Showing posts with label soups. Show all posts
Showing posts with label soups. Show all posts

Monday, May 10, 2010

Spicy Sweet Potato and Tomato Soup from The South Beach Diet Super Quick Cookbook

First off, I want to wish a heartfelt, yet belated, Happy Mother's Day to all you beautiful moms out there! And especially to Mama Diva ... the greatest mom a girl could have! Love you the *most* Mama Diva! I hope you all had a spectacular day.

Talk about timing - no sooner did I post my Pitch Policy, when a copy of The South Beach Diet Super Quick Cookbook showed up in my mailbox for review. And I couldn't be happier about it!

The South Beach Diet Super Quick Cookbook, due to be released from Rodale Books on May 11, 2010, is the most interesting South Beach Diet cookbook to date. They have not only expanded their section of Phase 1 & 2 recipes, they've branched out to include some really fabulous ingredients as well. I was delighted to note the use of chickpea flour, flaxmeal and agave nectar, as well as a much expanded meatless meals section in this new offering. The book also includes a wide variety of ethnic meals, such as: Thai Vegetable Stew, African Red Bean Stew, and Coconut Shrimp Curry. All of which combine to make this not simply a "diet cookbook" but a cookbook that foodies can love as well!

A brief word about the diet before we move on. For those unfamiliar, the South Beach Diet is not a no-carb diet. While it is true that carbs are limited during the initial two week period (Phase 1), the intent of the diet is not to eliminate carbs but rather to encourage the choice of healthy, whole grain and high fiber carbs over simple sugars. And, honestly, you can skip the first phase and move right to Phase 2, if you like. Phase 2 allows for whole grains, whole grain breads and pastas, sweet potatoes, and more. In fact, I'm willing to bet that many of you are already eating the South Beach way without even realizing it.

Preceding the recipes, the book offers tips on budget conscious shopping, stocking your pantry, maximizing use of your freezer, as well as suggestions for: Meals for Two, Grab and Go Breakfasts and Lunches, and even Post Work-out Snacking. Its not only a cookbook, its a wonderful resource, dedicated to my favorite topic - eating well with an eye toward health.

Today, I'm featuring my take on The South Beach Diet Super Quick Cookbook's Spiced Sweet Potato and Tomato soup. I have adapted this recipe from the book, changing both the method of preparation and the ingredients to suit my tastes.

Spicy Sweet Potato and Tomato Soup ... Diva's Way:
  • 1 1/4 pounds of sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, peeled and minced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into small dice
  • small pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, optional
  • pinch of Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon Ras el Hanout
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • one 14.5 ounce can of petite diced tomatoes with jalapeno
  • 1 3/4 cup low-sodium vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
  • 1/4 cup of grated aged Gruyere cheese
  • 2 tablespoons non-fat milk
  • some chopped fresh parsley or cilantro for garnish
  • some freshly popped popcorn for garnish
1. Using a vegetable steamer, steam the sweet potatoes until fork tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from steamer and reserve.

2. In a soup or stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and, when hot, add the shallots, carrots, a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes and a pinch of Kosher salt, and saute briefly, until the shallots are translucent, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the ground coriander, the cumin, the Ras el Hanout, and the cinnamon and saute, stirring to blend, for one minute.

3. Add the entire can of diced tomatoes with jalapeno and stir to blend for one minute. Return the steamed sweet potatoes to the pot and add the vegetable (or chicken) broth, stirring to blend. Raise the heat to high and bring the soup to the boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

4. Remove the soup from the heat and, using an immersion blend, puree the soup until thick, creamy and smooth. (Alternately, you could use a blender or a food processor to puree the soup.) Return the soup to medium heat and add the shredded Gruyere cheese and 2 tablespoons of non-fat milk, stirring well, until the cheese has melted and is fully incorporated. Should the soup prove to thick for your liking, you may add a bit more broth to thin to desired consistency.

5. Serve immediately, garnished with some chopped fresh parsley or cilantro and some freshly popped popcorn to make it festive! Enjoy!

As written, this recipe will yield 4 (1 1/2 cup) servings.

The original recipe calls for the inclusion of "light spreadable cheese", rather than Gruyere ... but I just couldn't bring myself to add a processed cheese product to this lovely, wholesome soup. I've opted for the sharp Gruyere and a bit of skim milk here, but I'm certain you could leave the cheese and milk out altogether and still enjoy the marvelous flavor of this soup. The cheese does add a certain creaminess though, which is absolutely lovely. Do as you see fit.

This is a hearty, healthy, warmly spiced meal-in-a-bowl that is sure to satisfy and comfort dieters and non-dieters alike. I like so much I'll probably double the batch next time and freeze half for a quick reheat when needed.

I've also switched out the garnish, due to necessity ... the original calls for toasted pumpkin seeds, which would be fantastic ... but I didn't have any on hand. I've long enjoyed a bit of popcorn as a garnish for tomato soup, so I've resurrected that penchant here. Again, the choice is yours.

I'll be submitting this recipe to both Hey What's for Dinner Mom?'s Just Another Meatless Monday feature and Kahakai Kitchen's Souper Sundays feature.

Lastly, although I received my copy of The South Beach Diet Super Quick Cookbook for review, it is a book I would have purchased myself, just based on the index alone. I recommend it to dieters and non-dieters alike and I can't wait to explore it further. Its absolutely ... Divalicious!

Bon appetite!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Spicy Asian Beef Noodle Bowl


I have no idea how authentic this dish is, or even from what country it might hail. I didn't ask for its passport - hell, I didn't even have a recipe. I simply assembled a bunch of stuff I like and started cooking.

The result? A big, BOLD, beautiful soup/noodle bowl that is sure to warm up even the chilliest of days.

Spicy Asian Beef Noodle Bowl:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound of lean beef sirloin, cut into small cubes
  • salt and pepper
  • one 14 1/2 ounce can of vegetable broth
  • 4 cups low-sodium beef broth or stock
  • 1/2 of a medium onion, peeled
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorns, white or black
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili garlic paste/sauce
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons unseasoned rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups of peeled, cubed yellow turnips (rutabaga) cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 small shallot, peeled and sliced
  • 8 - 10 large shitake mushroom caps, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup of fresh baby spinach
  • 8 ounces of cooked udon or soba noodles (I used whole wheat udon)
  • some chopped fresh scallions for garnish
Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a large, heavy-bottomed soup or stock pot. Dust the beef cubes with a bit of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. When the oil is hot, but not yet smoking, add the seasoned beef to the pot and saute, to brown on all sides. Remove beef from pot, place in a small bowl, cover and reserve in the fridge.

Drain any excess fat from the pan and return the pan to the stove. Add the vegetable and beef broths to the pan, along with the onion, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, star anise, peppercorns, chili garlic sauce, honey, unseasoned rice wine vinegar and toasted sesame oil. Stir well to combine, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan and allow the mixture to come to the boil - then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes.

Remove from heat and strain the broth into a large bowl though a fine mesh sieve to remove the solids and spices. Discard solids, return the broth to the pot and place over medium high heat. Add the carrots, turnip, and shallot to the pan, along with the reserved beef cubes. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the turnips are tender and cooked through out.

Meanwhile, brown the sliced shitake mushrooms in a cast iron skillet or some such pan. Once browned, add them to the soup.

Have ready some cooked udon or soba noodles. Just before serving, add the baby spinach to the soup and stir to wilt, about 1 minute. To serve: place some noodles in the bottom of a deep bowl and over them, ladle the finished soup. Garnish with some chopped fresh scallions, serve and enjoy!

Additionally, you might also choose to garnish this soup with some chopped fresh cilantro and a wedge of lime. As written, this recipe will serve 4 to 5.

The inspiration for this dish came from a meal I had at a local pan-Asian place that's long, long gone. I can no longer remember if they used turnips or sweet potatoes in their soup, but I love turnips, so there you go. If you don't, feel free to substitute the sweet potatoes.

Alternately, you could make this a vegetarian meal, by eliminating the beef and using all vegetable stock. I think it would be delicious.

This bold soup has a really nice, well rounded flavor. The warmth of the ginger, cinnamon and anise really enhance the broth and the carrots and turnips absorb all of that yummy goodness. There's a nice hit of heat on the finish, due that chili garlic paste, but its subtle and altogether pleasant. If you really like things hot, go ahead and add a bit more chili paste to your bowl as you serve.

This is a luscious and healthy meal in a bowl that's just perfect for these bitter mid-winter days. If this doesn't warm you up, I don't know what will. I hope you'll try it!

Bon appetite!

p.s. - I'll be submitting this to Kahakai Kitchen for Deb's famous Souper Sundays round up. Thanks, Deb!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Year - New Soup ...

Fasten your seat belts, I'm about to confess. At the risk of being ostracized from the community, I'm just going come out admit it ... I made another Rachel Ray recipe.

I'll give you a moment to smooth your feathers and calm your spirits.

Now I'll admit something else ... it was damn good. So good I've eaten it nearly every day since I made it. What is this mysterious concoction? Stuffed Cabbage Soup. More shocking than the fact that I've admitted to watching 30 Minute Meals, is the fact that I made this soup despite my dislike of stuffed cabbage. I can't stand the stuff. But, trust me, this soup is amazing.

Its rich, hearty and nourishing; just perfect for these blustery winter days we've been having of late. This is a soup to soothe your soul and warm the chill in your bones. And, wonder of wonders, its South Beach friendly ... I told you I'd return to my roots eventually!

Naturally, I've made some changes to the recipe. I swapped out some lean ground beef and ground turkey breast for the beef, pork and veal in the original recipe. And, I've upped the ante on the spices - a lot - among other things. Below is my version ...

Stuffed Cabbage Soup:
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 pound lean ground beef (sirloin)
  • 1/2 pound ground turkey breast
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot Hungarian paprika
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • some freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of pumpkin pie spice
  • generous grating of fresh nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon of whole caraway seeds, crushed
  • 1 large, whole bay leaf
  • 1 cup of chopped onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 small to medium sized head of Savoy cabbage, thinly sliced (core removed)
  • one 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup of unseasoned tomato sauce
  • two 14.5 ounce cans of non-fat low-sodium chicken broth
  • two 14.5 ounce cans of low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • some cooked whole wheat or egg noodles, or brown rice for serving
Garnishes:
  • some chopped fresh dill
  • some chopped fresh parsley
Heat the oil over medium high heat in a large soup or stock pot until hot but not smoking. Add the ground beef and turkey and saute until cooked throughout and beginning to brown, breaking the meat up with a wooden spoon and stirring as you saute. Add all of the spices, from the paprika through the bay leaf, stir to combine and saute for one minute. Add the onions, garlic and carrots and saute until the onions are translucent, about 2 to 3 minutes, stirring as needed. Add the cabbage and saute, stirring, until it begins to wilt - about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken broth, vegetable broth and the red wine vinegar. Raise the heat and bring the soup to the boil, then cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.

Have ready some cooked whole wheat noodles, egg noodles, or brown rice. To serve, place the noodles or rice in the bottom of a bowl and over it ladle the finished soup. Garnish with a generous sprinkling of chopped fresh dill and parsley. Serve immediately.

As written, this recipe will yield 6 to 8 servings depending on portion size.

People, this makes a ton of soup! A ton of wonderfully flavored, 100% satisfying, delicious soup. We liked it so much we've been eating it non-stop ... and I'm going to be very sad when its gone. Please don't be put off by the long list of ingredients - this really is a quick fix meal.

The recipe suggests that the soup be served with rice (white rice to be specific) - but who wants rice when you can have noodles? Not me. Though, as always, do as you see fit.

I know I kid about Rachel Ray, but I have to admit she's got some great ideas - this unusual soup chief among them. Personally, I found the original version somewhat lacking in flavor and in need of an acid balance - hence the red wine vinegar and the trio of paprikas - but if you prefer something less bold, by all means go with the original version. We like to keep things spicy around here, so I'm well-pleased with my adaptation. I've also simmered the soup longer than the original recipe suggests. I think the longer simmer helps to build flavor.

Round out the meal with a big, fresh salad and you'll have a complete meal that's a welcome respite from all the holiday indulgences ... and a fine foil for the chilly temps! I hope you'll try it.

Bon appetit!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Carrot and Parsnip Soup

C'mon in, I've made you some soup. And not just any soup either - a luscious and healthy root vegetable soup. Doesn't it look delicious? Aw, thanks. Wait, what's that you say? No, no, of course I'm not trying to pawn off more leftovers on you. This soup is entirely fresh! Honest. I mean it.

~blink~

Ok, you caught me crossing my fingers behind my back. This soup is made of leftovers ... but not in the way that you think. In addition to the bounteous remains of the holiday meal, I found myself long, very long, on a variety of raw veggies after Thanksgiving. Parsnips and baby carrots were the chief offenders. I'm not entirely sure why I bought a whole bag of parsnips when I needed just one or two for my turkey. And I had all good intentions of setting out bowls of hummus and dip with baby carrots and assorted crudite late into the evening on Thanksgiving, when we were playing poker. But alas, our bellies were too full and the game was too intense.

Hoping to clear some room in the fridge after Thanksgiving, I whipped up a batch of this comforting soup.

Carrot and Parsnip Soup:
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large leek, white and pale green part only, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large shallot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup of chopped onion
  • 1 stalk of celery, leaves included
  • pinch of Kosher salt and a generous grating of fresh black pepper
  • 1 full pound of baby carrots, washed and trimmed of any ugly ends
  • 4 large parsnips, peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • two 14.5 ounce cans of non-fat, low-sodium chicken broth
  • one 14.5 ounce can of non-fat, low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon good quality curry powder, or more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery salt
  • grating of fresh nutmeg
  • pinch of cayenne pepper, optional
  • pinch of ground white pepper, optional
  • a couple of teaspoons of chopped fresh dill
  • optional - 1 teaspoon of honey to finish the soup if desired
For garnish:
  • some non-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • chopped fresh parsley
  • chopped fresh dill
Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed soup or stock pot over medium-high heat and add the leeks, shallots, onions and celery. Add a pinch of Kosher salt and some freshly ground black pepper, stir and saute until the onions are translucent and the vegetable are tender but not yet brown - about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the ground coriander, curry powder, celery salt and cayenne pepper, if using. Stir to combine and saute for 1 minute. Add the carrots, parsnips, chicken broth, vegetable broth and lemon juice. Add a pinch of white pepper, if desired, and a grating of fresh nutmeg. Stir to combine. Raise the heat and bring the soup to the boil. Then cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes or until both the carrots and parsnips are fork tender.

Remove from heat and puree using an immersion blender. (Alternately, the soup can be pureed, in batches, using a food processor or blender. Be careful, its hot!) Return the soup to the heat and re-warm if necessary. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more of whatever you like. If you prefer a sweeter soup, you may add a teaspoon of honey now. If you'd like a bit more acid, another squeeze of lemon should do the trick. Stir to combine.

To serve: ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with a dollop of non-fat Greek yogurt and a dusting of fresh parsley and dill.

As written, this recipe will yield 6 servings.

Why, yes, it does bear a striking resemblance to my Cream-Free Creamy Carrot Soup ... they're cousins.

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dinner in a Flash: Summery Soup Edition

Today's recipe isn't exactly new, in fact, I wrote about it last summer. But that was before I realized I was writing a food blog here; before I was smart enough to take pictures. And certainly before I was in possession of this nifty new serving set I picked up at Bennington Potters last week.

Because the lighting scheme in my kitchen is similar to a bat cave, the photo doesn't really capture the beautiful aubergine finish; its gorgeous. Everything at Bennington Potters is gorgeous. If you ever find yourself in the area, by all means stop in and browse around. The craftsmanship is exceptional, everything made by hand, and they will happily give you a tour of their studio. Its a wonderful place to spend an hour or so.

Anyway, my pretty new piece - coupled with yesterday's extreme heat- seemed like a good enough excuse to revisit this simple summer soup. No need to fuss with the slicing and dicing, you'll be using a food processor so a rough chop will do. Serve it with some crunchy tortilla chips and a nice big salad, as I did, and I promise you won't even break a sweat.

Zesty Red Bell Pepper Gazpacho:
  • 2 large red bell peppers, seeded and chopped coarsely
  • 1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped coarsely
  • 1 large clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 small stalk of celery, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • one 8 oz. can of tomato sauce
  • one 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tbsp. sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 1 slice of whole wheat bread, crust removed (optional)
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. celery salt
  • dash of Tobasco Sauce, to taste
  • 1 or 2 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Garnishes:
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • minced fresh parsley or cilantro (or both!)
  • several wedges of fresh lemon
  • some crushed blue corn tortilla chips
Using a food processor, pulse the red peppers until they are pureed. Add the jalapeño, garlic, celery and carrots and pulse on high until the mixture is finely ground - stopping to push down the contents of the bowl as needed. Add the tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, lime and lemon juice and vinegar, and puree until smooth. Tear the whole wheat bread into pieces, add to the soup and puree on high until smooth.

With the food processor running, add the olive oil through the feed tube and allow the soup and oil to blend until smooth. Add the celery salt, a generous grind of fresh black pepper and the chopped cilantro and pulse until well combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding the Tobasco Sauce, if desired, and some Kosher salt if necessary. If the mixture is too thick, you may add @ 1/4 cup of water or so, if desired, and pulse again to combine.

Pour the soup into a large container, cover, and chill in the fridge for one hour (or up to 24 hrs.) before serving. Garnish the soup with the minced red onion, some chopped parsley or cilantro (or both!) and serve with a large wedge of fresh lemon to be sprinkled over the soup at table.

As written, this recipe will serve @ 6 as an appetizer, or 4 as a main course.

Careful readers will note the absence of cucumber - and this should come as no surprise. I'm not a fan. The recipe, however, is extremely flexible - so feel free to add or subtract what you will. Ditto for the spices and seasonings. I've made this soup dozens of times and I doubt I've ever made it the same way twice. Yesterday I included some Jim Beam Hot Sauce and a pinch of Hot Hungarian Paprika for fun. Taste and adjust to your own liking and the results will be magnificent, I'm sure.

Bon appetite!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Fast and Fresh Tortilla Soup

One Sunday, back in 2002, Amanda Hesser waxed eloquent about the pleasures of tortilla soup in the pages of the New York Times Magazine. She had my full attention. I made her recipe the very next day, it was quite the production. It took half the day, made my kitchen reek of oil, and the results - while truly magnificent - were hardly suitable for anyone on a diet ... Diva or otherwise. I never made it again. More's the pity, its damn delicious stuff.

Last night, I set out to create my own version ... its a charming cheat. I didn't toast or rehydrate any chilies, didn't make my own stock, and I most certainly didn't fry any tortillas. I used what I had on hand - some leftover cooked chicken, a few cans of broth, some fresh veggies, etc., - in less than an hour I had dinner. An exquisite, healthy dinner to be exact.

45 Minute Tortilla Soup:
  • 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large stalk of celery, leaves included, diced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 of a Vidalia onion, diced
  • 1 large clove of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
  • a pinch of Kosher salt
  • a generous grating of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin (or more to taste)
  • 1 tsp. Mexican oregano, crushed between the palms of your hands
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. hot Hungarian paprika (or to taste)
  • two 14.5 oz. cans of non-fat, low-sodium chicken broth
  • two 14.5 oz. cans of low-sodium vegetable broth
  • one 14.5 oz. can of petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. unseasoned rice wine vinegar
  • dash of Chinese Five Spice powder
  • dash of ground cinnamon
  • a few drops of Tabasco or Habanero sauce, to taste
  • 1 to 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 to 2 cups of cooked chicken, shredded or chopped
  • 1 large ear of corn, kernels removed
Heat the oil in a large stock pot over medium high heat, when it is hot, but not smoking, add the celery, carrots, onions, garlic, jalapeno a pinch of Kosher salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Saute until the onions are translucent and the vegetables are tender, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Add the cumin, Mexican oregano and Hungarian paprika, stirring well to combine, and saute for one minute. Add the chicken broth, vegetable broth and the tomatoes (along with their juices), stir to combine, add the rice wine vinegar along with a dash of Chinese Five Spice powder and a dash of ground cinnamon if desired. Add a drop or two of Tabasco sauce, to taste, and the chopped parsley, stirring well to combine. Raise the heat and allow the soup to just come to the boil. As soon as it does, turn the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer the soup for 15 to 20 minutes.

While it simmers, slice the kernels from the ear of corn. Just before serving, add the cooked chicken and corn kernels to the soup, stir and continue simmering until both the chicken and corn are hot. Ladle the finished soup into bowls and garnish with any and all of the following:

Garnishes:
  • some crushed corn tortilla chips (I like the blue corn variety)
  • some chopped red onion
  • some chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
  • some cubed fresh avocado
  • some wedges of lime for drizzling over soup at table
  • shredded cheddar, manchego, or crumbled cotija cheese, if desired
Serve immediately and enjoy!

As written, this recipe will serve 6 and it is anything but traditional. Most tortilla soup recipes do not call for Chinese Five Spice powder or unseasoned rice wine vinegar ... but that's just how I roll. I like a multi-layered soup and once it starts simmering, I'll throw just about anything in there until it tastes good to me.

My version is lower in fat than the traditional variety as well, because I do not add the fried tortilla strips to the broth. I find that the crushed tortilla chips added as a garnish offer just enough crunch and interest for me and, frankly, I prefer the soup this way. It also allows for the option of using a baked tortilla chip, which would further reduce the fat content. I don't bother with the cheese addition, but the avocado, lime, onions and parsley are non-negotiable for me.

This is a luscious, flavorful and healthy meal in a bowl. Its quick, easy and ridiculously delicious. Believe me, I mean no disrespect to Amanda Hesser. If you have the time, the inclination, and can spare the extra calories, you certainly can't go wrong with her version. Its truly scrumptious. You can find the recipe here. But if you're looking for a weeknight meal that's both light and satisfying, my 45 minute version can't be beat.

I know I said we'd be talking tabbouleh today ... but this post was ready and the tabbouleh has yet to be photographed! Stayed tuned for Thirsty Thursdays tomorrow ... and we'll get to that tabbouleh on Friday.

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Liquid Gold

Let's be clear: I like carrots - and - I like carats. The more the better. That's as true for diamonds as it is for soup. This luscious, spicy carrot soup uses more than a pound. It would make a wonderful starter for your Passover or Easter meal - and, frankly, it makes a mighty fine weeknight meal all on it own. Round it out with a nice, crisp salad and you can have dinner on the table in under an hour.

The finished soup will be pureed, so no need to fuss with the slicing and dicing here - a rough chop will do for everything.

Cream-free Creamy Carrot Soup:
  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups of leeks, coarsely chopped, white and pale green parts only
  • 1 medium shallot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup of coarsely chopped onion
  • pinch of Kosher salt and a generous grating of fresh black pepper
  • 1 full pound of carrots, plus two additional carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 small yukon gold potato, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • two 14.5 oz. cans of low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth
  • one 14.5 oz. can of low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. good quality curry powder
  • pinch of cayenne pepper, optional
  • dash of ground white pepper, optional
  • grating of fresh nutmeg, optional
  • optional - a tsp. of honey to finish the soup, if desired
For garnish:
  • some non-fat plain Greek yogurt, or fat-free sour cream
  • some chopped fresh parsley and or chopped fresh dill
  • a wedge of fresh lemon
Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot over medium high heat and add the leeks, shallot, onions, a pinch of salt and a grating of fresh black pepper. Saute, stirring, until wilted and tender, but not brown - about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the ground coriander, curry powder and a dash of cayenne pepper, if desired. Saute one minute, stirring. Add the chicken and vegetable broths, the carrots, potatoes and a pinch of white pepper and some fresh nutmeg, if desired. Stir to combine. Raise the heat and bring the soup to the boil. Then cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the carrots are fork-tender.

Remove from heat and puree using an immersion blender. (Alternately, the soup can be pureed, in batches, using a food processor or traditional blender. Be careful, its hot!) Return the soup to the heat and re-warm, if necessary. Taste the soup for seasoning, adding more of whatever you like. If you prefer a sweeter soup, you may add the teaspoon of honey now. If you'd like a bit of acid, squirt in a dash of fresh lemon. Stir to combine. When ready to serve, ladle the soup into a serving vessel and garnish with a dollop of non-fat Greek yogurt and a dusting of chopped fresh parsley and dill. Serve the soup with a wedge of lemon and enjoy!

As written, this recipe will yield 6 servings.

Some words of wisdom about the spices ... just because I've called for ground coriander here, doesn't mean you have to use it. If you don't have ground coriander, and won't use it otherwise, do not go out and buy a jar of it. This is a tremendously forgiving soup and will adapt well to any spices you have or enjoy. I happen to like the combination of curry and coriander, and my spice collection is extensive enough to warrant its own cabinet ... but that's just me. If you prefer a soup of the milder variety, feel free to skip the cayenne as well. Ditto for the honey at the end. The need for it will largely depend on how sweet your carrots are and your own personal preference. Sometimes I add the honey, sometimes I leave it out.

Experiment, use this recipe as a guide, and do as you see fit. However you choose to spice your soup, I assure you the results will be magnificent. Whatever you do, be sure to include the Greek yogurt, fresh herbs and a squeeze of lemon for garnish. The yogurt will add a marvelous richness to the dish and the herbs/lemon will keep everything bright and happy.

Bon appetit!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Chicken Soup: The Strange and Wonderful Edition

I'm not going to lie, this soup is weird. And weird is just what the doctor ordered yesterday. I woke up feeling a little under the weather and knew right away it was going to be a chicken soup kind of day. While browsing through some old issues of Cooking Light, I came across a most unusual soup. I read the list of ingredients and immediately thought: turnips? thyme? chicken? cheese? ... yeah, that sounds about right! And, happily, it was.

More happiness ensued when I realized I was in possession of some yummy Kerrygold Aged Cheddar cheese to add to the soup. While the original recipe called for reduced-fat cheddar, I opted for the rich and creamy Kerrygold and reduced the amount slightly. I've altered the recipe significantly, both the method of preparation and list of ingredients, to suit my tastes. Chief among those tastes was my complete disinterest in boiling a whole chicken to create the broth. I went straight for a mixture of canned chicken and vegetable broths and the results were magnificent.

The original recipe appears in the January/February 2000 issue of Cooking Light - below is my adapted version.

Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup with Turnips:
  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large leeks, trimmed, cleaned and chopped (white and pale green parts only)
  • 1 medium shallot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, leaves included, diced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • some Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • dash of curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. dried summer savory
  • the leaves from 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 4 1/2 cups low-fat, reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 2 1/2 cups of reduced sodium vegetable broth
  • 3 cups of peeled yellow turnip (rutabaga) cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup of brown and wild rice mix (or use either rice alone)
  • 2 cups of shredded, cooked chicken
  • 1/4 cup of fat free Half and Half
  • 1/4 cup of non-fat milk
  • 1/2 cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese, such as Kerrygold Aged Cheddar, plus some additional for garnish
  • some chopped fresh parsley for garnish
Heat the oil in a large soup or stock pot over medium high heat. Add the leeks, shallot, celery, carrots, a pinch of salt and a generous grating of fresh black pepper, stir to combine. Add the dried basil, dried summer savory, the thyme and a dash of curry powder and saute for approximately 5 minutes or until the vegetables have softened. Add the chicken broth, vegetable broth, turnips and rice mixture and bring the soup to the boil. Once it has boiled, reduce the heat, cover and allow the soup to simmer for 30 minutes or until the turnips and rice are tender.

Using a slotted spoon, remove half of the turnips to a bowl and mash with a potato masher. Return the mashed turnips to the soup and stir well to incorporate. Add the cooked chicken, the Half and Half, the milk and 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese, stirring until the cheese has melted. Allow the soup to cook for 5 minutes or so, until the chicken is thoroughly heated. Taste the soup for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if necessary. Ladle the soup into a serving bowl, garnish with some additional shredded cheddar cheese and a dusting of chopped fresh parsley. Serve and enjoy!

As written, this recipe will serve 6. While it may not be the most photogenic soup on the block, I can tell you the flavor is extraordinary! So much so that the husband, who is not a fan of yellow turnips, downed two huge bowls of it. The turnips really mellow as they simmer and they lend a welcomed sweetness to the finished dish. Needless to say, I'll be submitting this one to Deb's Souper Sundays round-up on Kahakai Kitchen. I hope you'll try it!

Between the gallons of Airborne I downed yesterday, and this nutrient rich soup, I may just be able to nip this cold in the bud. Here's hoping anyway.

So, do you crave strange flavor combination when you're under the weather ... or is that just me? Curious Diva wants to know.

Bon appetit!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Round up!

I'm unexpectedly AFB - Away from Blog - today, so this post will be short, yet 0h-so-sweet. The dynamic duo of Tangled Noodle and Savor the Thyme have done a magnificent job in recapping the Eating Your Words Challenge entries ... and the results ... well, they've left me speechless! The creativity and variety of entries is absolutely stunning!

The entries are posted in two parts. The first is here on Savor the Thyme, and part two is here on Tangled Noodle. I urge you to take a look and marvel at both the quality of the entries and the brilliant posts that re-cap them. Well done ladies, well done! My hat's off to all the challengers. I am thoroughly impressed and so honored to have be included in this fantastic event. Thank you both so much for all your work in presenting it. No easy task, I'm sure. I had a blast!

As if that weren't enough for one day, I'd also like to direct your attention to Deb's Souper Sundays round-up on Kahakai Kitchen. Her carrot bisque looks so yummy and luscious that its got my mouth watering ... and that's just the beginning. What follows is the best of the soups from around the web this week. So cruise on over, get out your soup pot, and get inspired!

I hope to be back with a new recipe tomorrow or Wednesday, at the latest. For now, take a spin through those links and see what's cookin'.

So, what was cooking in your kitchen this weekend? Curious Diva wants to know.

Bon appetit!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Industrious Diva ...

Roll up your sleeves, take a deep breath and get some water boiling on the stove - we're making noodles today! I promise it will be easy and, frankly, its great fun. The Hungarian Cookbook describes csipetke (pronounced chi-pet-ke) as "the missing link between the noodle and the dumpling, a bit of each but not quite either." I'd say that's exactly right.

I've altered the recipe by substituting whole wheat pastry flour for the traditional all-purpose white flour. That's a personal choice and you should feel free to use either. Even with the whole wheat, the resulting dumplings are remarkably light and tender. While csipetke are traditionally used as an accompaniment for goulash, they'd make a welcome addition to any soup ... and, frankly, they're pretty darn good all on their own.

Csipetke (pinched noodles):

  • 1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 tsp. of salt
  • 1 egg
  • a few drops of water
  • 1 tsp. olive oil - for coating the cooked noodles
In a large bowl, mix the flour and the salt together to combine. Add the egg and stir to form a stiff dough, adding a few drops of cold water as needed to form a ball. (I needed about a scant tablespoon or so.) Press the mixture together with your hands to form a ball of dough and knead the dough on a smooth, hard surface until smooth. (Kneading roughly 10 - 12 times.) Cover with a clean tea towel and allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes.

Bring a large pot of water to a vigorous boil and add a pinch of salt. Remove the dough from the towel and cut it into quarters.

Working with one quarter at a time, use the heel of your hand and press the dough flat, flip over and press again, continue pressing and flipping until the dough is roughly 1/4 inch thick, but no need to measure or be precise.

Using your thumb and index finger, pinch off dime-sized pieces of the dough, and press them between your fingers. Continue pinching off pieces of the dough until you have completed one quarter of the dough. Again, no need to be precise - we're making peasant food here, not precious food!

Gently drop them into the boiling water and cook for 10 minutes at a rolling boil. Using a slotted spoon, remove the cooked noodles to strainer, drain completely and place into a bowl. Toss with 1 tsp. of olive oil to coat.

Continue in the same fashion with the rest of the dough, cooking one batch at a time until all of the csipetke have been cooked. Be sure to toss each additional batch with the first so that all of the dumplings will be coated with oil, adding a drizzle more if necessary. Cover and reserve until ready to serve the soup.

When ready to serve, place some csipetke in the bottom of a soup bowl and ladle the finished soup over the dumplings. Serve and enjoy!

The finished csipetke are visible in the top photo, on the left side of the bowl. In a word, these noodle-dumplings are outstanding! I can't imagine eating the goulash soup without them and the whole process took far less time to complete that it did for me to write this. Making your own noodles is a satisfying endeavor and nowhere near as challenging as it sounds. If I can do it, so can you. Really.

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Ethnic Diva ...

In an effort to embrace my heritage, or at least one quarter of it, I purchased The Hungarian Cookbook sometime back in the 1980's. Buried amid scores of others on my kitchen shelves, it has largely gone unused. I don't think I've opened the book in the last 15 years. And even then, I've only ever made one recipe from it: Goulash Soup.

Yesterday's wicked weather demanded an equally extreme dish. Something rich, hot, savory and filling: a dish with which to thaw the husband after his trip down our bitterly windy block. Again, I haven't ventured past page 6 of the book, why mess with success - even if its decades old success? I wanted something bold in flavor and spicy enough to wake up our winter-dulled palates ... I could not have made a better choice.

Goulash Soup or Gulyas Leves (gu-yahsh le-vesh in Hungarian):
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lb. lean beef stew meat, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • pinch of Kosher salt
  • generous grinding of fresh black pepper
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. of caraway seeds, crushed in a mortar and pestle or with the back of a spoon
  • 1 1/2 tsp. good quality sweet paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. smoked, hot paprika
  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 cups low-sodium beef stock or broth
  • one 14.5 ounce can of petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 medium to large green bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • pinch of cayenne pepper, optional
  • 2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 thick wedge of lemon
  • chopped fresh parsley for garnish
  • some cooked Csipetke (pinched noodles) - recipe to follow tomorrow
Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large, heavy-bottomed, non-reactive soup or stock pot and when it is hot but not smoking, add the beef. Saute, stirring often until browned on all sides, drain the excess fat from the pan and add a tiny bit more olive oil. Add the onions, shallots, garlic, a pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper and saute, stirring as needed until the onion is translucent. Add the crushed caraway seeds, sweet paprika, smoked paprika and carrots and stir to combine. Saute for one minute. Add the vegetable broth, beef stock, diced tomatoes, green pepper, cayenne pepper and a large bay leaf, stirring well to combine. Bring the soup to the boil over high heat, then cover and reduce the heat to simmer. Allow the soup to simmer, covered, for one hour.

Add the diced potatoes to the soup, squeeze the juice from the wedge of lemon into the pot, stir and taste for seasoning. If needed you may add a bit more salt and pepper. Cover and allow the soup to simmer for 25 -30 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked and the beef is fork tender. Once finished, the soup can be kept, covered, at a low simmer until needed. To serve, place some cooked csipetke in the bottom of a large soup bowl and ladle the goulash soup over the noodles. Garnish with some chopped parsley, serve and enjoy! As written this soup will serve approximately 5 - 6.


I've made several changes in the book's recipe. I upped the amount of paprika, added the smoked for heat and interest, and because I was craving something on the spicy side - I threw in a hefty pinch of cayenne pepper while the soup was simmering. Carrots were not included in the original recipe ... though I can't imagine why. I think they're essential, and I might even up the ante next time by adding some cubed yellow turnip to boot.

You can well imagine that I opted not to go with the lard, as suggested in the book. After I recovered from my faint, I went with the olive oil for sauteing instead. Good choice.

Another good choice was my decision to go all out and make the homemade noodles for the soup. I know, I can hear some of you groaning now ... no, you don't have to make the noodles ... but you should. They're well worth the effort and the effort is minimal. I'll tell you all about it ... tomorrow. For now, rest easy in the knowledge you could certainly serve the soup with some cooked barley or ditalini pasta - and, frankly, its good enough all on its own. Pair it with a snappy green salad, a crusty whole-grain loaf and a better winter meal I cannot imagine. I hope you'll try it!

Bon appetit!

P.S. - Edited to add that I'm submitting this soup to the always wonderful Souper Sundays event on Kahakai Kitchen. Be sure to stop by Deb's terrific blog for a taste of the best soups from around the web each and every Sunday!

Friday, January 30, 2009

A Meal from the Pantry ...

And by that I mean that most of the ingredients for today's recipe were already residing in my home. I simply had to pick up a bit of beef and a bunch of mushrooms and start cooking. I guess it goes without saying that one of our premier, national eating holidays occurs this weekend: Super Bowl Sunday. If you were expecting to find a bunch of yummy, game-friendly snacks here this week, I'm sorry to disappoint. Maybe next year if I can muster up any interest in either of the teams. (Sorry Phoenix and Pittsburgh peeps, I'm a Cowboy fan!)

Its long been my custom, at least during the winter, to whip up a batch of hearty soup on Sunday afternoons for us to enjoy all week. And I make plenty of it. We'll generally have the soup for dinner twice during the week, rounded out with salad and bread, and any left-overs make a mighty fine lunch. Last Sunday was no exception. I put that yummy College Inn Bold Sirloin Stock to good use and we've been happily dining on Beef Barley soup ever since.

Beef Barley Soup:
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound of lean beef sirloin, cut into small cubes
  • some Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • one 10 oz. package of Crimini mushrooms, sliced, stems removed*
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 1 large stalk of celery, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 cups of low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 cups of low-sodium beef broth
  • 3 cups of College in Bold Stock - Sirloin flavor
  • one 14.5 oz can of Petite Diced Tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup of raw pearl barley, rinsed and drained
  • the leaves from 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • a handful of chopped fresh parsley
  • Some additional chopped fresh parsley and thyme for garnish
Heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil in a large soup or stock pot over medium high heat. Add the cubes of beef and dust them with a bit of salt and pepper. Saute, stirring as needed, until the meat has browned on all sides. Drain the meat and reserve in a small bowl.

Pour any residual fat from the pot and return the pot to the stove. Drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil into the pan and add the mushrooms. Saute them over medium-high heat until browned, then add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Saute for approximately 5 minutes, stirring as needed, until the onion begins to wilt. Add the fresh thyme leaves, stirring to combine and saute for one minute. Then add the vegetable broth, beef broth and beef stock to the pan, along with the diced tomatoes and their juices, and a hand full of chopped fresh parsley. Stir to combine and bring the soup to the boil. Add the pearl barley and the reserved cubes of beef. Allow the soup to boil again, then turn the heat to low, cover and simmer the soup on low for approximately 40 to 45 minutes, or until the barley has cooked.

Serve the soup garnished with some additional fresh parsley and thyme. Do not skip the fresh thyme at the end - its essential! As written, this recipe will serve 6 - 8 depending on serving size. Enjoy!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
* Crimini mushrooms are also known as Baby Bella mushrooms, and I prefer them for their rich flavor. You could certainly use regular white button mushrooms, or leave them out altogether if that is your preference.

The three different types of broth may seem like over-kill, but really I think that's what makes this soup so special. They all add something different to the mix in terms of flavor and that Bold Stock can't be beat for adding richness. It should be noted that the Bold Stock is a bit high in sodium, so if that is a concern for you, opt for the standard low-sodium beef stock and use 5 cups of that instead.

Only after I'd written this post (earlier in the week) did I discover that I haven't invented "souper Sunday" ... in fact, there's an entire blog which devotes every Sunday to the best soups from around the web. Deb in Hawaii from Kahakai Kitchen has been hosting Souper Sundays for quite awhile now and I was delighted to hear about it. I will be a frequent visitor to Kahakai Kitchen's weekly soup round-up and I must say that last week's offerings looked spectacular. Be sure and check out her yummy blog.

So, how will you be celebrating Super Sunday? Hungry Diva wants to know.

Bon appetite!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hybrid Soup ...

Is there anything more comforting than a bowl of chicken soup? It satisfies both body and soul and its a regular guest at my table. I've got a bunch of different chicken based soups that I enjoy, but my all time favorite is my recipe for Stracciatella, or Italian Egg Drop soup. I like to enhance the soup with some carrots and celery in addition to the traditional spinach. Its heaven in a bowl and will cure whatever ails you. I promise.

Seems I was in the mood to guild the lily this weekend and decided to stir things up a bit. With the husband's fondness for canned Chickarina in mind, I set out to create a healthier version of his old favorite. I began with my classic recipe, added some homemade meatballs and swapped out the pasta for some cooked barley. The results? Magnificent!

We'll begin with my recipe for the basic soup and the meatball recipe will follow.

Stracciatella Soup:
  • 1 can of low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 6 cups of non-fat, low-sodium chicken broth (or stock if you have it)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into small dice
  • 1 large rib of celery, cut into small dice
  • 1 or 2 small tender stalks, leaves included, from the heart of the celery, chopped*
  • half of a medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 small clove of garlic, minced
  • a handful of chopped fresh parsley
  • some snipped fresh dill, to taste (optional)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • a dash of freshly grated nutmeg
  • a dash of good quality curry powder*
  • one bunch of fresh spinach, washed, stems removed and chopped
  • one large egg beaten with a pinch of salt and pepper
  • some cooked barley or whole wheat orzo
  • Some chopped fresh parsley and some freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
Combine the vegetable and chicken broths in a large soup or stock pot. Add the carrots, celery, celery leaves, onion, garlic, parsley and dill (if using) to the broth. Season with a bit of salt, pepper, nutmeg and curry powder and bring the soup to the boil. Once it boils, reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, wash and prep the spinach and cook your barley or pasta. After the soup has simmered for the required time, add spinach to the broth, stirring well to combine and raise the heat to medium high. When the soup just begins to bubble gently, add the beaten egg by drizzling it into the broth in a gentle, circular motion. Allow the egg to cook undisturbed for approximately one minute, then stir. The egg will form lovely, delicate strands which run throughout the soup.

To serve: place some cooked barley or whole wheat orzo in the bottom of a large bowl and ladle the finished soup over it, garnishing with the chopped parsley and a dusting of Parmesan cheese.

This is my go-to chicken soup recipe and I swear it has magical healing powers - just ask Mama Diva! Don't be fooled by the list of ingredients - this comes together in a hurry and can be prepared in half an hour. It can be served and enjoyed as written above, or you can do as I did on Sunday and add some:

Mini Chicken Meatballs:
  • 1 pound of ground chicken breast
  • 1 small onion, peeled and grated
  • 1 small clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. of grated Parmesan cheese
  • a dash of Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • a generous grating of fresh nutmeg
  • some snipped fresh dill
  • 1/3 of a cup of chopped fresh parsley
  • one egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1 tbsp. of bread crumbs
Place a 4 sided box grater into a large mixing bowl and grate the onion directly into the bowl. Hint - be careful! Try to avoid grating your thumb into the bowl along with the onion. To the grated onion add the ground chicken and the rest of the ingredients, stirring well with a fork to combine.

If using the meatballs, add them to the soup before you add the spinach. Let the soup simmer for the required time, then bring to a gentle boil. Shape the chicken mixture in to smallish, 1 inch meatballs and add to the soup. Allow them to simmer undisturbed until cooked, approximately 5 minutes or so, they will float to the surface when they are cooked. Then proceed with the spinach and cheese additions as described above.

As written this recipe will likely yield approximately 30 meatballs ... which is way too many for one pot of soup. I added half the meatballs to my soup and simmered the rest in some unadorned chicken broth ... I'll freeze the cooked beauties for future use - and you may choose to do likewise.

You can't go wrong either way. The Stracciatella soup is delicious on its own, and its outrageously good with the addition of the meatballs. Sort of a hybrid Italian Wedding/Egg Drop/Chickarina, if you will. Its truly a meal in a bowl. The husband devoured his and I know the left-overs won't be around long. As written, this soup will serve four. I hope you'll try it!

One quick note about the celery leaves ... that's an old trick from my grandma Pam. She never made chicken soup without adding the celery leaves and neither do I. As for the curry powder, that's my own personal quirk ... it bumps up the chicken flavor. Use just a dash and the results will be luscious and savory.

So, what's your favorite kind of soup? Hungry Diva wants to know.

Bon appetite!

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Bowl of Repentance

Bless me, Dr. Agatston, for I have sinned. It's been several days since I've been on your South Beach Diet ... and I'm not the least bit sorry about it. Desperate times call for desperate measures - and those desperate measures included (but are not limited to) the following: a slice of Mama Diva's birthday cake, some really excellent New Haven pizza, the afore mentioned cheesesteak ... and two really stiff scotches last night.

In the spirit of full disclosure I will add that the above listed sins gained me a grand total of one pound. Not bad for a week's worth of indulgence. And, frankly, that pound concerns me not at all. A good work-out today will take care of it and one "off" week does not negate the other 29 pounds I've lost.

Confession is good for the soul, or so they tell me, and so is soup ... this much I know is true. For my penance I prepared a healthy, Beachy, lentil soup on Wednesday night and it was spectacular. Given the multitude of white carb sins over the past few days, I opted to use some pearl barley in place of pasta and I'm delighted with the results. Barley is rich in Manganese, Selenium, Phosphorus, Copper, Iron, Zinc, Vitamin B6, Thiamin, Niacin, Riboflavin, Folate and Potassium. Its also a good source of both fiber and protein. And, you can't beat the texture - barley's chewy bite is the perfect compliment to the soup-softened lentils. What a lovely combination!

Now, on to the recipe. This one is of the "pinch and dash" variety; meaning I don't measure any of the seasonings. I open my massive spice cabinet and start adding anything and everything that sounds good to me. Sometimes its a pinch of cinnamon to give the soup some Middle Eastern flair; other times I'll add a dash of curry powder or a pinch of celery salt and some cayenne pepper. Sometimes all of the above. I'll post the recipe and note for the record that you should feel free to season the soup as you like. Pinch and dash to your heart's content and you'll be rewarded with a savory, flavorful bowl of repentance!

Lentil and Barley Soup:

  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 2 large ribs of celery, diced
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • one 14.5 oz. can of Petite Diced Tomatoes
  • 1 1/4 cups of small, green French Lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 5 cups of reduced sodium vegetable broth
  • 5 cups of non-fat, low-sodium chicken broth
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • the leaves from 5 or 6 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • a pinch of ground cinnamon
  • a healthy dash of good quality curry powder
  • a shake of celery salt
  • a handful of chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup of pearl barley, cooked according to package directions, drained and reserved
  • some chopped fresh parsley and some grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
Heat the oil in a large, heavy stock pot over medium high heat and add the onions, carrots, celery and garlic. Season with a bit of salt and pepper and saute the vegetable until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the can of tomatoes, with their juices, and allow them to cook down for a bit, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes or so. Add the lentils, and saute, stirring to coat for about a minute. Add the vegetable and chicken broths and stir well to combine. Add the thyme leaves, a pinch of cinnamon, dash of curry powder, a shake of celery salt and a handful of chopped parsley. Stir to combine, raise the heat to high and bring the soup to the boil. Once it boils, reduce the heat immediately, cover, and allow the soup to simmer until the lentils are tender - about 20 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, cook the barley according to package directions, drain and reserve.

Test the soup after 20 minutes of simmering to be sure that the lentils have cooked. Add in the red wine vinegar and stir to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning - adding more salt and pepper, or any of the above listed spices, as desired.

To serve: place some cooked barley in the bottom of a soup bowl and ladle the finished soup onto the barley. Garnish with some chopped parsley and grated Parmesan cheese, serve and enjoy!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As written, this recipe will serve an army - or several generations of your family at a minimum. Make the soup, eat some, save some for lunch the next day, then freeze the rest for later use. You can add the remaining cooked barley to the cooled soup as desired before you freeze. Lastly, feel free make this soup vegetarian by using 10 cups of vegetable broth and omitting the chicken. I happen to like the combination of the two, but your mileage may vary, of course.

My repentance is now complete and I'm looking forward to my lunch of left-over soup today. I'm back in business and back on The Beach! Stay tuned for a post on knife-sharpening tips, courtesy of Papa Diva, next week - as well as some holiday tips for Thanksgiving. We've got a lot of catching up to do here!

Bon appetite!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Classic ...

Few things are as comforting as a meal of tomato soup and grilled cheese. Its a classic. It is the stuff of my childhood. Of course, in those days, the grilled cheese was Land 'O Lakes American cheese on white and the soup was courtesy of Campbell's. Naturally, my tastes have matured, though up until a year ago I was still happily tucking myself into a bowl of Campbell's tomato soup every now and then ... until I took a look at the label and realized that high fructose corn syrup was the fourth ingredient listed. Frankly, I was heartbroken. Though, I'd long ago switched to Campbell's Healthy Request - it never occurred to me to look beyond the sodium content and see what else was in it. I haven't been able to bring myself to eat it since. But that doesn't mean I've given up one of my favorite soups. These days, I make it from scratch.

Or, if feeling wicked - and that would be pre-South Beach - I'd indulge in this heavenly combination at Buchon Bakery cafe in the Time Warner Center. Buchon's version of this classic is luscious, decadent and altogether sinful. The soup is thick and rich with the sunny flavor of San Marzano tomatoes and the sandwich? Its exquisite. Oozing with an abundance of nearly liquid fontina and gruyere which alone would be divine - but housed between crisp, buttery slices of Buchon's stunning pain de mie and ... ~swoon~ ... this is the classic combo exponentiated to stratospheric level. I told you it was wicked.

Now, I'm not suggesting that we recreate such wickedness - but we can make an exceptional version of this classic at home. It took me a couple of tries to get this tomato soup recipe right but I'm well pleased with the results. Its so savory and comforting. I do use the San Marzano tomatoes and I think they make a difference. While I call for a bit of cayenne pepper in the recipe, this is not a spicy soup. I've used just enough cayenne to give it the warmth it needs. I believe its essential.

Props go out to my dearest friend, O, for the grilled cheese inspiration. In pre-Beach days, I was making this gc on some lovely, rustic rosemary bread - but alas it was made of white flour so that's out. These days I'm using a hearty, sugar-free whole grain bread and some excellent Gruyere Reserve cheese. I do so love the interest that the rosemary brings, so I've used some chopped fresh rosemary mixed with a bit of Dijon mustard. The sandwich will not taste of mustard, its mainly used as a glue for the herbs. If you're not on the beach, by all means opt for the rustic rosemary loaf and omit the fresh herbs if you like. The combination of the sharp gruyere and tart apples with a hint of rosemary is to die for.

Rich Tomato Soup:

  • 1 tsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 small stalk of celery, diced
  • 1 small carrot, diced
  • 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste (I like Luigi Vitelli brand)
  • one 14.5 oz. can of vegetable broth
  • one 14.5 oz. can of low-sodium chicken broth
  • one 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
  • leaves from 1 small sprig of fresh thyme, optional
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of fat-free Half and Half, optional
Melt the butter and olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, celery and carrots and saute for approximately 4 to 5 minutes or until the shallots are translucent and the celery has begun to soften. Do not allow the vegetables to brown.

Add the Kosher salt, some ground black pepper and 1/8 tsp. of cayenne pepper. Stir to combine. Add the tomato paste and stir well, coating the vegetables with the paste as it melts. Add vegetable broth, chicken broth and crushed tomatoes and stir well to combine. Add the thyme, if using. Raise the heat and allow the soup to just come to the boil, then lower the heat, cover and allow the soup to simmer for 30 minutes or until the carrots have softened, stirring occasionally.

Remove the pan from the heat and, using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. (Alternately, you may use a blender if yours is not anemic like mine.) Return the soup to the stove and add the half and half, if desired. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if desired. Do not allow the soup to boil once the cream has been added, just let it simmer on low. Serve and enjoy!

Grilled Cheese with Apples, Gruyere and Rosemary:

  • 4 slices of sugar-free whole grain bread
  • 1 1/2tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Some sharp Gruyere cheese, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
In a small bowl, combine the Dijon mustard and rosemary, stirring well to blend. Spread a bit of the herbed mustard on one slice of the whole grain bread. Top with some thinly sliced gruyere cheese to cover, then layer on some slices of apple. Top with additional cheese and the remaining slice of bread. Reserve. Repeat the steps for the second sandwich.

Heat the oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add the sandwiches and grill, turning as necessary until the sandwiches are brown and the cheese has melted fully. Serve and enjoy!

Notes: I have used a bit of butter in the soup but you can certainly use olive oil alone. I happen to think a bit of butter is necessary in tomato soup, and used sparingly I think its fine. Do as you see fit. As for the Half and Half - again the choice is up to you. I use only 2 tablespoons of fat-free Half and Half to enrich the soup, as I prefer the tomato flavor to dominate. If you prefer a creamier version, by all means add more - or, if you're not fat-averse, you could opt for some light cream. As for the sandwich, I don't use much cheese and typically I can only eat half ... its very filling!

Pair this grown-up grilled cheese and tomato soup with a crisp, green salad and I can't think of a better way to usher in the first cool nights of Fall. Its a heavenly, soul-warming meal. I hope you'll try it!

Bon appetite!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

An Abundance of Chard ...

If there's a more photogenic vegetable in the garden than Swiss Chard, I'm not sure what it is. True, the tomatoes might give chard a run for its money, but you just can't beat the gorgeous ruby stems of this beauty. I snapped the pick for posterity because this lovely bunch came back to New York City with me on Monday.

I've been meaning to make something different with the chard this time and had a white bean soup in mind. The weather is not cooperating with my plan. Its 400 degrees here again. Distinctly un-soupy weather, save for the humidity. But, I want to make soup, dammit! I'm going to make soup and we're going to eat it too, even if it means cranking the a/c up as high as it will go.

Before we get to the recipe of the day, I will - at last - share my news. You may have noticed the little "Featured Publisher" badge on the top right side of the blog. It will link you to Foodbuzz.com, which is the foodie version of a social networking site. Its an awesome resource for all kinds of food related fun - full of great blogs, recipes, photos, restaurant reviews and more. About a month ago I submitted Beach Eats for inclusion in their Featured Publisher Program and I've been accepted! I'm thrilled to be associated with such a cool new site and I look forward to the possibilities for Beach Eats. I've already met some wonderful blog friends through Foodbuzz and I'm excited about the potential for gaining increased readership. Whether or not that will actually happen remains to be seen - but, at a minimum, it means that someone has read my content and found it acceptable. Color me as bright and happy as this chard!

And now, let's get cooking. I didn't really have a specific recipe in mind when I made this soup last night - just got a bunch of ingredients together and let the soup develop as I went along. Its all pretty standard really and the amounts listed are entirely flexible. I used some whole wheat orzo in the soup, but you could certainly substitute any variety of small pasta - or even leave it out. I also used some turkey bacon and I'd like to talk about that for a minute. If you choose to use turkey rather than real bacon, be sure to buy a brand that is as chemical-free as possible. I've had good results with Applegate Farms nitrate-free turkey bacon. Its lean and has a nice, unprocessed, smoky flavor. I once made the mistake of buying Jennie-O turkey bacon and it was awful. Tasted like a mouth full of chemicals. Horrid! I ended up throwing it out. So, please don't use that brand in this soup.

Swiss Chard and White Bean Soup:

  • one large bunch of Swiss Chard
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 tbsp. minced onion
  • 1 rib of celery, leaves included if possible
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 pieces of turkey bacon
  • 2 -3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. of fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 4 cups of low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups of vegetable broth
  • 1/2 tsp. of good quality curry powder*
  • 2 inch piece of Parmesan cheese rind
  • one can of cannellini beans
  • one can of small white beans (I used Goya low-sodium brand)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • some cooked whole wheat orzo or other small pasta
Garnishes:

  • chopped fresh parsley
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • some smoked salt
  • wedge of lemon to be sprinkled over the soup at table
Remove any large, tough stems from the chard and wash it well. Drain and chop into bite sized pieces. Reserve.

Heat a large, heavy bottomed, stock pot over medium high heat, add the turkey bacon and saute until well browned. Remove and reserve for later. Add the olive oil, shallots, onion, garlic and celery to the pot and saute, stirring often to pick up the browned bits on the bottom and sides of the pan. Continue sauteing for @ 3 minutes, until the vegetables have softened.

Begin adding the chard, in bunches, to the pan and saute, stirring constantly until wilted. Once the greens have cooked down, add in another handful of the chard and repeat the process until all of it has wilted. This process will take some time, be patient.

Stir in the rosemary and saute for one minute. Add the chicken and vegetable broths to the pot, along with the curry powder and stir to combine. Add the piece of Parmesan cheese rind, bring the soup to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer the soup for 15 minutes. Remove the Parmesan rind after simmering and discard. (Hint, it is used for flavor, but don't waste the lovely, melty bits of cheese that will develop while simmering. Scrape them off and eat them. Delish!)

While the soup is simmering, prepare the beans. Drain and rinse the cannellini beans and reserve. Drain and rinse the small white beans and mash them to a paste, either using a fork or your food processor. Reserve. Once the soup has simmered for the recommended time, add in the mashed beans and stir vigorously to blend. Add in the reserved whole beans and stir to combine. Chop the reserved turkey bacon and add it to the pot. Let the soup simmer for @ 5 more minutes to heat through. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more salt and a generous grinding of black pepper to taste.

Place some of the cooked pasta in the bottom of a bowl and ladle the chard and bean soup over it. Serve with any or all of the above listed garnishes and enjoy! I particularly recommend the smoked salt - it adds a wonderful flavor and is great with any egg or pasta dishes as well.

I should note for the record - the finished product is decidedly un-photogenic, hence no final pictures here. But, what it lacks in visuals is made up for in taste. This soup is a healthy, hearty, meal in a bowl. I hope you'll try it!

*One final note about the curry powder ... this soup will not taste like a curried soup. I always add a hint of good quality curry powder to any chicken broth based dish I make. When using a canned stock, it can often lack depth and I find the hint of curry really compliments the chicken flavor and adds to the overall richness of the soup. Give it a try next time you're making a chicken soup - you won't be disappointed!