Category Archives: soup

apologies, with recipe

So, here are all my excuses for the long absence: We were going on vacation, I had to wrap up stuff at work and pack. Then we went on vacation, which was very fun until I caught a miserable, debilitating cold which I carried back home with me. Then I had to recuperate, with a dull palate and a stuffed-up nose. For several days, all I ate was chicken soup.

Chicken Soup

At first, I was so dilapidated, I had to settle for the chicken soup from the Jewish deli around the corner that Anne would bring me in daily installments. Eventually, though, I found the energy to dump some chicken, water and vegetables into a pot and let it simmer for three hours while I watched a quarterlife marathon on Bravo. That is my way of telling you that this recipe takes practically no effort and even less skill. All you need is time.

This is my favorite chicken stock recipe; it’s the one I make every year at Passover (often, a triple batch) and fill with matzo balls (recipe to come in April). It’s a bit of a pain because of the two-day process, but it has the best flavor and golden color of any chicken stock recipe I’ve ever tried. I think the vegetables and aromatics give it a nice balance. Using chicken wings is key — the cartilage and bone in the wings give the soup more body and a very chicken-y flavor.

Once you’ve made the stock, you can use it however you like. If you’re going to freeze it all and use it in other soups and recipes, leave out the salt. When I want a basic chicken soup, I add cooked pasta (like shells or alphabet noodles) and sliced carrots. It’s also nice sprinkled with a bit of fresh dill. At Passover, I make a triple batch and fill it with matzo balls. Whether you’re sick or not, there’s really nothing like homemade chicken soup.

Chicken Stock for When You’ve Got Time
Adapted from Sara Moulton via Cooking Live

5 lbs chicken wings
4 quarts water
2 medium onions, peeled and quartered
1 carrot, scrubbed and halved
1 parsnip, scrubbed and halved
1 celery stalk, quartered
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
8 sprigs fresh parsley
8 whole black peppercorns
salt to taste

Chicken StockIn a large stockpot with a tight-fitting lid, combine the chicken wings and the water and bring to a boil, skimming off the scum that rises to the surface. Simmer for 20 minutes, skimming. Add the remaining ingredients (except salt) and simmer for 2 – 3 hours, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. Remove stock from heat and strain into a large, clean pot. Let the stock cool to room temperature, cover and chill overnight. This will allow the fat to harden on top.

Remove FatRemove stock from refrigerator. Using a large, flat spoon, remove the layer of fat. (If you’re making matzo balls, you can save this fat, depending on what your matzo ball recipe calls for.) The cold stock is going to look like chicken jelly, and you will fear I have somehow tricked you into making aspic. Don’t worry. All good stock should look like jelly when it’s cold; once you heat it up, it will return to liquid state. Return the stock to the stove, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 25 – 30 minutes to reduce the volume of the stock and concentrate the flavor. Taste the stock after about 20 minutes and continue simmering and tasting until the stock reaches desired intensity. The way I like to do this (because, remember, the stock doesn’t have any salt in it yet) is to pour a little stock into a small, custard cup, salt it lightly, and then taste. Once you’ve got a flavor you like, you can add salt to taste to the whole batch, or you can leave it unsalted if you plan to use it in other recipes.

Makes about 2 quarts.

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overcoming irrational fears

In a comment, Kiki, a regular reader of Urbanfeed, gave a ringing endorsement of the black bean soup recipe from Cook’s Illustrated. It’s from the January 2005 issue, and for three years, I’ve contemplated trying it. I love black bean soup, and Black HamI don’t have a good recipe for making it at home. But something was standing in my way: black ham. Cook’s has you simmer the beans with 4 oz of ham steak, to give the beans and broth a nice porky flavor. This makes sense. For most of us, a ham steak is easier to find than a ham hock, and then you have some nice bits of salty meat floating around in your soup. The thing is, the beans turn the exterior of the ham black. It just looks weird.

But Kiki is a trustworthy source, and things have been a little crazy around the Urbanfeed homestead. I needed a batch of soup I could just re-heat throughout the week for a quick lunch or dinner. So I set my fear of black ham aside, and tried it two weekends ago. Not surprisingly, Kiki was totally right. The soup is delicious. It has a great texture — a little thick (but not muddy) with some whole beans still floating around. I know it looks like a lot of cumin, but it’s really perfect. And, of course, the best part of black bean soup is the accoutrements — a little chopped cilantro, diced avocado, sliced scallions, sour cream and, clearly, cheese. I like Monterey Jack diced up super tiny. The little cheese cubes sink into the soup and get all melty. It’s great.

Black Bean Soup

Don’t be afraid of black ham — it’s delicious. Seriously, I ate this soup almost every day for a week, and was only sorry when it was all gone.

Black Bean Soup
From Cook’s Illustrated, Jan/Feb. 2005

For the Beans:
1 lb dried black beans, rinsed and picked over
4 oz. ham steak, trimmed of rind and excess fat
2 dried bay leaves
5 cups water
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

For the Soup:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, chopped fine
1 large carrot, chopped fine
3 medium celery ribs, chopped fine
½ teaspoon salt
5 – 6 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 ½ tablespoons ground cumin
6 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (1 – 2 limes)

Chopped HamPlace the beans, ham, bay leaves, water and baking soda in a large pot with a lid. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; using a large spoon, skim scum as it rises to the surface. Stir in salt, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer briskly until the beans are tender, 1 ¼ — 1 ½ hours. (It may be necessary to add about 1 cup additional water if the beans begin to dry out before they get tender.) Discard bay leaves. Remove ham steak, cut into ¼” dice and set aside. DO NOT DRAIN BEANS.

Heat olive oil in an 8 quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions, carrot, celery and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft and beginning to brown, about 12 – 15 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add garlic, red pepper flakes and cumin. Cook, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes. Stir in the beans, bean cooking liquid and chicken broth. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes.

Ladle 1 ½ cups beans and 2 cups liquid into a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Return mixture to pot. (You can also ladle the mixture into a 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup and puree with an immersion blender.) In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and water. Gradually stir about half this mixture into the soup and bring the soup to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring, to thicken. If the soup is still thinner than desired, add the remaining cornstarch mixture and return the soup to the boil to thicken. Off heat, stir lime juice into the soup and serve with garnishes of your choice – lime wedges, minced cilantro leaves, finely diced red onion, sliced scallions, diced avocado, sour cream, finely diced or shredded Monterey jack cheese.

no resolve

What marketing freak decided that the middle of winter would be a good time to curb one’s gluttony and try to eat more leafy greens? The Romans? The folks at Hallmark? Sure, I aspire to be virtuous (with the resulting girlish figure) as much as anyone, but, folks, it’s 7° in Boston today. Seven Degrees. Let’s get real — I am not eating salad for lunch, or dinner. What I am eating is this:

Creamy Tomato Soup

That’s right, there’s a couple slices of garlicy, fatty salami squeezed in there between the cheese and the (leftover) homemade bread slathered with my favorite butter. And there’s cream in that soup, people, because it’s winter, and my inner cave-woman is telling me to bulk up against the cold. That, and the sweet cream makes the tomatoes and basil taste bright and sweet without being acidic. It’s delicious and better than anything from a can (although there are some around this house who would disagree, but what can I tell you — Anne loves her Campbell’s. I, on the other hand, don’t like my soup seasoned with aluminum.)

We can be honest with each other here, can’t we? I’m saving the dieting for spring.

Creamy Tomato Soup
Adapted from The New Basics, Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
6 garlic cloves, chopped
(2) 35 oz. cans whole, peeled tomatoes, with their juice
8 basil leaves, slivered
1 teaspoon sugar (or to taste)
4 cups chicken stock
½ teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup heavy cream

In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Sauté onions, garlic and carrot until fragrant and soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, basil and sugar, increase heat to medium-high and cook for 5 minutes. Add chicken stock, allspice, salt and pepper.

Slowly bring soup to the boil and then reduce heat to low, partially cover and simmer for 50 minutes. Purée soup using a blender (in batches), food mill or immersion blender. Return the soup to the pot, add the heavy cream and heat through. Taste the soup for seasoning and adjust salt and pepper if necessary. Serves 8-10.