Mexican Ham and Bean Soup

Mexican Ham and Bean Soup

Mexican Ham and Bean Soup

With a cold rain falling outside and the wind whipping the remaining leaves around, it is just the kind of day when I like to make soup.  A big pot of warming soup and some biscuits to go with it.  Oh, I can’t wait for dinner!  So I had better get started.

When made with dried beans as this soup is, it shortens the cooking time if you precook the beans and let them soak in the hot liquid for about an hour before actually making the soup.  Once you get the beans, broth, and seasonings going you can go on to other things and let the wonderful aroma fill your kitchen until it’s time to add the tomatoes and chili.

A one-pot meal will be waiting for you whenever you want it.  This is a good meal for when family members are coming and going, eating at different times.  Keep it warm on the back burner and let everyone ladle out their serving as needed.IMG_5743

Since the recipe for this soup makes a large quantity, I made only half the recipe and at step #3 where tomatoes are added, I also added the leftover sauce from my Omelette with Bacon Ham and Beans.  It was a good way to use up the extra sauce, and it rounded out the soup with some extra vegetables.  I made the recipe as it is given here on many occasions and we always love it.  Men in particular will find this to be very spicy, hearty and filling.  Someone in my family once said it was the best soup he ever had.  I’m looking at you, Steve.

MEXICAN HAM AND BEAN SOUP

Yield:   8 servingsIMG_5733

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound dried pinto beans ( or navy beans)
  • 8 cups fat-free less-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 cups water
  • 1  1/2 cups cubed smoked ham steak (about 8 ounces)
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. dried oreganoIMG_5735
  • 2 packets Sazon Goya (optional), but good
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 chipotle chile ( or dried ancho or pasilla chile)
  • 1/2 cup shredded Manchego cheese or Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro

Directions:

1.  Sort and wash beans; place in a large Dutch oven or soup kettle.  Cover with water to 2 inches above beans, bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes, remove from heat.  Cover and let stand 1 hour.  Drain.

2.  In the same pan, combine beans, broth, and next 8 ingredients (broth through garlic); bring to a boil.  Partially cover; reduce heat to medium-low.  Simmer 1  1/2 hours or until beans are tender.

3.  Stir in tomatoes and chile, simmer 30 minutes.  Discard bay leaves and chile.  Ladle soup into bowl.  Top with cheese, sprinkle with cilantro.

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If there is any left over, it seems to taste even better the second time around when flavors have had even more time to meld.

SOURCE:  an old recipe from my recipe box

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Tuscan Sausage Soup with Shell Pasta and White Beans

Tuscan Sausage Soup  with Shell Pasta and White Beans.

Tuscan Sausage Soup with Shell Pasta and White Beans.

I’ve shared my views previously on the many shapes of pasta and how some shapes are better suited for one kind of dish while other shapes have their own perfect niche in your repertoire of recipes.  One of my absolute favorites to use in soups is shell pasta.  The reason seems obvious–they hold the broth!  Just like a spoon they carry some of the yummy flavor-laden broth to your mouth.

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Anyway, when I first saw this recipe for Tuscan Sausage Soup, packed with “conchiglie”, I was drawn to it.  Conchiglie is the Italian word for shell, so I felt as though it was talking to me.  It also includes white cannellini beans and spinach and is seasoned with garlic, onion and basil.  All the flavors you would expect in a rustic Italian soup such as this one.

The recipe makes a large amount of soup, and can be easily doubled  to feed a hungry crowd, or freeze some for a later date.  I made the recipe as I found it except for using frozen spinach instead of fresh. You could also use kale if you wish.   This is a recipe you need to have in your back pocket for when colder weather arrives and you want something warm and hearty to feed your family.

IMG_5387

TUSCAN SAUSAGE SOUP WITH SHELL PASTA AND WHITE BEANS

YIELD:   6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound Italian sausage, bulk or links.  If using links, remove casings.

    Gather together all the ingredients.

    Gather together all the ingredients.

  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cups chicken broth, low sodium preferred
  • 1  14.5 oz. can tomatoes, diced with juice
  • 1  15 oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1  1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 8  oz. shell pasta, whole wheat, preferred
  • 6 oz. fresh spinach, or 1 pkg. frozen chopped spinach, well drained
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • grated Parmesan cheese for topping

Directions:

1.  Remove casings from sausage if using links.   Brown over medium-high heat in a large stock pot.  Crumble as you brown it.

Brown and crumble the sausage

Brown and crumble the sausage

2.  Add carrots, onion and garlic;  sauté until tender and starting to get a bit golden, about 7 minutes.

Add in the carrots, onion, and garlic.

Add in the carrots, onion, and garlic.

3.  Add chicken broth, tomatoes, beans, pasta and basil.

Add chicken broth, tomatoes, pasta, beans, and basil.

Add chicken broth, tomatoes, pasta, beans, and basil.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.  Cover and continue cooking until pasta becomes a bit tender, about 7 minutes.

4.  Stir in spinach and cook until it is just wilted.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.

5.  Serve hot garnished with grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Here it is.  Looking delicious and tasting just as good as it looks.

Here it is. Looking delicious and tasting just as good as it looks.

SOURCE:   A Couple in the Kitchen

Tomato Curry Soup

Fresh Tomato Curry Soup

Fresh Tomato Curry Soup

Here we are again, Theme Thursday, and the theme is still tomatoes.  Today I have a recipe for Tomato Soup with the added flavor of curry to give it a little zing.

The inspiration for this soup came in a brown paper bag,  a plain brown wrapper you might say, but there was nothing naughty inside.  No, I’m happy to tell you the bag was full of ripe tomatoes.  A friend, going away for a few days, picked all the ripe tomatoes from her garden, and brought them to me, knowing that I would make good use of them.  Such a good friend!  My creative juices started flowing and looking for recipes for tomatoes I found several for soup.  I liked something about this one, and something about that one, but not everything about any one of them.  So how did I choose which one to make?  I didn’t.  I made a merger, taking a little from here and a little from there,  and came up with this idea for a tomato soup.

Using a large onion chopped, I sautéed it in butter then added the curry powder, stirred it around for a minute or so to blend flavors, added the crushed tomatoes and chicken broth and let it simmer a while.  So simple, and yet so good.

I used 2 1/2  pounds of fresh tomatoes with skins removed, and seeds squeezed out, but the really nice thing is that you can use  canned crushed tomatoes ( 28 oz. can), and have this soup anytime you want it.  You don’t need to wait for tomato season to roll around.  I also used chicken broth, but, here too, you can make a substitution and use vegetable broth instead for a vegetarian/vegan soup.  Since I associate curry with Indian cookery, and sour cream is also widely used in Indian cookery, at serving time I swirled a little sour cream into each bowl of soup and sprinkled on chopped chives for garnish.

We enjoyed this soup totally, and along with it I made a pretty spectacular grilled cheese sandwich, using kale, caramelized onions and cheese.  Wow!!  Stop back next week when I’ll have that recipe ready for you.  For now, here’s the soup.

Rich, deep tomato flavor.  The curry is mild, but you can add more if you like.

Rich, deep tomato flavor. The curry is mild, but you can add more if you like.

TOMATO CURRY SOUP

Yield:   serves 6

Ingredients:

2 pounds tomatoes, onion, butter, chicken broth and curry seasoning.

2-3 pounds tomatoes, onion, butter, chicken broth and curry seasoning.

  • 1/2 cup  ( 1 medium) onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup butter ( 1/2 stick)
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder ( more if you like)
  • 2 – 3  pounds fresh tomatoes, skinned and seeds squeezed out, ( or use 1  28 -oz. can crushed tomatoes)
  • 1 32-oz. container chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • chopped chives for garnish

1.  Melt butter in a large sauce pan.  Sauté onion in butter until transparent.  Add in curry powder, stirring over low heat for  1 – 2 minutes to blend flavors.

2.  Add tomatoes and chicken stock. Break up tomatoes with a wooden spoon as much as possible.   Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer about 15 – 20 minutes.  You can smooth out the soup by pureeing in a blender or use an immersion blender.  Otherwise serve as is; it will be a little chunky.

3.  Ladle into serving bowls, swirl in 1 – 2 teaspoons sour cream.  Garnish with chopped chives.

If you like tomato soup, you will like this.

If you like tomato soup, you will like this.

Source:   a Carolyn Original

Chilled Cucumber and Avocado Soup

Chilled Cucumber and Avocado Soup

Chilled Cucumber and Avocado Soup

Here on the East Coast we’ve been experiencing one of the hottest summers on record and on some days it was difficult to know what to fix for meals.  Appetites were lagging and I haven’t been motivated to expend much energy in cooking.

However cucumbers are one vegetable that I like to eat when it’s hot and so I’ve turned to this recipe for a chilled light soup  that is both refreshing and nutritious.  I wrote about this cold soup last summer, but it’s certainly worth bringing back for another look, (and some better photography) especially for those readers who may have missed it.

I like to serve a cup of it along with a fresh tomato that has been stuffed with some kind of salad, like tuna salad.  

INGREDIENTS

SERVINGS:    4

  • 2-3 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded and cut into small cubes  (about 2 cups)

    The colors of the ingredients make it look cool even before making it,

    The colors of the ingredients make it look cool even before making it,

  • 2 avocados, pitted and peeled
  • 1/2 cup low-fat yogurt
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 small minced jalapeño pepper ( seeds and ribs removed for less heat)
  • 1/3 cup sliced scallions
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 12 medium sized shrimp, (about 6 ounces), peeled and deveined

DIRECTIONS

1.  In a blender, combine half the cucumber and 1 avocado with the yogurt, lime juice, jalapeño, scallions, 1 Tablespoon cilantro, 1 cup ice water,  1  teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Puree until completely smooth.  Transfer to a large bowl.

2.   Cut remaining avocado into 1/4 cubes.  Stir avocado and remaining cucumber into soup.  Thin with 1/2 to 1 cup ice water, as desired.  Taste and season again with salt and pepper.  Chill about 1 hour.

3.  In a large skillet,  heat oil over medium-high heat.  Cook shrimp, turning once, until opaque throughout, 2-3 minutes.  Ladle soup into bowl; garnish with shrimp and remaining cilantro.

The pureed avocado and yogurt give this soup its creamy texture.  I kept the heat level down by using only half the jalapeño pepper, and I could have used it all because the yogurt and cool smoothness subdues the pepper’s heat.  This soup was definitely a hit with both me and Mr. D. It would make a nice first course to a larger meal or a lunch combined with a salad or sandwich. It is cool and very yummy.  You have got to try this!

Chilled Cucumber and Avocado Soup with Stuffed Tomato

SOURCE:  Whole Living  Newsletter by Martha Stewart

Ravioli and Vegetable Soup

Ravioli and vegetable soup.

Ravioli and vegetable soup.

My recipe today is targeted at week night cooking when you are short on time.  Perfect for those evenings when you want to go meatless, or prepare a meal that’s vegetarian.  It’s a hearty, nutritious and delicious soup and you can include greens and vegetables to your liking.  The broth can be beef or vegetable, so it offers a lot of leeway to tailor it to your dietary needs.

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The basis of the soup is a package of small cheese ravioli; either frozen or fresh.   You begin by sautéing the usual trio of veggies:  onions, carrots and celery.  Add the broth, bring to a boil.  Add the ravioli and cook till tender; then add the greens to wilt them.  That’s it!   Sprinkle on some parmesan cheese at the table and serve with a whole-grain bread.  This whole meal took me no more than 30 minutes to prepare.  The recipe can be easily doubled for more servings or just to have some for another meal.

RAVIOLI AND VEGETABLE SOUP

Getting all the ingredients ready.

Getting all the ingredients ready.

Servings:    About 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme, or 1/2 tsp. dried
  • 2 cups fat-free low-sodium beef or vegetable broth
  • 1 9 ounce pkg. small cheese ravioli
  • 1 small bunch escarole, kale, or 5 cups spinach, roughly chopped
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
  • 8 slices whole wheat baguette

1.  Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the onion, carrots, celery and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally , until the vegetables begin to soften, about 4 minutes.  Add the broth and 3 cups water and increase the heat to high.  Cover and bring to a boil, then add the ravioli.  Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the ravioli are tender ( according to package directions for cooking).

Letting it simmer till tender.

Letting it simmer till tender.

2.  Add the escarole to the soup and cook, stirring, until wilted.  Season with salt and pepper.  Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle with the cheese.  Serve with the bread.

Ravioli and vegetable soup. Serve with grated cheese.

Ravioli and vegetable soup. Serve with grated cheese.

Nutritional Profile:    Calories:  262;  Fat,  9 g.;  Carbohydrate  34 g.;  Protein 12 g.

SOURCE:   Food Network Magazine

Cauliflower-Broccoli-Cheese Soup

A quick post today featuring a soup that I made this past weekend when I had an abundance of broccoli and cauliflower on hand that needed using up.

Cauliflower-broccoli-cheese soup.

Cauliflower-broccoli-cheese soup.

After spending the morning outside spreading mulch and pruning some shrubs, Mr. D. and I were starving and ready for a break.  In just about 30 minutes I was able to have this thick, vegetable soup on the table ready for us to devour.  If you use frozen vegetables it takes even less time to make.  I didn’t realize a “made from scratch” vegetable soup could be ready in such a short time, and be so delicious.  It has only 150 calories per serving, and is low in fat and carbohydrates, yet satisfies and is filling.  To make it vegetarian, switch out the chicken broth and use vegetable broth instead, and omit the cheese.

CAULIFLOWER-BROCCOLI-CHEESE SOUP

Yield:   4 servings

Total time to make;  about 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tsp. canola oilIMG_4086
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 lb. frozen broccoli and cauliflower or 5 cups fresh, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fat free milk
  • 2 oz. reduced-fat cheddar cheese, shredded (1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper or to taste
  • 1/4 cup seasoned croutons
  • ground nutmeg for garnish

1.  In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat, add onion and cook until just beginning to brown.  Add garlic and continue cooking until onions are lightly browned.

2.  Add chicken broth, broccoli and cauliflower;  cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and cook for 10 – 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

3.  Puree mixture with and immersion blender or a regular blender.  Return mixture to saucepan, add milk and heat through.

4.  Remove from heat and stir in cheese.  Season with pepper.  Sprinkle each serving with nutmeg and garnish with a few seasoned croutons.

Quick to make;  filling and nutritious.

Quick to make; filling and nutritious.

Seasoned croutons add a little crunch to an otherwise smooth soup.

Seasoned croutons add a little crunch to an otherwise smooth soup.

Nutritional Profile:  150 calories, 6g. fat. 2g saturated fat, 15 g. carbohydrates, 4g sugars, 8g protein.

SOURCE:   found in a circular from my local grocery store

Borscht

Borscht with sour cream and dill.

Borscht with sour cream and dill.

Since getting back on track with a lower carbohydrate diet,   I have been looking more closely at the kinds of carbs a recipe contains. Simple carbs are out and complex carbs are in, at least for a while.   I want my meals to still be interesting, tasty, satisfying, provide variety and be visually appealing, and of course be nourishing, and healthy.  I don’t think that’s asking too much do you?  With all those requirements in mind, I turned to this recipe for a soup called Borscht.

This is a soup I have known about for a long time, but never tasted.  I knew that its origins were in Eastern Europe, particularly Russia, and that it contained beets.  And that is as much as I knew about it.  Probably what kept me from attempting to make it was the beets which I was never fond of until recently when I learned to roast them.  With the encouragement , no urging, of my dance partner who is Russian I decided to try to make it.  Well, with the internet being the wonderful tool that it is, my recipe search easily turned up  many, many, recipes.  As I began to look at some of them I found them all to be quite different  from each other, the one commonality being beets and the water they are cooked in.  This appears to be a soup that every family has a recipe for, and makes with their own special touches.

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I selected one that included a lot of vegetables, a beef broth base, and seasonings that I had on hand.  It is a multi-step recipe that I made on a weekend day and the hands-on time I spent on it was about one hour.  So if this recipe appeals to you and you want to give it a go, plan adequate time for prepping all the vegetables.  Once everything is in the pot, it takes care of itself and gives you back a beautiful deep red colored soup, chock full of vegetables and goodness with a wonderful complex flavor that is hard to define.   The quantity of the original recipe is HUGH, so I made only half the amount and it was still enough for 6 -8 servings. That is the size I am printing here.  If you would like to serve an army, then just double all quantities.   I served it topped with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of dill.    We absolutely loved it,  have had it twice as our main meal, and I have been eating it for lunch also.

BORSCHT

SERVINGS:   6 – 8

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced

    Isn't this a beautiful color?

    Isn’t this a beautiful color?

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 2  carrots, chopped
  • 2 cups cabbage, chopped
  • 3 large beets (size of oranges or apples)
  • 2 cups beet water
  • 2 cups potatoes, chopped in fairly large dice
  • 6 cups beef broth (or vegetable broth for a completely vegetarian version)
  • 1  1/2 cups of your favorite pasta sauce
  • 2 cups beet greens, kale or spinach, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1  teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh dill, or 1 – 2 teaspoons dried dill
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • sour cream and more dill for serving

PREPARATION

1.  Prepare beets by scrubbing really well, leaving skins on.  Place beets in a large pot, cover with water and boil until cooked through, adding water if necessary to keep them covered.  This may take and hour or longer, so you can do this the day before.  When beets are tender, strain beet water into a bowl or large measuring cup and reserve.  Run beets under cold water removing the skin and when comfortable to handle, grate with a box grater.

2.  In a VERY large soup pot heat olive oil, when hot add garlic and onions and stir for a few minutes until translucent.  Add celery, carrots, and cabbage and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring often.  Add potatoes and continue to sauté for 10 minutes.  If veggies are starting to stick, add a small amount of broth.

3.  Add beef broth, pasta sauce, 2 cups beet water and bay leaves and continue cooking until vegetables are tender.

4.  Add grated beets into the soup, the vinegar, brown sugar and cumin. cooking for another 10 minutes or so.

5.  Add chopped greens and 1 teaspoon dried dill or fresh dill.  Cook a few minutes till greens are wilted.  Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper as needed.

Serve this hearty soup with a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkle of dill and be sure to include a dark whole grain bread to round out the meal.

A loaf of dark rye or whole grain bread is the perfect accompaniment.

A loaf of dark rye or whole grain bread is the perfect accompaniment.

P.S.  My dance partner rated my first time effort at “4 stars out of 5”, based on how his mother makes the soup.

SOURCE:   slightly adapted from VanCityFoodie blog

Italian Sausage Soup with Tortellini

Italian Sausage and Tortellini Soup.

Italian Sausage and Tortellini Soup.

I would love to travel one day to Italy and totally absorb the culture, and especially the foods.  My preference would be to visit the small towns and villages and experience life as the Italians do. I could imagine stopping for lunch at a trottoria, sitting outside at a small table on a terrace and enjoying a special soup with some wonderful crusty bread and cheese.   This is the soup I could imagine having in that kind of setting.

For anyone not familiar with the pasta called tortellini, they are crescent shaped and filled with meat or cheese.  You can purchase them in most large supermarkets as fresh pasta in a refrigerated case or dried and shelf stable in the pasta isle.  I like to keep a package of the dried variety on hand to throw into soups or casseroles, because they provide interest and extra substance, just as they do in this soup.

A hearty bowl of goodness.

A hearty bowl of goodness.

The book I took this recipe from has been around for a long time;  from Pillsbury, ” Hearty Soups and Breads Cookbook”,  1985.  The first time I made this soup we fell in love with it, and it has been in my repertoire of well-loved recipes ever since.  It is very hearty with lots of vegetables and the blend of seasonings makes a well-flavored soup.  If you like a spicy soup, use a hot Italian sausage, instead of the mild variety.  The recipe makes a large amount, about 8 servings, but it freezes well, so its good to make and freeze some for a later meal.

ITALIAN SAUSAGE SOUP WITH TORTELLINI

YIELD:  8 SERVINGS

INGREDIENT LIST:

  • 1 lb. Italian sausage, hot or mild

    All the ingredients.

    All the ingredients.

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped onions
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 5 cups beef broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine or water
  • 1  14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 8  oz. can tomato sauce
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1  medium zucchini, sliced
  • 8  oz. frozen, fresh, or dried, tortellini (or very small ravioli)
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley.
  • Grated Parmesan cheese for serving

1.  If sausage comes in casing,  remove casing.  In 5-quart Dutch oven, brown sausage.  Remove sausage from Dutch oven; drain, reserving 1 Tablespoon drippings in the Dutch oven.

Brown sausage and remove from pan.

Brown sausage and remove from pan.

2.  Saute onions and garlic in reserved drippings until onion is tender.

Saute the onions, till soft.

Saute the onions, till soft.

Add beef broth, water, wine, tomatoes, carrots, basil, oregano, tomato sauce and sausage.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; simmer with lid tipped,  30 minutes.

Add the liquids, vegetables and seasonings.

Add the liquids, vegetables and seasonings.

3.  Stir in zucchini, tortellini and parsley.  Simmer another 35 – 40 minutes until tortellini are tender.

Add zucchini and tortellini.

Add zucchini and tortellini.

4.  To serve, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

Make this soup.  You'll be glad you did.

Make this soup. You’ll be glad you did.

SOURCE:    Hearty Soups and Breads,   Pillsbury, 1985

Thai Butternut Soup

Thai Butternut Soup

Thai Butternut Soup

I have a confession to make—I don’t like foods that are hot and spicy.  However my husband LOVES that kind of food.  A dilemma of hugh magnitude when you are the cook and there is only the two of you to cook for.  Which one to please?    Well, being the cook has its privileges, so I’m the one who gets the kind of food I like most of the time.  Don’t get me wrong Mr. D. is always happy and complimentary of what I cook, but what I’m saying is that I don’t go out of my way to make a dish especially for his tastes when I know that I won’t like it.IMG_3486

This recipe, then, is a first.  I made it especially for him.  I had something else lined up for me to eat because I was prepared not to like it.  Surprise!!  I liked it. I had never cooked with red curry paste before and I expected it to be hot and spicy.  However that was not the case and this soup turned out to be quite mild.  You can certainly “turn up the heat” if that is your taste, by adding more curry paste, or a little Sriracha sauce.  I also found that the squeeze of lime into your bowl is necessary for a little tang.

THAI BUTTERNUT SOUP

SERVINGS:    4

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 teaspoon canola oilIMG_3477
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2  1/2 teaspoons red curry paste
  • 1  1/2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
  • 1 teaspoon minced (grated) fresh ginger
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth ( or vegetable broth for a vegetarian version)
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 2 ( 12 oz.) packages frozen pureed butternut squash**
  • 1  (14 oz.) can light coconut milk
  • 1  1/2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1 lime cut into 8 wedges

** If you can’t find frozen pureed squash, you can make this soup with 4 cups cubed butternut squash.  Just add some additional cooking time–about 10 minutes–in step 2.  That is what I used to make the recipe.

1.  Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add oil; swirl to coat.  Add onion; sauté 3 minutes.  Add curry paste, garlic, and ginger;  sauté  45 seconds, stirring constantly.

2.  Add broth and next 5 ingredients ( through salt ); cover.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, simmer 5 minutes,( or 15 minutes if using fresh squash) stirring frequently.  Puree the soup mixture with an immersion blender, or in batches with a standard blender.  Blend until smooth.

3.  To serve:  Ladle about a cup into each of 4 bowls;  top with 2 tablespoons peanuts and 1 tablespoon cilantro.  Serve with lime wedges.

Serve with peanuts, cilantro, and a wedge of lime.

Serve with peanuts, cilantro, and a wedge of lime.

Oh, Yes!  This was very good and we both liked it.  Velvety smooth and creamy, but not too thick.

A further dilemma has developed/is developing:   What’s a cook to do when the number of spices, condiments and sauces is increasing in number and space to store them is static?   Since becoming more adventuresome in my cooking, a whole line of Asian-inspired ingredients is now trying to fit into my storage cabinet.   If anyone has a solutions to this ever growing problem I’d like to hear about it.  Please!   : )

SOURCE;   Cooking Light,  March 2013

A Blizzard and a Bowl of Soup

Charlotte, not-so-sweet Charlotte!  She’s been here and gone, but not without leaving her mark. I saw a cartoon that was a map of the state of Ct. with these words written across it:  “CLOSED,  come back later.”  Many roads are still not plowed, businesses that are open have only a few people who can get in, the rest are still snowbound.  Thousands of people have no power.  Thankfully we are not one of them.

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We are homebound, snowbound, and almost but not quite bored.  There are tons of things I could do, but somehow nothing I can think of appeals to me. Mr. D. is home because his office is closed, and of course we need to eat.  So in spite of having a “bucket of books” to read and many issues of magazines to catch up on, knitting and other projects to work on, the one thing I can really get in to is to cook something.

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This is a picture of our deck.  The snow is at least 3 feet deep.  We cannot open the back door out onto the deck.

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This is our lower patio.  What looks like a giant marshmallow is a table with that much snow on it.

Storms days usually make me think of soup and today is no exception.  Today’s soup is a beef and barley combination.

Hearty Beef Barley Soup

Hearty Beef Barley Soup

It is only in recent years that I have begun to use barley.  I don’t recall ever having it in my growing up years, and so when I began to cook for my family it is not one of the ingredients I used.  Then one day a soup recipe caught my eye but it contained barley.  I purchased some knowing it is a good source of fiber and low on the glycemic scale, so I gave it a try.  I was pleasantly surprised by its nutty flavor and how much it thickened the soup.  Now I would not make a beef soup without it, and sometimes I include mushrooms with it.  Not today, though, since I didn’t have any on hand, and I couldn’t go out to get some  if I wanted to.

As I assembled all the ingredients and began to prep the vegetables, and brown the meat, it occurred to me that I was following the very same steps you take when you make a braise.  Braising is a technique that is used on tougher cuts of meat to produce great flavor and tenderness.  Its a cook’s secret weapon and one that I use frequently to prepare the basic ingredients for soup, or to slow cook a piece of meat that will become fork tender and falling off the bone.  It is very easy to do if you remember four simple steps that I describe in the recipe below.

If you’re looking for a way to dial up your cooking skills, braising is a secret you need to be in on.  In my opinion there is no other technique that requires so little of you and yet gives so much back.  Just don’t tell everyone, OK?

BEEF and BARLEY SOUP

SERVINGS:    About 8

Assemble and prep the meat and vegetables in advance.

Assemble and prep the meat and vegetables in advance.

  • 1 pound beef stew meat
  • 2 Tablespoons olive or canola oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 cans beef broth
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 – 3 carrots
  • 1/2 cup barley
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms, optional

1. Sear the meat: In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat the oil. Season the meat  with salt and pepper and brown the beef, in batches if necessary. Don’t crowd the pan, take the time to get good browning all over. Transfer to a large soup kettle.

Sear the meat in small batches.  That's where the good flavor comes from.


Sear the meat in small batches. That’s where the good flavor comes from.

2. Saute the mirepoix.  This is a French term meaning the classic onion, carrots, and celery combo.   Add chopped onions and celery to drippings left in the skillet, and brown them, aiming for a caramel-y brown color.

Add onion and celery and get everything browned.

Add onion and celery and get everything browned.

Add in the minced garlic, and the flour.  Cook for 1 minute, then transfer to the soup kettle. In this recipe the carrots are added later as they are part of the main ingredients of the soup.

3. Deglaze the pan. Pour a small amount of the beef broth into the skillet to deglaze the pan and scrape up all the browned bits. These bits are flavor bombs. When they dissolve in the cooking liquid, they enrich the whole dish.

Deglaze the pan with some of the beef broth.

Deglaze the pan with some of the beef broth.

Add this to the soup kettle with the remaining beef broth, the 5 cups of water, salt, thyme and pepper.

4. Braise it. Bring to a boil.  Meanwhile peel and slice the carrots.  Add them to the soup kettle with the barley.

Add carrots and barley.

Add carrots and barley.

When the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover with tipped cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

5.  In the last half hour of cooking, I like to add some fresh mushrooms.  They seem to add to the deep beefy flavor of this hearty soup.

A warming bowl of soup.  So Good!

A warming bowl of soup. So Good!

SOURCE:  Cook’s Illustrated