto it becomes a soffritto, which simply means to sauté over high heat until lightly colored.   Chop and sauté.  So simple, flavorful and a beautiful foundation for this comforting soup.

I n g r e d i e n t s

Pesto

  • 4 cups packed basil
  • 1 cup parmesan,  grated
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • a little salt
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 plum tomato, seeds removed

Soup

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 ounces pancetta or 6 slices bacon, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, finely chopped
  • 1 medium size yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 1/4 head Savoy cabbage, cored and thinly shredded
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 7 whole, peeled canned tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup broken dried spaghetti
  • 1 – 15 oz. can cannelini beans
  • salt and pepper to taste

M e t h o d

Make the pesto.  Place all the pesto ingredients in a food processor and whizz until finely chopped. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Heat oil in a heavy bottom pot over medium-high heat.  Add pancetta and cook, stirring often, until fat has rendered, about 2 minutes.  Add garlic, carrots, celery, and onions and reduce heat to medium.  Cover and cook stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, 12–15 minutes.  Add zucchini and cabbage.  Cover and cook until wilted, 3–5 minutes.  Add stock and tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes.  Drain and rinse the cannelini beans.  Mash half the beans with a fork and add to the soup along with whole beans—cook until warmed through.  Season with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and serve with pesto dolloped on top.

Serves 4.

spicy sausage, yam and spinach soup

September 16, 2013 § 62 Comments

This is a recipe I haven’t prepared for over 10 years.  I came across this long lost recipe tucked away inside a cookbook I have not lifted off the shelf for ages.  Right away I added the ingredients to my next shopping list.

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I can not even remember where the recipe came from, but, it is hand written by me in a very short, almost undecipherable manner.  I set out to make sense out of it and it all started coming back to me as I was cooking and it took me back 10 or 12 years.   The smell, the taste, the preparation all represents a time when my son was a toddler and life seemed so simple.  I revisited this soup over and over back then, and I can not imagine how I lost track of it for all these years.

I used a very spicy sausage this time and it was delicious.  You may tone it down a bit if your palate doesn’t handle spicy too well.   I couldn’t remember if I made it with sweet potatoes or yams, so I chose the latter, however, I think sweet potatoes would be a nice offset to the spicy sausage.   Knowing a roux is always made with butter, I decided to try to achieve the same results using olive oil, and it worked!    If you would like to use butter instead of olive oil, omit the olive oil and use a 1/2 cup (full stick) of butter.  Final note,  the  recipe calls for cream and  I substituted whole milk and it was perfect.  This is a one pot dinner.

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I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 4 smoked sausages, I used chicken – julienned
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3/4 cup celery, chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 quarts stock
  • 2 yams or sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 4 cups fresh spinach leaves, chopped
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup of milk
  • handful of chives, sliced
  • handful of parsley, chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste

M e t h o d

Heat olive oil over medium high heat and add sausage, onions, celery and garlic.  Sauté for 5 minutes until well combined.  Sprinkle in the flour, a little at a time stirring constantly until a blonde roux forms.  Add stock one large ladle at a time while stirring until soup consistency is achieved.  Add sweet potatoes or yams.   Bring to a rolling boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Additional stock may be added to retain proper consistency.   Add milk, chives and parsley.  Season to taste using salt and pepper.  Once potatoes are tender, serve in individual bowls.  Put a handful of spinach in the bowl, then ladle the soup on top, garnish with additional chives and parsley.

steamed broccoli and pea soup

September 3, 2013 § 44 Comments

Broccoli (and peas for that matter) can be quite insipid as a side dish.  We do like steam broccoli as long as there is a good dipping sauce made up of yogurt and sweet chili sauce or a garlic rosemary aioli.  Every week I toss a few different green vegetables in the shopping basket and sort out the cooking later, which most likely is a steamed side.  This particular evening was perfect soup weather.  Deciding to keep it light (no cheese or cream), fresh and of course easy, I set out to make broccoli soup.

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I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 1 large head of broccoli, approximately 4 cups
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen peas
  • 3-4 cups of stock, chicken or vegetable
  • 4 slices of good quality bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 1/3 cup pecans or pistachios, toasted and chopped
  • small handful of chives, finely chopped
  • a splash of cream or half and half (very optional)

Steam the broccoli and peas in a large pot until tender.  Drain and place in a blender…if you are using a hand blender return the broccoli and peas to the pot.  Puree until nicely mixed and mashed.  Meanwhile, cook bacon until crispy, then chop into little bits.  Place the nuts of choice in a non-stick skillet and toast them while occasionally giving the pan a good shake.  Once your green puree is back into the pot pour enough stock in until desired consistency.  Cook for 5 or 10 minutes.  Serve with a drizzle of cream (or not), chopped bacon, nuts and chives.
Serves 4.

cool summer borscht

July 31, 2013 § 57 Comments

We have a serious affection for beets around here.  I have been baking beets every week for the past several, therefore it only seemed natural to seek out a beet soup recipe.  I prefer my soups warm  with the exception of gazpacho, which to me is much like salsa.  I can eat bowls and bowls of gazpacho!  Knowing we love beet salad with toasted walnuts and goat cheese I had a feeling we would also enjoy a cool borscht. I read a few recipes, gathered a few ideas and came up with my own palate pleasing soup.  Bringing in the beet salad idea we used toasted walnuts and goat cheese crumbles to top it off.  A soup and salad in one bowl!

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I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 5 medium fresh beets
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 16 ounces greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 large cucumber, seeds removed and diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, dry toasted
  • crumbled goat cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus extra for serving

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Place the beets in a large pot of boiling salted water and cook uncovered until the beets are tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove the beets to a bowl with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool. Strain the cooking liquid through a fine sieve and also set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of the beet cooking liquid, the vegetable stock, yogurt, lemon juice, vinegar, salt and pepper.

Peel the cooled beets with a small paring knife or rub the skins off with your hands. Dice the beets into small/medium bite size pieces. Add the beets, cucumber, scallions, and dill to the soup.  Cover and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Prior to serving, place the walnut bits in a dry, non stick skillet over medium heat and cook until toasted and brown, giving the skillet a shake every now and them.

Season soup with salt and pepper, serve cool with a sprinkling of crumbled goat cheese, toasted walnuts and an extra sprig of fresh dill.

walla walla sweet onion soup and herb farmers five cheddar biscuits

June 24, 2013 § 42 Comments

I am always delighted when mid June rolls around and I stumble upon the first harvest of Walla Walla Sweet Onions.  Walla Walla is a county in southeastern Washington and is known for it’s sweet onions.  These are a very pleasant mild onion which easily can be eaten raw on salads and sandwiches.

A cool rainy day always triggers my soup craving so I set out to make a light soup.  I was toying with the idea of french onion soup when I spotted the Walla Walla Sweet Onions.   I purchased four sweet onions, the most ripe juicy strawberries I have ever tasted and headed home.

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I have a little cook book titled “Fresh” by John Bishop which features wonderful seasonal recipes made with local foods (Pacific Northwest).  I found today’s soup recipe along with an herbed cheddar cheese biscuits.  I struggle as a baker.  I can usually bake a good simple quick bread, but if I have to knead or rise the dough, I fail.  The recipe specifically said to “turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead 10 times”.  I figured, “how can I fail?”.

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biscuits served with butter and sun dried tomato pesto

The biscuits would have made my mom proud.  The soup was naturally sweet, creamy and keeping the spices at a minimum allowed the flavor of the onions to come through.  While the soup is simmering, prepare the biscuits.

h e r b e d   c h e d d a r   c h e e s e   b i s c u i t s

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon milk

Preheat oven to 375° F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add butter and work into the flour mixture with your fingers until the dough has the consistency of cornmeal.  Stir in thyme and rosemary.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.

Place cheese, yogurt and milk in a small bowl and stir to combine.  Pour the yogurt mixture into the well and combine lightly until the dough forms a ball.  Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead 10 times.

Roll out the dough to a thickness of 1 inch.  Using a 2 inch round cookie cutter, cut out 12 biscuits. Arrange biscuits 2 inches apart on the baking sheet and bake in the top third of the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly golden.  Transfer to a cooling rack.

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s w e e t   o n i o n   s o u p

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 6 cups sweet onions, thinly sliced and quartered
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 6 cups stock, vegetable or chicken
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh spring onions, sliced

Melt butter in a stockpot on medium heat.  Add onions and garlic.  Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 to 20 minutes.  Remove the lid, stir in flour and cook for 5 minutes.  Deglaze the pot with wine.

Add stock, salt, pepper and increase heat to medium high.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.  Stir in cream and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Ladle soup into warm bowls and sprinkle with freshly sliced spring onions.

Serves 4

buon appetite.

coconut sweet potato soup with thai pesto

April 24, 2013 § 12 Comments

There are few things more enjoyable than get togethers with friends and family.  This morning I read a book review for a newly published cookbook and without a doubt the book is spectacular.  I read a profound quote from the author.  He said, his book comes at a time “when home cooking is quickly vanishing from our homes.  Americans typically devote a mere 27 minutes a day to preparing meals, with four more minute for cleanup.”   This is astounding.   Why and how did our culture come to this?   My hope is we can get back to the basic values of family and the importance of gathering around the table everyday for a soul nourishing home cooked meal.

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This soup is such a pleaser you could confidently serve it for your guests, but make sure you made enough!  The texture of the soup is velvety and creamy.  The thai pesto complement adds a spicy, herbal, subtle nutty crunch, assuredly to bring a sigh of  food bliss.

Ingredients

  •  3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into chunks
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 cups coconut milk

Thai pesto

  • 1/2 cup unsalted peanuts, lightly toasted
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 green chili, seeded and chopped (I used serrano)
  • a large handful cilantro
  • a large handful mint
  • a large handful basil
  • 2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce or light soy sauce
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

Method

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the sweet potato and onion and cook for 15 minutes, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until soft and just starting to turn golden.

Increase the heat to high and add curry paste.  Stir until sweet potatoes are well coated. Continue to cook for a few minutes until fragrant.  Add the stock and coconut milk and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer.  Once the potatoes are tender use a hand blender and whizz the soup until creamy and smooth.  If you are not using an hand blender, transfer the mixture to a blender and carefully whizz until smooth.

To make the pesto

Put all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender and whizz until you have a chunky paste and the ingredients are all evenly chopped.  If you are not using a food processor, finely chop all ingredients, place in a bowl. Add Thai fish sauce, lime and brown sugar and mix well.

Ladle the soup into warmed serving bowls and serve right away.  Top with a generous spoonful of thai pesto.  I place the leftover pesto on the table.  You’ll be going back for more!

Serves 4

buon appetite.

asparagus rice soup with cacio d’roma (minestra di asparagi e riso)

April 22, 2013 § 9 Comments

One of the many reasons to love April is the availability of large tender asparagus, a sure sign of spring.  I pick up bushels of asparagus when it is in season.  One of my favorite recipes is a quick steam and a drizzle of olive oil and salt for a simple side dish or tossed in a salad.

The weather in Seattle has been gray, rainy and cold now for several days.  In weather like this I hunger for soup. Today I decided I would make soup with the asparagus I brought home.  To give credit where it is due, I pulled an old italian vegetable recipe book off the shelf…

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The asparagus-rice soup recipe I found in Verdura is remarkable.  Simple and satisfying.  It is a fresh springtime soup.  The arborio rice adds a pleasant chewy texture and the cacio d’roma cheese, which melts into the soup gives the soup a satisfying creaminess.

I made a few minor modifications to the recipe.  For one, the recipe called for a specific italian cheese, caciocavallo.  Caciocavallo is delightfully formed in a ball between two cheese forms and bound together with a rope.  You may find it in your specialty cheese market looking like a little teardrop hanging from a horizontal stick or branch.  It’s flavor is similar to provolone cheese.  Instead I chose cacio d’roma, another lovable southern italian cheese.  It’s made of sheep’s milk.  Quite mild in flavor, similar to Manchego, with a pliable texture instead of dry.  It is considered a very good melting cheese, which is why I chose it for this soup.

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asparagus rice soup with cacio d’roma

  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 8 cups water
  • salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small sweet yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup arborio rice
  • 3 ounces cacio d’roma cheese, shredded

Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus.  Using a vegetable peeler, peel the asparagus about halfway up the stalk.  Cook the asparagus in 6 cups of salted boiling water.  When the asparagus is tender but crisp, lift it out of the water.  Reserve the water.  Cut the asparagus into 1 inch pieces and set aside.

In a large heavy bottom soup pot,  heat the olive oil on medium heat and sauté the onion, garlic and parsley for several minutes.  Add the rice and coat well.  Add the reserved asparagus water and bring to a boil.  Cook until the rice is al dente, stirring often. Gently add the asparagus and allow it to warm.  Turn the heat off and stir in the shredded cacio d’roma cheese.  Serve right away!

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Serves 4

buon appetite.

carrot soup w/carrot top pesto

April 6, 2013 § 7 Comments

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The other day I had a huge bunch of carrots and being the soup person I am I went looking for a carrot soup recipe.  I’m not a fan of curry or ginger in my carrot soup and up to then I really didn’t have it any other way.  My usual “go to” soup recipe involves sautéing onion in olive oil, adding whatever vegetable I’m using, chicken broth and boiling for 15 minutes until vegetables are tender. Sometimes I use a hand blender to make it smooth, sometimes not.  I decided to keep it simple and just do the “go to” method.

I remembered reading, at some point, the green tops of the carrots are edible.  Well, I love pesto in my soup.  I used the green tops to make a simple, garlicky pesto and topped the soup off with toasted pecans.  Simply delicious.

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What you will need:

  • 1.5 lb. carrots with tops
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 quart broth, chicken or vegetable
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt
  • 1/3 cup toasted pecans, chopped

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Method

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a soup pot, add onion and a little salt.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes until soft.   Remove carrot tops, peel carrots (optional) and roughly chop and add to pot.  Stir until carrots are well coated with onions, add broth and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to medium and simmer until carrots are tender, about 15 minutes.

While carrots are cooking, either finely chop carrot tops or use a food processor and whizz until fine.  Add the minced garlic, remainder of olive oil and a pinch of salt.  Set aside.

Place 1/3 cup pecans in a non-stick skillet on medium high heat.  Occasionally move the pecans around with a spatula until toasted, approximately 10 minutes.

Purée soup in a blender, working in batches, until smooth.  Or use a hand blender directly in the soup pot.

Ladle into bowls and top with carrot-top pesto and toasted pecans.

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serves 4.

buon appetite.

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