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Recently finished reading The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas. It’s a very, very good read. It tells the story of an older married woman who lives in a small mining town in the Colorado rockies (this is the mid-1800’s), and is well known by all because she’s the only midwife in the area. Often people can’t pay her anything, or very little for her days of service with little or no rest or food. Suddenly, a couple accuse her of strangling their infant. Hence the story is about how this small town rallies or rails for or against Gracy. She didn’t commit the crime, but not everyone can be convinced since the angry father is a wealthy and influential man in the area. There’s plenty of relationship issues here, which make really great fodder for a novel. And there are plenty of characters in the book that you’ll love or hate. Some secrets get dredged up too. Oh, such a good read.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Fish, Soups, on December 27th, 2017.

shrimp_potato_chowder

Oh – My – Goodness! This soup is just off the charts. When I tell you you need to make this, do you trust me on that?

My friend Cherrie made this soup and brought it to our Christmas cookie baking day a few weeks ago. She said she’d really wanted to try this recipe, and so she brought a big tub of it. She wouldn’t tell Jackie or me what was in it. Of course, we could see shrimp – big, honkin’ ones, most of them bigger than the soup spoon. We cold see onion, potato, and celery and some bell pepper too. Plus some little bacon pieces. And a really rich, creamy soup to go along with it. She said “there’s no cream in it.” We tried guessing – Half and Half? No. Coconut milk? No. Almond milk? No. Non-Dairy Creamer? No. Evaporated milk? No. Is there dairy in it, I asked? Yes, but not what you’d think. Cheese, I said? Nope.

I almost don’t want to tell you – – – but if I do, I think you’ll stop reading right this minute and never go on. And you’ll never make it because you’ll just say no-no, can’t do that. Too rich. Too fattening.

The soup is SO very easy to make – Cherrie found the recipe at allrecipes.com, and made it mostly according to the recipe, although she added some dried thyme, and she DID thin down the soup part with regular milk because it was too thick, she thought.

So, are you ready to hear the “reveal?” It’s cream cheese. Who’d have ever thought to make soup with cream cheese? And yes, it’s rich. And yes, it’s decadent. And YES, it’s fabulous! Well, why wouldn’t it be with cream cheese in it??

I haven’t made this myself – so I’m giving you the recipe exactly as Cherrie made it – using 2 bricks of cream cheese. But that quantity feeds a lot of people. Probably 8 people as a dinner-sized portion. I had the leftovers twice. It’s very filling. I may make this myself . . . and if I do I’m going to use half the amount of cream cheese and use half and half to fill up the quantity of soup part.

This would make a great New Year’s Eve Dinner. My parents, for over 30 years, got together with another couple to play pinochle on that night of the year (other nights too, but almost always on Dec. 31st), and my Mom would make oyster stew. It was their tradition. The score card for their years and years of playing the game was taped to the bottom of the card table and they’d reminisce about previous games and scores. I’m not a fan of oysters, so I wouldn’t be making that, but this would be a great stand-in.

What’s GOOD: the flavor of this soup is a 10 and or a 100, whatever scale you want to use. Is it rich? Yes. But I’d definitely make this myself, though as I mentioned I’d try using half the cream cheese and adding half and half. Do not boil the soup or it will separate. Am sure this would freeze just fine. Don’t over-cook it, either, because you don’t want to dry out the shrimp.

What’s NOT: well, the fat content is about the only thing! Other than that, it’s so worth making.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Shrimp Chowder

Recipe By: Adapted from allrecipes.com
Serving Size: 8

6 slices lean bacon — chopped
1 cup celery — sliced
1/2 cup yellow onion — finely chopped
1/2 bell pepper — chopped
4 tablespoons butter — any color
1 teaspoon dried thyme
16 ounces cream cheese — diced
3 1/2 cups milk — or more as needed
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 large Russet potato — unpeeled, cubed
1 pound shrimp — thawed and drained
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Chopped Italian parsley for garnish

1. In a large stock pot saute bacon until lightly browned and crispy. Remove to a paper towel and pour off most of the bacon grease. Add to the pot the celery, onions and butter. Saute for 3-5 minutes until the vegetables are translucent. Crush the dried thyme between your palms and add to the mixture.
2. Meanwhile, in another pot simmer the cubed potatoes in water until they are nearly tender. Drain and set aside.
3. To the vegetables add cream cheese and milk; stir over low heat until cream cheese is completely melted.
4. Add cooked potatoes, shrimp, reserved bacon, dry white wine and salt. Heat thoroughly (until shrimp have turned white), stirring occasionally. Add fresh pepper and taste for seasoning. Add more milk as needed to thin it to your desired consistency. Serve. May add chopped Italian parsley on top if desired.
Per Serving: 423 Calories; 32g Fat (69.5% calories from fat); 21g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 167mg Cholesterol; 594mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on December 11th, 2017.

mushroom_soup_wo_cream

Thrilled with the results of this home made mushroom soup without a speck of cream.

Sometime recently I ordered mushroom soup at a restaurant, and expected it to be a nice little cup with mushrooms swimming in it AND in a creamy broth. Nope. It had no cream in it, and wow, was it good. So I promised myself I’d try to replicate it at home. Couldn’t be that hard, right? I found several recipes, but settled on one from the New York Times, that actually was a pureed soup. That I didn’t want, but I stuck with their recipe for the most part.

The secret to making this is layering lots of flavors – all things complementary to soup, of course. Like shallots, leeks, onions. I bought crimini mushrooms, regular button mushrooms, plus some shiitake. And to help with layering, I used some dried mushrooms. Once I found them at my local market, I had a several choices. Mostly they contained oyster mushrooms and chanterelle. Those were fine – they’re in a tiny little clamshell box. They got soaked in hot water for 30 minutes before I began. Most recipes tell you to use the soaking liquid, but on this little box from Melissa’s Produce, it said NOT to use the water, so I discarded it. Sometimes that mushroom water can taste a little off.

What I have in my refrigerator is a plastic one-pound tub of mushroom concentrate (broth, like chicken broth concentrate). And oh, was it perfect for this. If you can find it in your stores, please use it. Mine is from “Custom Culinary” in Oswego IL. Here’s the link at Amazon for it: Custom Culinary Gold Label Vegan Mushroom Base, 1 Pound. I’ve had mine for at least a year or more and it’s shown no degradation of quality at all.

Chopping up all the fresh mushrooms took awhile, but the 3 different kinds added different texture. One little surprise ingredient is a jot of soy sauce, and I just KNOW it added great flavor. You don’t taste it – there’s not enough in there to do that, but it’s good umami flavor. I simmered the soup for about 45 minutes, cooled it and packaged it up for freezing and left one container for eating. As of tonight, I’ve had it for 3 meals. I just LOVE the flavor of it – love the leeks, the broth, and the tooth of the mushrooms themselves. The original called for a Parmesan rind, but I didn’t bother, although I do have one in my refrigerator. For me, this soup doesn’t need cheese! But a nice piece of toast with some melted Parm on top would be a great little topper for this soup. And, of course, you could drizzle in a little bit of sour cream or cream if you wanted to. I’m amazed at the calorie count (low, really low).

What’s GOOD: for sure the super-over-the-top mushroom flavor. Might be from the mushroom base – don’t know for sure. Love the meatiness of the mushrooms and there were lots in this soup. Freezes well. A keeper.

What’s NOT: you’ll likely have to go shopping for some of the ingredients (leeks, maybe shallots, and the mushroom base, the dried mushrooms and maybe all the varieties of fresh mushrooms too).

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Mushroom Soup without Cream

Recipe By: Adapted from a New York Times recipe
Serving Size: 6

1/2 ounce dried mushrooms — prefer porcini, or a mixture of dried mushroom types
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion — chopped
2 medium shallots — peeled, chopped
1 large leek — white and light green part only, sliced lengthwise, then chopped, rinsed well
Salt to taste
1 1/2 pounds mushrooms — (white and cremini) sliced
4 ounces shiitake mushroom — stems discarded, sliced
5 cups low sodium chicken broth — or mushroom stock or vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons dried thyme — crushed between your palms
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry — to taste (optional) (1 to 2)
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup Italian parsley — chopped (garnish)

NOTE: I use Custom Culinary Mushroom Base – for the recipe to serve 6 I used a heaping tablespoon (plus the water, of course) in lieu of the low sodium chicken broth. It’s available from Amazon.
1. Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl or pyrex measuring cup and cover with 1 cup boiling water. Let sit for 30 minutes. Remove mushrooms and discard the water. (Some chefs use the hydrating water, but most dried mushroom packages recommend discarding the water as it often has “off” flavors.) Chop up the rehydrated mushrooms in small pieces and set aside.
2. Heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven and add the onion, shallots and leek and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until tender and, about 5 to 8 minutes. Do not brown. Add fresh and reconstituted mushrooms and cook, stirring, until they begin to sweat and smell fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes.
3. Add the broth, bay leaf, thyme, soy sauce and salt to taste, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes. Remove the bay leaf.
4. If desired, you may blend the soup until smooth. Taste and adjust salt, and add pepper and the sherry, if using. Add the extra half cup of stock and heat through, stirring. If the soup seems too thick, thin out a little more but remember to taste and adjust seasoning. Serve in espresso cups or in bowls, garnishing each serving with chopped Italian parsley.
Per Serving: 215 Calories; 7g Fat (26.7% calories from fat); 15g Protein; 28g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 10mg Cholesterol; 792mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on December 7th, 2017.

sweet_potato_chix_peanut_butter_soup

 Lots of flavors going on in this soup and it’s easy to make. The toppings? Chopped peanuts and chopped cilantro plus a drizzle of cream. I’m SO glad I have leftovers.

Back about 9 years ago I posted this soup and hadn’t made it in the interim. I’d attended a birthday party back then, for my friend Cherrie (I think it was when she turned 50) and her friend Robin (the hostess) served the previous version of this soup. There was no particular reason that I forgot about it – except that when you run a food blog, as I’ve mentioned here before, you always need to be trying NEW soups, not old ones. However, I was entertaining a group of women for an event at my house (10 of us) and didn’t want risk to be a factor – I needed a tried and true recipe. I did make a few changes to the soup, though, so it is slightly different than the old recipe. The friends came to watch a movie (A Man Called Ove) and to have lunch and dessert.

The soup – – it starts out with sweet potatoes. You could use either kind (yellow or orange) but I chose the orange because of color only. The potatoes are coated in peanut oil and roasted. The original recipe called for a boat load of oven-roasted Roma tomatoes – I decided to change that – I used San Marzano canned tomatoes which should be just as good. There’s onion, garlic, curry powder and cayenne in it too, plus chicken broth and coconut milk. And chicken pieces, and peanut butter (a lot, actually, but this recipe makes a lot of soup) plus the toppings. I wanted to have a bit more texture to the soup (because you blend the soup to smooth without the chicken). So, I bought a pound of butternut squash and roasted it in the oven, even broiled them at the last minute to get some lovely caramelization on them, chopped them up and those are kind of hidden underneath the little pile of nuts and cilantro in the picture.

As with most soups, they’re so much better the next day, so I did that and merely had to re-heat the soup and prepare the toppings and I was ready to serve it to my friends. The drizzle of cream wasn’t in the original (you could use a drizzle of coconut milk if you wanted to be more authentic). You don’t taste the peanut butter, which is surprising since there was 3/4 cup of it in the soup. I’ve added my new photo to the old post since the photo I had before wasn’t all that great. Boy, I’ve come a long way taking photos for my blog!

What’s GOOD: uhmmmm, this soup is so delish. Love the smooth texture, but also the toppings – the crunch of the peanuts particularly. You could easily make this vegetarian if you want to, by using vegetable broth and no chicken. The soup itself is thick (hearty). You could try different toppings if you prefer to. Freezes well.

What’s NOT: there are a variety of steps to make this – roasting the sweet potatoes and the butternut squash (ideally do those at the same time, or use only sweet potatoes and no butternut squash). I have a good Vitamix blender which did a really good job of smoothing out the soup, but you could use an immersion blender too.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Senegalese Sweet Potato and Peanut Soup with Chicken

Recipe By: Originally from Emeril Lagasse, but adapted
Serving Size: 10

1 1/4 pounds sweet potatoes — yellow or orange
12 ounces butternut squash — (approximate) seeded, peeled, cut into 1″ pieces
1/4 cup peanut oil — divided uses
3 tablespoons curry powder
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
2 large garlic cloves — minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper — (use more if you’d like)
1 1/2 quarts low sodium chicken broth
28 ounces canned tomatoes — San Marzano type
3/4 cup peanut butter — smooth type
20 ounces coconut milk — use full fat
2 teaspoons salt — or more to taste
3/4 teaspoon white pepper — or more to taste
2 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
GARNISH:
4 tablespoons fresh cilantro — minced
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
10 tablespoons heavy cream — or coconut milk

NOTE: the butternut squash is used as a garnish, not to be pureed into the soup.
1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. In a large bowl place the sweet potatoes that have been cut into large chunks. Use a small part of the oil to coat the pieces and pour out onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Do the same with the butternut squash on a separate baking sheet.
3. Roast the sweet potatoes and butternut squash for about 45-50 minutes until they’re just fork tender. Remove and set aside to cool. Remove skins from the sweet potatoes and discard.
4. In a large pot, use the remaining oil and heat it until it begins to shimmer. Add the curry powder and gently saute it for 30-45 seconds while the oil bubbles. Do not burn. Add the chopped onion and stir frequently as the onion softens, 3-4 minutes. Add garlic, cayenne, then the chicken broth. As it heats to a simmer, add the peanut butter and stir well, breaking up the pieces. Add the coconut milk, canned tomatoes and the reserved sweet potatoes and bring soup to a full simmer, reduce heat, cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Add salt and white pepper to taste. Puree soup in a blender until smooth, or use an immersion blender in the soup pot.
5. CHICKEN: Cut the chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces. Coat with peanut oil, salt and pepper and bake them for about 10 minutes at 350°F. You can use the same baking sheet you used for the sweet potatoes. Do not overcook – you want them to be just barely cooked through. Remove and cool. Add to the soup, or keep them separate and add a portioned amount to each bowl.
6. BUTTERNUT SQUASH: Even though you’ve cooked the butternut squash, it’s nice to have the small pieces caramelize. Just before serving, chop the squash into small bite-sized pieces and place on the same parchment-lined baking sheet and broil them until the edges have begun to brown.
7. TOPPINGS: Prepare the minced cilantro and peanuts. When serving, scoop about 1 1/2 cups of soup into a wide bowl, add the caramelized butternut squash pieces, chicken (if you didn’t add it into the soup before), chopped peanuts and cilantro. Use a soup spoon and drizzle a tablespoon of cream or coconut milk around each serving.
Per Serving: 628 Calories; 40g Fat (55.0% calories from fat); 43g Protein; 30g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 86mg Cholesterol; 1043mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on October 6th, 2017.

chilled_yellow_sq_soup_thai_flavors

Do you like Thai food? I sure do, yet I don’t have it often. There’s a tiny hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant near me that serves very authentic (I think) Thai food with whatever degree of heat you can handle.

In this little Thai restaurant the husband works the front, and the wife does a lot of the cooking. I need to go there more often. I love their Pad Thai, probably the most common American Thai restaurant specialty. Lots of carbs, however.

So, I digress . . . I had decided to make some more yellow squash (cold) soup, and when I began I wanted to use up some fresh ginger I had, semi-withering in a kitchen counter bowl. With that, my mind turned to the Thai green curry paste I have in my refrigerator. Love the flavor it adds to things. So rather than repeat what I’d made before, I decided to make this version a little Asian. A little Thai.

The soup was so easy to make – onion in oil, added the squash, some garlic, Thai green curry paste, the fresh ginger, then some chicken broth (or you could use coconut milk) and I let it simmer for about 20 minutes until the squash was super-tender. Cooled it on my countertop for a little bit, then whizzed it up in my Vitamix blender until smooth. I added in some salt, pepper, lemon juice and sour cream. That was chilled down overnight and as I’m writing this I had it for my lunch today, that little bowl up top. Actually I had 2 bowls of it. It was so refreshing for a hot summer day. It’s still summer where I live in SoCalifornia.

You could use any kind of garnishes – cilantro is a must, however, then you could add toasted sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds. Or no seeds at all. Whatever floats your boat. The sour cream adds a lovely silkiness to the soup. You could add milk, or soy milk instead. Or some Greek yogurt too. Any of the above. This soup is versatile. I like just a little bit of texture to the soup, but not much. Use your own judgment about that too. If you’d like to, cut off the stems of the cilantro and add those into the soup at the beginning. It will add flavor without the green from the leaves. I didn’t think of it, or I would have! Altogether lovely soup. The curry paste doesn’t add enough flavor that you can distinguish curry (honest) and the ginger adds just a tiny bit of flavor AND a tiny bit of heat. Or maybe the heat was from the green curry paste. I’m not sure. Altogether good, though.

What’s GOOD: this soup is so easy to make, though it’s best if it’s refrigerated overnight. It will meld the flavors and get it plenty cold. Use your own choice of garnishes. This is not a thick, heavy soup at all – probably wouldn’t satisfy for a dinner, but it was fine for my lunch with a cookie afterwards. Low calorie, even with the sour cream. This soup isn’t going to knock your socks off with flavor – by that I mean the soup is subtle, mild, as you’d expect using yellow squash.

What’s NOT: nothing at all. You could serve this warm, but if you do, make sure you do NOT bring the soup to a boil – the sour cream will separate and make the soup curdle. Not attractive!

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Chilled Yellow Squash Soup with Thai Flavors

Recipe By: My own concoction
Serving Size: 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 yellow onion — chopped
3 pounds yellow squash — chopped coarsely
2 garlic cloves — minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger — diced
5 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon green curry paste
1/2 cup sour cream — or full-fat yogurt
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup cilantro — minced
1/2 cup sunflower seeds — or pumpkin seeds (optional)

1. Saute onion in olive oil for 3-5 minutes until onion has softened. Add squash, garlic, green curry paste, fresh ginger and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 15-20 minutes until the squash is tender.
2. Set aside to cool for 15-20 minutes. Add sour cream and lemon juice, then pour the soup into a blender and puree until smooth. Taste for seasonings, adding salt and pepper as needed. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
3. Taste again for more salt or pepper, then pour 1 1/2 cups (each serving) into a bowl and garnish with cilantro and seeds, if desired. If serving warm, do not boil the soup or the sour cream or yogurt will separate and curdle.
Per Serving: 238 Calories; 16g Fat (58.4% calories from fat); 10g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 9mg Cholesterol; 657mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on September 22nd, 2017.

green_minestrone1

Just plain vegetable soup, but all green, and with a modicum of Italian seasonings. And good Parmigiano cheese on top.

When I got home from my road trip a week ago, I didn’t crave salads (my usual lament) because I’d had lots of salads on the trip. What I craved was soup. And vegetables. Eating out almost 3 meals a day (a couple of times Cherrie and I had an ice cream cone for lunch when we’d had an ample breakfast) you learn soon enough that most restaurants don’t serve vegetables. A few here and there, but mostly restaurants serve carbs along with protein. We ordered a side veg a couple of times (to share) and often Cherrie and I shared an entire meal (a salad and entrée both) which worked really well. We enjoyed dessert just a couple of times, aside from the aforementioned ice cream cone treat we had twice.

So, once home, a trip to the store gave me all the makings of a green minestrone, a soup I’ve been wanting to make forever.

This soup – I had it once, in northern Italy, at least 25 years ago. I’d gotten a bout of food poisoning, actually, and was really quite sick (from some fresh mozzarella at a roadside diner). I visited a pharmacy and they’d given me something which helped, but they confirmed my food poisoning diagnosis and suggested it would take about 2 weeks to work itself through. About 10 days later, we got to Northern Italy, and I finally thought I could tolerate some soup, and the waiter suggested their green minestrone. Oh my, was it ever delicious. Except for 7-up, toast and yogurt, I’d hardly eaten a thing, so maybe it was my frame of mind, or just that I was feeling slightly better. That soup – that glorious fresh green taste – has stayed with me all these years. I’d researched green minestrone recipes some years back and found a couple, and just hadn’t gotten around to trying either of them. Until now.

green_minestrone2As is usually the case, when I start making soup, I improvise. I used the recipe only as a guide to add my vegetables of choice. Maybe this soup should be titled Green and White Minestrone, because there are lots of white ingredients in it (onion, nearly white carrots, fennel and the mostly white leeks).

parmesan rindsOne thing that’s unique in this recipe is the addition of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rinds. You save those, don’t you? I have about 2 years’ worth of them in my cheese bin (probably better to freeze them, but I might never find them again if I did that), and two of them went into this soup. Once they’ve expended their lovely essence to the soup, you scoop them out and throw them away.

I tried to time the vegetables so they’d all be perfectly cooked through (barely). Generally it worked – if you are so inclined, remove the vegetables when they’re nearly done, then add the others, until you have everything to the perfect point of done-ness, then add them back in just long enough to warm through. There’s a little bit of pasta in this soup – you can add however much you’d like. I guessed mostly at the quantities of each item. I like the frozen peas to be bright green – they add a nice fillip to the top of the soup – I always add them almost like a garnish. If you rinse them under the hot water tap, they’ll all defrost and be warmed through.

Once you’ve scooped portions into bowls, add the hot peas, the minced parsley, the grated cheese, and lastly a little drizzle of EVOO. Perfecto!

What’s GOOD: well, if the flavor wasn’t good, I wouldn’t be posting it – I loved all the green veggies, and the broth was extra special because of the Parmesan rinds in it. Just remember – a vegetable-laden soup will be only as good as the broth you cook it in. I use Penzey’s chicken broth concentrate, which I think has tons of good flavor. Altogether good soup. Even though it’s still like summer here in SoCal, I gulped down the hot soup and savored every bite. I love the toppings too.

What’s NOT: hmmm. Lots of chopping and mincing, I suppose, but get someone to help and it’ll be done in no time.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Green Minestrone

Recipe By: Loosely based on several online recipes for this kind of green minestrone
Serving Size: 8

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large leeks — white and pale-green parts only, chopped
2 large fennel bulbs — finely chopped
1/2 large yellow onion — finely chopped
2 celery stalks — thinly sliced
1 1/2 pounds zucchini — trimmed, diced
1/2 pound brussels sprouts — cleaned, quartered
12 ounces fresh asparagus — trimmed, chopped
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 Parmesan rinds — (for flavoring)
2 small carrots — use yellow, if possible
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano — crushed in your palms
1/2 cup pasta — your choice (small)
1 cup frozen peas — defrosted
1 1/2 cups Italian parsley — (lightly packed) very finely minced
Shaved Parmesan (for serving), use ample
A drizzle of EVOO on top

1. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Cook leek, fennel, yellow onion, and celery, stirring occasionally, until softened but not taking on any color, about 5 minutes. Add broth and Parmesan rinds, then add the dried oregano, brussels sprouts, zucchini and carrots; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until vegetables are not quite tender, about 5 minutes. Add asparagus and pasta and cook for about 5 minutes.
2. Taste vegetables to make sure all are tender; season well with salt and pepper. Remove Parmesan rinds and discard. Rinse the frozen peas under hot water and add to the soup, just long enough to warm them.
3. Taste soup for seasoning, scoop 1 1/2 cups per bowl and garnish with fresh parsley and lots of grated Parmesan. Then drizzle the top of the soup with EVOO.
Per Serving: 172 Calories; 6g Fat (24.9% calories from fat); 15g Protein; 27g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 117mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, Uncategorized, on September 6th, 2017.

chilled_yellow_squash_soup

Uh, huh! More chilled soups in my repertoire. This one using yellow squash and chicken broth. With so few ingredients I was amazed at how flavorful it was.

My new favorite thing – chilled soups from easily accessible summer produce. As I write this I’m still finishing up eating a batch of chilled zucchini soup (my second batch in recent weeks). In the interim I attended a kind of a cooking class (sans recipes, what’s up with that?) where they made a raw cucumber soup. I’m not quite so fond of that kind (raw) – I prefer the cooked one.

This soup, though, came from a class taught by Susan Vollmer, who used to own a cookware store here in my county, but she closed it down (mostly, she says, because Amazon cut into her business too much) and is retired. But occasionally she gives a class in her home. It was a very warm day, and Susan was in and out of her kitchen door many times tending the barbecue, but first she showed us how she made this soup and then gave all of us a bowl. I have all the ingredients in my refrigerator as I write this, to make a batch.

It’s a very simple recipe, and yet it has plenty of flavor. Perhaps it depends on what kind of chicken broth you use – the more flavorful – the better the soup. Yellow squash doesn’t have a ton a flavor (does zucchini have a little more flavor? I don’t know . . . just wondering) so you need the other ingredients (chives, chicken broth, sour cream) to have enough. I don’t mean to sound “down” on this soup – I actually liked it a lot, and I love yellow squash. Someone mentioned in the class – have you noticed that you no longer see the crookneck – apparently the growers have bred that aspect out of it – now you see both zucchini and yellow squash lined up like soldiers. Usually next to each other.

So, this soup – yellow squash and white onion cooked together in some olive oil, then the chicken broth is added and the mixture is cooked for a brief time – it doesn’t take squash long to cook anyway. Susan had made the soup ahead of time and had used her immersion blender to puree it. She prefers it just slightly chunky, so the immersion blender did a fine job of it. Then she added lemon juice (plus more later on when she tasted it), sour cream, salt and pepper. It was chilled down for several hours (OR, you can eat it hot) and served with a little dollop of sour cream and more bright green chives on top. I slicked the bowl clean.

What’s GOOD: the overall taste is lovely – good for summer, or good even in the winter, served hot. The toppings kind of make the dish, and the lemon juice is an important aspect of the flavor profile. Be sure to use enough. Keeps for about a week, too, and it should freeze just fine. For me, a 2-cup portion makes a really nice lunch (it’s very low in calorie, too).

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Chilled Yellow Summer Squash Soup

Recipe By: From a cooking class with Susan Vollmer, 2017
Serving Size: 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 pounds yellow squash — grated
2 tablespoons chives — chopped
2 tablespoons white onion — minced
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup sour cream — or full fat yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice — (may need more)
salt and pepper to taste
GARNISH:
1/4 cup sour cream — or full-fat yogurt
1 tablespoon chives — minced

NOTE: This soup may be served either chilled, or hot. If heating it, do not allow it to boil after you’ve added the sour cream, but keep it just below a simmer.
1. Heat oil in a large saucepan. Saute the squash and white onion for 3-5 minutes. Add broth, chives, then bring to a boil and simmer for about 5-10 minutes.
2. In two batches, puree the soup in a blender or preferably use an immersion blender in the pan itself.
3. Refrigerate soup until well chilled, at least 3 hours. If serving this hot, the soup will benefit from sitting a few hours in the refrigerator to blend the flavors, before reheating.
4. Whisk in the sour cream, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Taste for seasonings – add more lemon juice if needed. Ladle into small bowls and garnish with a dollop of sour cream and chives on top.
Per Serving: 118 Calories; 10g Fat (61.0% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 13mg Cholesterol; 34mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on August 21st, 2017.

corn_chile_lime_soup

Refreshing. Filling. Elusive flavors. Piquant. Worth making.

This soup has a story. (Of course, nearly all my recipes have some kind of back story.) Some years ago my DH and I took a trip to the northeast during fall leaf season. Sadly, we didn’t see many leaves as one of the hurricanes  slowed itself down through the entire northeastern states. In fact, the area was still having some rain and winds when we were there. We darted here and there in Western Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, in search of scenic roads where we hoped the winds hadn’t denuded the trees. Alas, we found very few leaves remaining on any of the trees. Don’t you just hate it when you make a special trip for something (fall leaves) and there aren’t any? I’d plotted the trip before we left, and we overnighted in Shelburne, Vermont. The B&B owner suggested a restaurant within walking distance of the hotel, The Bearded Frog. It was still cold and windy that night, so we trotted across to the restaurant and were glad for a warm, cozy table inside.

Our waitress greeted us with menus and mentioned the specials, which included a cold soup that the chef had just made (with the last of summer corn). The waitress raved about it, so I had to order some. I swooned over it, and eventually cornered the waitress again to ask if she knew what was IN the soup. She got a quizzical look on her face and said “I’ll find out.” Some time later she appeared with a piece of paper with the ingredients. Just the ingredients, but not any quantities. When I got home, I made it and knew I hadn’t quite gotten it right. Then I forgot about it.

So, here I am, many years later, during a very hot summer in Southern California, and I’ve been overdosing on cold soups. I can’t seem to get enough of them. As I write this, my friend Kit gave me a gigantic zucchini that’s sitting on my kitchen counter waiting to be made into another batch of Chilled Zucchini-Mint Soup. I’ll probably freeze some of this batch, as it’s a HUGE zucchini.

Anyway, I began searching through my soup recipes for more cold soups and ran across this one, that I’d never really tweaked correctly since I wasn’t sure of quantities. I had some notes I’d made, and had changed some of the quantities last time too. This time I didn’t have any canned creamed corn, so I just substituted more frozen corn for that part. Canned creamed corn doesn’t have any cream or dairy in it, it’s just cooked and processed to look like it does. I’ve included it in the below recipe because I think it’s a nice addition – but if you don’t have it, just use more frozen or fresh corn. I am good about figuring out (sometimes) what’s in a sauce or a dish when I eat at a restaurant, but I just couldn’t pinpoint ingredients in this soup, so I was so happy when the waitress was able to give me the ingredient list.

corn_chile_lime_closeupThe chef never said she had cooked the onion, but raw onion in a cold soup has a bit of a bite, so I decided to cook the onion first. Everything else in the soup is raw. It takes a day for the flavors to meld, so do make it ahead – at least 8 hours or so, or preferably the day before you wish to serve it. It will keep for about a week. I haven’t tried to freeze it, but likely it would be fine. Do read my notes in the recipe about the pureeing of it – whether to strain or not. I didn’t because I was fine with including all that corn fiber in my servings. I used white corn, so the color of the soup is more off white than yellow. At the restaurant, way back, it was definitely yellow, so the chef had obviously used yellow corn. Your choice.

What’s GOOD: good, wholesome corn flavor, and if you don’t strain it, it has nice toothsome chewing, sort of. I loved the elusive flavors in this – there IS some heat from the jalapeno and ginger. It’s refreshing for sure. Easy. Altogether delicious, I think. It looks pretty too, if you use the garnishes. The chef had added lima beans. I didn’t have any of those, so didn’t use them.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. A lot of ingredients to gather up, but once in the blender, it’s pretty darned easy to make.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Chilled Corn, Green Chile and Lime Soup

Recipe By: Ingredient list from Bearded Frog restaurant, Shelburne, VT
Serving Size: 8

1/2 cup red onion — chopped coarsely
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 whole jalapeno chile pepper — seeded, chopped
1/4 cup fresh ginger — chopped coarsely
4 cloves garlic — peeled
1 1/3 cups creamed corn — canned
1 pound frozen corn — defrosted
1 quart milk — or half and half or soy milk
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons ground cardamom
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup EVOO
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
GARNISH:
3/8 cup fresh corn
3/8 cup lima beans — frozen, defrosted (optional)
Fresh cilantro sprigs
May also drizzle a bit of EVOO on top and squeeze a tiny bit of fresh lime juice

NOTE: If you want a thin soup, strain the finished soup. If you prefer the corn solids and a thicker consistency, just puree the heck out of the soup until it’s nearly a liquid. It never quite liquefies, but it’s very edible that way. If you have an old blender, it may not puree as well as the newer, high speed ones capable of liquefying just about anything.
1. In a skillet, heat a small jot of olive oil and add the chopped onion. Saute over low heat until the onion is thoroughly soft. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
2. Combine all the soup ingredients (including the cooked onion) in a blender and puree until smooth. Refrigerate the mixture overnight.
3. Strain the soup of any solids and taste for seasoning. (Straining the soup is optional.)
4. Serve with a few corn kernels sprinkled over the top plus lima beans and cilantro. May also drizzle the top with EVOO and a tiny bit of lime juice.
Per Serving: 356 Calories; 20g Fat (48.8% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 39g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 17mg Cholesterol; 190mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on August 17th, 2017.

eat_your_greens_soup

Oh my goodness. This. Soup. Is. So. Good. And healthy.

Yes, I know, it’s not hot soup weather. But as a food blogger, sometimes we have to take inspiration when it comes, and this one required me to act on it immediately. My decorator, Darci, has been working with me for well over 20 years. Maybe 25, actually. We’ve become friends, although she’s young enough to be my daughter. The other day I offered to go to her house to see some fabric for drapes, since she’s got a pesky, painful ankle. I took along a little portion of the Cantaloupe Gazpacho for her to taste. After that, she brought out her latest obsession. This soup. I was in heaven it was so gosh darned good.

The recipe is her own concoction – she must have had spinach, broccoli and cilantro in the refrigerator that day, and she’s become a convert to the wisdom of using bone broth instead of regular broth. She buys it at Sprouts (this soup uses beef bone broth) and likes it because each cup contains 9 grams of protein. She rattled off how she made it. The next morning I shopped for the ingredients, came home and made it immediately, even in our summer heat. It also has curry powder AND Thai green curry paste in it. That’s what gives it some zing. Coconut milk gives it a more subtle flavor.

eat_your_greens_closeup

On top of the soup you add 3 things: (1) a drizzle of good EVOO; (2) a drizzle of fresh lemon juice; and (3) a little sprinkle of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. I added the cilantro leaf when I made it, but that’s just for fun. If you don’t like cilantro, you won’t like this soup – but I suppose you could make it without the cilantro.

Image result for thai kitchen green curry pasteIt takes little time to make the soup – and once the vegetables are cooked, you puree it in the blender then cook down the soup a little bit to make it thicker. I made a double batch and will be freezing at least 2 big bags of it for another day. And I have enough for a couple of dinners AND a bag to give to a good friend.

Earmark this recipe, or at least print it out so you can make it once it’s cool enough to do so. I know I’ll be making this over and over. It’s addictive. Honest. And thanks, Darci, for sharing the recipe and saying “yes” to putting it on my blog!

What’s GOOD: it’s silky smooth and full of bright, citrusy flavors (from the cilantro and the lemon juice). It’s healthy. Really healthy. But you’d never know it. If you want to cut corners, don’t put hardly any cheese on top, and do a little bitty drizzle of EVOO. It’s very low calorie. Last night I served myself one bowl (about a cup), but just had to go back for more. Just know, I told you it’s addictive. Maybe that’s a negative (ha)!

What’s NOT: nothing really, except maybe finding bone broth. Everything else in it is easy enough.
printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Eat-Your-Greens Soup

Recipe By: From my friend, Darci G
Serving Size: 8

2 tablespoons EVOO
1 whole yellow onion — chopped
2 whole garlic cloves — diced
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon Thai green curry paste
4 cups fresh spinach
2 quarts beef bone broth
14 ounces coconut milk — (full fat)
3 cups broccoli florets — stems are fine too
3 cups cilantro — including stems
Salt and pepper to taste
GARNISH:
A drizzle of EVOO in each bowl
A drizzle of fresh lemon juice in each bowl
8 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese — sprinkled on each bowl

1. Saute the onion in EVOO, and when it’s softened, add the garlic to cook gently for just a minute or less.
2. Add the curry powder and green curry paste, stir in well, then add the spinach. Saute gently for a few minutes, then add all the bone broth and coconut milk. Bring to a simmer, then add in the broccoli. Simmer the soup for about 20 minutes, then set aside to cool slightly.
3. In batches, puree the soup in a blender, adding in a large handful of cilantro and the stems and blend until the soup is silky smooth. Repeat with remaining soup. Return to heat and cook gently for about 45 minutes, until the mixture has thickened some.
4. To serve: pour hot soup into a serving bowl and drizzle with EVOO, lemon juice, then sprinkle shredded Parm on top.
Per Serving: 215 Calories; 17g Fat (66.9% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 4mg Cholesterol; 135mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on July 18th, 2017.

creamofcucumbersoup_larger

It’s summer. It’s hot. Who wants to COOK in a warm afternoon kitchen?

Back in 2008 I posted this recipe, and it’s as much a winner of a recipe now as it was then. It’s a recipe from my friend Jackie P, and I’ve made it numerous times over the years. It’s easy to make – do it in the morning when it’s cooler, chill it down and serve it for lunch, or before dinner. I made a big batch of it last week, and am still enjoying it, down to the last little bit of it. I took new photos (gee, my photography had a long way to go when I was first a blogger) so have inserted a new one into that old post. If you want to make it less caloric, substitute Greek yogurt for the sour cream. It tastes just as wonderful.

The original post is HERE. Just go there and make this soup, okay? I garnished the soup with toasted sliced almonds because I didn’t have any fresh dill (I used dried dill to flavor the soup too) and I really liked the crunch of the almonds to give some texture to the soup. It makes a lovely first course, or for me, it WAS my lunch a couple of days last week. Altogether refreshing.

Posted in Soups, on June 30th, 2017.

zucchini_mint_soup

Really subtle, a little bit chunky, but altogether refreshing summer soup. Can also be served hot.

When Tarla Fallgatter made this soup, I wasn’t expecting to like it so much. Afterwards, I thought maybe I was just overly hungry at the class when she made this, but I liked it so much, I made it a week later to SEE if it really did tick all my boxes as much as I thought it did. Yes. I wrote a note on the recipe – “almost tastes like there’s cheese in it, but no.” It must be the leeks, we decided, that gave the soup such a lovely consistency and flavor. I do love leeks, and they provide an abundance of flavor to things. My favorite leeks come from Trader Joe’s, because they’re already trimmed and mostly clean too, 2 to a pack. When I made this, I made a double batch (so about 12 leeks) and 6 pounds of zucchini. I wanted to have leftovers to freeze.

The leeks do have to be softened in butter for awhile, and the zucchini is cooked not fully soft, then you add the broth and simmer for about 20 minutes. The soup is pureed in a blender, but don’t overdo it – don’t make it smooth – I liked the little bit of texture to it, but that’s your choice. After pureeing, add the little bit of cream and mint. Serve hot/warm or chill and garnish with a mint leaf on top.

If you’re lucky enough to be growing zucchini, do save this recipe to make when you have an abundance of them.

What’s GOOD: really liked this soup – it’s fairly healthy (just a bit of cream) and it can be served hot, warm or cold. How versatile is THAT? Loved the little bit of texture from not pureeing it completely. Lots of depth of flavor, most likely from the leeks. Freezes well. It’s not an “over the top” type, but it’s delicious and relatively filling.

What’s NOT: not a single thing.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Chilled Zucchini-Mint Soup

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter, cooking class, 2017
Serving Size: 8

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 cups leeks — use both white and green part (about 6 leeks)
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth — or vegetable broth
3 pounds zucchini — chopped (about 8 cups)
1/3 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons fresh mint — (packed) minced
whole mint leaves for garnish

1. Melt butter in a large saute pan, then add leeks and saute until soft, but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add zucchini and saute until beginning to soften, about 5 more minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until zucchini is tender, about 20 minutes.
2. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth, but still a bit of texture remaining. Return puree to same pot, add cream and the chopped mint. Allow to cool, cover and chill until cold, at least 3 hours, and up to 24 hours.
3. Taste soup and add more broth if it’s too thick. Season with salt and/or pepper to taste. Garnish with mint leaves.
Per Serving: 152 Calories; 10g Fat (47.4% calories from fat); 11g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 25mg Cholesterol; 51mg Sodium.

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