Archive for the ‘Soups’ Category

French Onion Soup

Well, let’s call it Frenchish Onion Soup. Onion soup for sure. French? Eh. Not so sure about that.

As I’ve said, I eat a lot of soup. It works for two out of three meals. I wouldn’t really eat it for breakfast, but it’s done in some part of the worlds.

Because I make a lot of soup, I tend to make bigger batches so I’ll have something to take for lunch during the week. Not only do I spend a lot of time at my desk, but the only food options around my office are fast food, pretty much. While I enjoy the occasional drive-by burger and fries, it tends to just leave me feeling crappy and cranky. No one wants that.

Now where was I going with this?

Oh right. Soup. Soup.

So I make a lot of soup. And sometimes when I don’t feel like making anything, I open up the freezer to see AHHH, I DO have some forethought. I love it when I’m smart.

This was one of those times.

I don’t have the step by step photos. But you know what onion soup looks like. It’s brown and has onions in it. The best part about this dish? Well, aside from just pulling it from the freezer and thawing it … is that I made the croutons. Now don’t roll your eyes. I cut up a slice (or two?) of whole wheat bread, tossed them with some salt, pepper, Italian seasoning and olive oil then crisped them up in a skillet over medium(ish) heat. When one side is toasted, give it a flip and toast the other side. You could also do that in a toaster oven, or the real oven.

And the cheese? Well since you asked. That, my friends, is the Quattro Formaggio from Trader Joes. It’s quite possibly the best cheese in the world. And it also makes a great quesadilla. It melts, but not too much like, so it still has a little of that elasticity when you bite into it. MMM. I don’t eat quesadillas for breakfast either, but I could start. Cheese and tortilla. Yum.

Sorry, my mind wanders sometimes. Back to the soup. This soup is quick and simple. Butter, olive oil, onions, garlic. A little red wine, beef broth, salt, pepper and thyme, bay leaf. If you want, you can turn it into a French Dip sandwich in a bowl. I got that idea from Rachael Ray.  Cut up pieces of roast beef and toss into a bowl. Ladle on some onion soup. Top with toasted bread cubes and  cheese. Perfect. (You could also put the bread on the bottom, but it gets really soggy. If you put it on top, it won’t happen as quickly.

French Onion Soup

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 fresh bay leaves or 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 6 cups beef stock


  • 1/2 loaf crusty bread, torn into bite-size pieces and toasted
  • 1 lb deli-style roast beef, shredded
  • Quattro Formaggio (Trader Joe’s) or Provolone

Heat a deep pot over medium to medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and butter. When it’s hot, add the onions and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Add thyme and bay leaf. Cook the onions for 20-25 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender, sweet and deep caramel-colored. If the onions are burning in spots before browning all over, add a splash of water and stir every now and then, scraping the bottom of the pot.

Once the onions are tender and brown, add the wine and scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the beef stock and cover the pot to bring the soup up to a quick boil. Once the soup reaches a boil, remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Ladle into bowls and enjoy! Or take a few extra steps and make this soup into an even more satisfying meal.

Optional: Place a few chunks of the toasted bread into each of four deep soup bowls or crocks and top the toast with a handful of the shredded roast beef.  Ladle soup into bowls to cover the roast beef. Top it off with grated cheese and enjoy!

— Adapted from Rachael Ray.


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Pasta e Fagioli

When I was a kid, my mom had a boyfriend, Ronnie, who was like a second dad to me. He remained a part of our lives for many years and when I was a teenager, with pretty unreliable cars (oh the stories I could tell, one involving him having me chew bubble gum so he could make a patch with it), I could call him if I’d been stranded and he’d drop whatever he was doing to come to my rescue. People like that don’t come along very often. He died about 10 years ago in a heavy-machinery accident while he was working.

Other than remembering him as a good person who was always there for me, I associate him with food for a number of reasons. He used to take us out to eat a lot. Sometimes it was Long John Silvers, sometimes a buffet place. And if things were good, the seafood place that was in an old mansion. When I’d come home from college, he’d always tell me he wanted to take us to dinner there. We went a few times — my mom, sister, boyfriend, Mr. Ronnie (as my sister called him sometimes when she was really little) and me. Not enough, though. I always thought there’d be more time. That seafood place, 220, was demolished not too long ago.

Aside from restaurants, though, I also remember that he cooked. I was young and probably don’t remember everything he did in the kitchen, but I remember that he would make us popcorn in the cast-iron skillet and then pour melted butter on top. And he made some very yummy brown beans and dumplings. I’ve tried to find out a recipe, but it was his mom’s recipe and now they’re both gone. I think I could re-create it and I will try when I have some time. Maybe my mom can help me remember. But right now, I’m going to make soup with beans and pasta, which reminds me of his beans and dumplings and since I don’t have the time to experiment right now, this should give me some instant gratification.

Here’s to you, Mr. Ronnie.

Start with some great Northern beans.

Put them in a pot, pour in some hot water, boil for a few minutes then remove from the heat. Put the lid on the pot and walk away for an hour.

Cut up some garlic, onion, carrot and celery.

Heat some olive oil in a large skillet. Cook the veggies and garlic for a few minutes. Add salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, a bay leaf, and a bouillon cube.

Add some of the broth from the beans to the veggies and simmer a few minutes.

After simmering a few minutes, pour it all into the soup pot with the beans, bring to a simmer and cook for about two hours, till the beans are soft. You may have to add more water as the soup cooks and perhaps another bouillon cube. You can see how much it reduces from the line around the pot.

If you’re really hungry, make a snack while the soup cooks. This is crackers and almonds (duh) and eggplant spread. I was going to post about that but I was making it during the hurricane and wanted to make sure everything got done as quickly as possible. I was worried the electricity would go out so I didn’t want to take time to snap photos.

When the beans are tender, put about a cup and a half or two cups of the soup (more beans than broth) into a blender cup. Remove the bay leaf. Don’t process that.

Process, but leave it a little chunky.

Meanwhile, add about 2 cups of water to the soup. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. Cook about 9 minutes till pasta is done. Then stir in the processed beans.

Then squeeze in the juice from about half a lemon.

Stir. Serve. Enjoy. Raise a glass to Mr. Ronnie.

Pasta e Fagioli

Adapted from the back of the Goya bag of great Northern beans

  • 1/2 pound dry great Northern beans
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1-2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup ditalini (tube pasta)
  • Juice of half a lemon

Sort and rinse beans and put them into a soup pot. Add 8 cups of hot water, boil 2 minutes then set aside for an hour. When the beans are finished soaking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic and bay leaf. As the veggies sweat, add the bouillon, the Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Cook until softened. Add a few ladles of the bean water and let it simmer for a few minutes. Then pour it all into the pot with the beans and put that pot on the hot burner. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until beans are tender, about two hours. You may have to add more water as the beans cook and the water evaporates. Taste the broth every now and then. You may need to add another bouillon cube.

When the beans are tender, take about a cup and a half of the soup (take more beans than broth) and put in a blender. Blend till almost smooth, leave it a little coarse.

Add about 2 cups of water to the soup pot, bring it to a boil and add the pasta. Boil about 9 minutes. When the pasta is done, stir in the processed beans to thicken the soup. Then squeeze about half a lemon into the soup and stir.

Serve with warm bread and a little grated parm, if you’d like.

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Hobnobbing with corn cobs

My mom once told me soup is always better with corn. I remember agreeing with her absentmindedly, the way we daughters often do to the women who gave us life. But every time I make soup, I hear her voice reminding me. You know what? She’s absolutely right. There’s something so satisfying about crunching the juicy kernels and getting that sweet burst that tastes like summer. It offers something no other vegetable can.

Now I’m even more sure because this time when I made soup, I decided I was going to also use the cobs to make  stock. So, just to clarify, that’s corn times two! Actually I’d guess at least times 10 because the stock gets such great flavor from the corn cobs — and just a few other things. Plus we’re going to make a corn puree to thicken the soup. That’s (count ’em!) corn times three!

You’ll be so amazed and I promise, you’ll look at cans or boxes of stock or broth as a last resort. Now don’t get me wrong, pre-made has its place. In fact, it has its place in my pantry right now. But whenever I make soup or risotto, I prefer to take an extra 20 or 30 minutes to get something with a little more flavor. And it’s so simple — you don’t even have to chop much of anything. A lot of stock recipes even suggest not peeling anything. Cut the onion into quarters, leave the skin on and plop it into the pot. (I took the skin off mine because it looked a little … sad and iffy. I don’t like soup that’s sad and iffy.)

You do, of course, have to cut the corn kernels off the cobs. That’s the messy part. Yes you will get corn bits and juice everywhere. Yes, maybe even in your coffee pot (ahem). Yes, it will absolutely be worth it. When you’re done removing the kernels, put them into a bowl and the hold the cob over the bowl and scrape the remaining corn bits and juice into the bowl. Even squeeze the cobs to get out the rest of the juice. You’ll be happy you did. That juice tastes like summer, I tell you.

Hold on a second. I was just running through a corn field. Ahh. Actually that makes me think of Children of the Corn. Not so relaxing after all. So back to the kitchen… Plop the cobs, onion, celery, bay leaf, garlic in the pot, crack some pepper into it and cover with water. I used about 6 cups of water. Then bring it to a boil, and simmer it for at least 30 minutes.  If you have only 30 minutes, use 4 cups of water. The longer you simmer, the more concentrated the flavor will be. Taste it from time to time. You’ll need to add salt.

After about an hour it will look  something like this…

Look at all that golden goodness! There’s so much flavor here that you wouldn’t believe it came from just those few ingredients. You know how chefs tell you to cook only with wine you’d drink? You want only fantastic flavors concentrated into your food. Same principle. Starting a soup or stew or chowder with this flavorful stock will add so much more than a flat tasting broth. Taste it again! Then strain it into a bowl and set aside. Remove the cobs before pouring. (Some people need to be reminded of that. I have to admit that sometimes, I’m one of those people.)

Use a spoon to squish out all that golden greatness. Now congratulations, you have stock! Use it now or put it into a container and freeze it so you’ll always have a stock stash.

Now, let’s make some soup! Brown some sausage, if you’re not a vegetarian, of course. I got mine a little too brown because I was chopping vegetables and didn’t stir it. Oops. But guess what? It was fine. So maybe you want to make sure your veggies are chopped before you add the sausage to the pot. Add some onion and garlic (that’s fresh garlic in that top photo. We can talk more about that next post.).

When everything is softened, add some red wine to deglaze. Oh do I have your attention now? Welcome! Then add whatever vegetables you want to use. Every time I set out to make “vegetable soup,” I find myself on the couch with a bowl of creamy potato and corn soup with some cheese and sometimes sour cream on top. Hey, those are vegetables. But really, I went the extra mile here. Cabbage, leeks and (yes of course) red potatoes. No, that’s not all. Zucchini is coming at the end. And corn, of course. Corn! Have I mentioned corn!?

Let the cabbage wilt, then add the stock. I ended up with only about 2 cups of stock, but just add water to it. As the soup simmers, you’ll get even more flavor from the rest of the vegetables.

Taste it as you go, of course. You’ll definitely need to add salt. And guess what else I added? Two chicken bullion cubes. Yes, I preached the glories of making your own stock and then I added bullion cubes to my soup. Hey, I’m not sorry. It gave it just a little extra oomph.

Now as it simmers, look over at the bowl full of corn kernels. And guess what? Get out the blender and throw in about a cup of kernels. There’s already corn all over the place, so you might as well throw around a little on purpose, right? Well don’t go nuts, we want the corn in the soup, not on the walls and ceiling.

If it’s too thick, add a little of the stock from the soup. When you think the soup is done, pour in the puree.

It’ll make it look and taste like you added some cream. But no fat! Why did I have to figure this out on my own? It’s such a great tip! Cream? Ha! That’s for amateurs! After I made the puree, I was a little sad about the amount of corn left. I had one more ear, which I’d planned to eat on its own later, but as I eyed it (ha! eyes! ears!), I decided I wanted it in the soup instead. So I cut the kernels from that one too.

To give it even a little more body, use a masher to mash up some of the potato.

Now just add the corn kernels and the zucchini and let the flavors meld for a few minutes. I always call that letting it settle. I’m sure that’s not the proper term, but whatever. This is my kitchen.

Then, the best part… get a spoon and eat it! Cut some french bread, slather on a little pesto and bake for 1o minutes or so. And of course, you have to top the soup with a little (or a lot of) Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Corncob Stock

  • 3-4 corn cobs, kernels removed and reserved
  • 1 onion, roughly cut
  • 1 stalk celery, cut in thirds
  • Chunk of early garlic (or 4 crushed garlic cloves)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 cups water
  • Salt, pepper

Add corn cobs, onion, celery, garlic and bay leaf into stock pot or Dutch oven; add water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer at least 30 minutes, up to an hour. Add salt and pepper to taste as it reduces. When you’re satisfied with the flavor, strain the stock and set aside.

You can use the stock after 30 minutes, but letting it go for at least an hour will impart so much flavor. I ended up with about 2 cups of stock after it reduced. But it’s really concentrated. If you want to end up with more stock, just adjust the ingredients.

Corncob Veggie Soup

  • 1/3 pound sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • Remaining bulb of early garlic, chopped (or 4 garlic cloves, minced)
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 2-3 leeks, cleaned and sliced
  • 4 red potatoes, sliced
  • ½ head cabbage, chopped
  • Stock, made from corn cobs
  • Water
  • Corn kernels from 4 ears corn
  • 1 zucchini, halved and sliced

Put a stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat and add the sausage, breaking it up. Add the onion and garlic. Cook until the sausage is no longer pink and the onion and garlic are softened, about 7 minutes. Add the wine to deglaze. Add the leeks, potatoes and cabbage. Stir and cook about 5 minutes. Add stock and water to cover the vegetables. You want about 8 cups of liquid. Simmer until potatoes are tender.

While it simmers, add about a cup of corn kernels to a blender and process till smooth. If it’s a little too thick, add some soup stock and try again. When the potatoes are tender, add the puree and stir in it. Use a masher to break up some of the potato and stir again. Add the corn and zucchini; stir.

Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano on top and rounds of French bread, slathered with pesto and baked at 350 for about 10 minutes.

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