Summer vegetable soup

When you tire of summer salads, try soup! Now that seems like an odd notion in mid-summer. But…. High-summer season vegetables are coming in now: zucchini, green beans, sweet, sweet carrots. So toss them all in a soup pot and after you make some vegetable stock, make some vegetable soup. Nutritious, delicious and naturally low-calorie/carb.

Ingredients:

1 onion (or 2 spring onions, with greens cut up and added later)

2 large carrots, diced medium

4 garlic cloves, minced medium

thyme – fresh or dried

1 zucchini – soaked, then cut into quarters and sliced

1 bay leaf

¼ to ½ # green beans, tipped and tailed, cut into 1-1/2 to 2” pieces OR bunch of swiss chard, stems removed, leaves torn and washed

1 15-oz can garbanzo beans, rinsed

optional: corn cut from 2-3 ears; leftover rice; parmesan cheese rind; scallions if no fresh onion greens

Directions:

  1. Put zucchini in sink or bowl to soak whole. (Removes any soil that settled into skin.) Dice onion, then carrots.
  2. Heat soup pot and add 2-3 T oil over medium-high heat. Cook onions with salt until soft. Add carrots, zucchini, thyme, S&P (hearty pinch of salt!), and cook until softened. Stir in garlic and bay leaf and cook for a minute until fragrant.
  3. Pour in vegetable stock – about 4-5 cups total (can include some water), and bring to rapid simmer. Throw in green beans and cook about 10+ minutes until just tender. Add rinsed beans, and corn and/or rice, if using.

 

If you have leftovers, refrigerate for up to one week.

Inspiration source

Cream of cauliflower soup

It is cold, cold, dead of winter cold.  And did I mention dreary?  No snow.  Just cold.  And grey.

Time to make soup!  Decided to buy a head of cauliflower.  Got out the frozen chicken stock.  We’re not calling it chicken soup — though it’s that — but rather with a head of cauliflower and some cream, we’re calling it cream of cauliflower soup.

Here’s the idea of it:  Defrost a quart of chicken stock.  If it’s still frozen, heat it up in a saucepan, probably covered.  Saute some onions/leeks and celery, add cumin and ginger (powdered) and garlic (always!), the cauliflower, broken up into florets by cutting out core, 1 quart stock and 2 c water.  Cook for 15 mins.  Throw the solids into a food processor, probably in batches, not bothering to get out a second pot.  Add 1/2 c or more of heavy cream and heat with S&P.  Voila!  Call in dinner.

While you’re at it, cook a brisket to eat the next night.  Why not.

Directions:

  1. Defrost and/or heat up 1 qt. chicken stock. Rinse and de-core one head of cauliflower, which will create florets. Don’t worry about size.
  2. Dice one stalk celery with some inner leaves.  Dice one onion (or leeks, if you have ’em).
  3. Get out soup pot and put on medium heat with 2 T butter and 2 T oil.  I used olive earl.  Throw in your celery and onions, and saute, stirring occasionally, for 10 mins.  About 4 mins before the end, add minced garlic, probably about 3 cloves.  At end, add 2 t curry powder, and 2 t powdered ginger, some S&P.  Cook spices for only 1 min.image
  4. Add cauliflower, stock and water.  Cook 15 mins uncovered, breaking up cauliflower a bit, until tender.  Let cool for about 15 mins or so.image
  5. Scoop out cauliflower, etc (leaving liquid in pot) into food processor.  Don’t fill too much.  Process and return to pot.  Scoop out more large solids and repeat.  Return all to pot with 1/2c+ of heavy cream.  Add S&P and heat through.  Call it dinner.  With some cheese and crackers.

 

Inspiration/source:  Sheila Lukins, Cream of Cauliflower Soup, Epicurious Oct 2008

Split pea soup

image

If you go to holiday parties in December, odds are you are going to see baked hams.  They show up at all parties — high-end to low-brow, culinarily speaking. (Contra Dorothy Parker:  “Eternity is a ham and two people.”)

At a party this weekend — that was pretty dreadful food-wise as it was pot-luck for non-foodcentric people — I asked the ham-bringer if I might have the bone at the end of evening.  See, the thought came into my head that with a ham bone I was on my way to split pea soup.  I bought a bag of split peas for a whopping 99 cents and was ready to roll.  Folks, I’m here to say there is not much more to making yourself some split pea soup than a ham bone and a bag o’ beans. Assuming of course you following Louise’s dictum of always having stock.  I was out of chicken, so I had some going in the stock pot yesterday, and then decided to make split pea soup from the fresh stock.

Here’s what I did (and I’d do it again, even ham-less, or especially ham-less!):

  1. Take your ham bone, and with a paring knife, get in there and cut off ham close to the bone.  Throw out the disgusting fatty pieces, and cut remaining into cubes, to make about 2 c.
  2. Pick over and rinse your beans, and put in a soup pot.  For 1 # beans, add 5 cups stock.  (Alternate directions below if you are — gasp! — stock-less.)  Put your ham bone in.  If it’s very large and protrudes greatly out of the liquid, do like I did and grab it and break in half at the joint.  That felt good!
  3. Bring to a near boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally for about 45 minutes.  Less time needed if your beans are fresh.  You won’t know that probably in advance, and I don’t dried beans move quickly in the supermarket.  But it does not matter — they will cook either way.image
  4. You can puree, but if you just cook long enough, until peas are very, very soft (which is what you want — you don’t want resistance from the peas when you eat it) the peas will mostly fall apart and thicken the soup.  I didn’t puree.
  5. Add in cubed ham, S&P, stir and heat gently.  Ladle and serve.  Voila!  Croutons or oysters crackers are good, but not necessary if you have that ham.

What to do ham-less:

Saute one chopped onion, a couple carrots and one celery stalk in olive oil.  Can add a thyme sprig with the stock.  You’ll probably want to run all this through a food mill at the end (or whir in blender).

To add creaminess, you can add a potato, peeled and cut up into large pieces with the peas (or 1/2 c white rice, which I won’t do most likely (white rice says to me: “empty carbs” and I would rather my empty carbs be of the chocolate variety).

 

Broccoli in a nice winter soup

If you get on board with my stock-making program, you’re more than halfway to any night (or day’s) quick and easy soup.  All done in under 20 minutes from thinking of it to soup in the bowl. And as a bonus, get this: you’re eating chicken soup! Even if you’re eating cream of broccoli  Get it? It’s all good for your body.

Here’s the outline to make cream of broccoli soup:

Defrost 1 quart vegetable stock.  (I stick container in a bowl of water to dislodge, then dump frozen stock in pan and heat, covered.  Voila!  No planning needed.)

Cut up and trim your broccoli (i.e., cut off outsides of lower trunk-type parts), all rough cut.  Heat stock, add broccoli, cover and simmer about 15 minutes until tender, maybe less.  Add salt while broccoli cooks.

When tender, run all through food mill, or use blender (carefully).  Return to pot, add cream or half and half, heat and serve.

That’s really the recipe too.  Proportions for two servings are:

1 quart stock (vegetable or chicken)

1 # broccoli

1 russet (baking) potato, peeled and chopped, optional OR 1/4 c white rice, uncooked, also optional (I might try leftover brown rice, but it might make soup lumpy)

1/3 c half and half (or less if using heavy cream, which would be better probably)

Eat and feel virtuous for eating such a large quantity of broccoli in one seating (and not minding one bit).  Eat an orange.  It’s winter and Cara Cara are ridiculously sweet.  I like to cut an orange as follows:  Cut in half end to end.  Lay each half face down, cut off end and then make thick slices.  A more fun way to eat.  Feels like dessert.

On second thought: if you don’t have stock on hand but still want to make this soup, saute an onion to start, for about 5 mins in butter.  Add water and broccoli, and please use heavy cream since you’ll probably want to not dilute the liquid. Mangia!

Tomato Soup

image3 c. vegetable stock

1 carrot, diced

1 onion, diced

1 can (28 oz) of whole tomatoes (preferably San Marzano or other Italian)

1 c. cream or half-and-half

S&P

Optional: fresh thyme sprigs (not a lot – about ½ t worth if you pulled them off the stem)

 

  1. Put 2 T olive (or other) oil in heavy-bottomed soup pan and turn on heat to medium. Add onion and carrot, S&P, stir and sauté for about 5 minutes until onion is cooked but not brown. (You don’t want uncooked onion because it won’t continue cooking much in the tomatoes later.)
  2. Add canned tomatoes (without bothering to break them up) and thyme if using. Leave at medium heat until tomatoes bubble, stirring often with a wooden spoon, and breaking up the tomatoes a bit each time you stir.
  3. After about 10-15 minutes when tomatoes look like they are breaking down a bit, add warmed stock and stir. Add in cream.
  4. Run your soup through a food mill, or puree carefully in blender, or stick a stick blender into the pot. Taste for S&P.
  5. Serve as is or with croutons. Bon Appetit!

 

Day 1

I have a gripe.  Here it is:  We in the US are a nation of star chef worshipers and Food TV competition aficionados.  We read and debate diets (paleo, gluten-free, vegan, etc).  We read beautiful magazines with food porn-ish photos, and follow on social media.  But what are we doing in our kitchens?  Not much, apparently. I have (just today!) decided to embark on a project intended to encourage and guide you, the timid or novice would-be cook, to use your kitchen and make yourself some nice meals.  Actually, I have tinkered with the notion of writing a cookbook called, yup, Simply Cook.  But that name is taken by a website.  So I am starting here.  Blogging.

I generally cook by the seasons and encourage you to do so.  Here’s why:  (1) It’s easier.  I enjoy shopping at farmers markets and when kale is in that’s a good time to buy it and cook with it.  (2) It tastes better.  Tomatoes are only good in tomato season.  I love a good tomato. But only in peak summer season.  (3) It makes your cooking better.  Fresh vegetables in season (rather than shipped to the east coast from CA, or Chile) taste better. You have to do much less to make the dish taste delicious when you have started with delicious, fresh vegetables.  (4) Cooking in season actually helps you eat what you feel like eating then anyway.  For example:  cucumbers in salad with tomatoes are delicious in summer.  I don’t want them in winter.  In winter I want a hearty braised stew or warming soup.  See? So here’s today’s recipe for a winter eve.

Tomato soup

3 c. vegetable stock

1 carrot, diced

1 onion, diced

1 can (28 oz) of whole tomatoes (preferably San Marzano or other Italian)

1 c. cream or half-and-half

S&P

Optional: fresh thyme sprigs (not a lot – about ½ t worth if you pulled them off the stem)

 

  1. Put 2 T olive (or other) oil in heavy-bottomed soup pan and turn on heat to medium. Add onion and carrot, S&P, stir and sauté for about 5 minutes until onion is cooked but not brown. (You don’t want uncooked onion because it won’t continue cooking much in the tomatoes later.)
  2. Add canned tomatoes (without bothering to break them up) and thyme if using. Leave at medium heat until tomatoes bubble, stirring often with a wooden spoon, and breaking up the tomatoes a bit each time you stir.
  3. After about 10-15 minutes when tomatoes look like they are breaking down a bit, add warmed stock and stir. Add in cream.
  4. Run your soup through a food mill, or puree carefully in blender, or stick a stick blender into the pot. Taste for S&P.
  5. Serve as is or with croutons. Bon Appetit!