Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup

Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup

Cabbage often gets a bad rap, but this luscious soup just might change your mind. And best of all is that it keeps getting better, so go on and make it ahead for the week! The mercury is down and the winds have picked up here in Chicago. So what is more delicious on these cold darker days than a nourishing bowl of soup and some good bread. And the smell of this cabbage will lure you in – not have you heading for the hills.

I have made this soup for decades, but never actually wrote down the recipe before. So this blog is giving me the opportunity to not only save it for myself, but to pass it on. The origins of the soup are Eastern European, where my family came from. Since they were poor and living in a shtetl, it is doubtful that there would have been much meat in this soup. Therefore, it was not the star, but rather a flavoring. And it is likely that water was used instead of stock. I look on my version as a salute to my grandparents, but not a slavish rendition.

Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup

This is not one of my vegan recipes. But the meat could be left out and vegetable stock could sub for beef stock. It won’t be quite the same, but because of the many layers of flavors built in, a vegan version would still be delicious. While I rarely eat meat these days, small amounts are welcome occasionally in these colder months along with a little extra fat – in my food, not on me! I have not tried making Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup with one of the newer meat substitutes available, but if someone out there would like to try it, I’d love to hear how it turns out.

Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup

Below is my recipe, but it should be seen as a guide rather than as an absolute. Measurements in these things are a suggestion and can be adjusted to suit individual tastes. You will notice that rather than using a roux or other thickeners, I use ginger snaps. The snappier the better! Not only do they thicken the soup as they dissolve but they also add that warmth and spiciness that cuts through the richness of the beef, if used, and makes this soup interesting. So when looking for ginger snaps, please don’t go for really sweet cookies.

Some recipes use apple cider vinegar or sour salt (citric acid) to achieve the sour part of the taste profile. I tried the apple cider vinegar but found that I needed fresh lemon juice to gain the punch and proper balance to suit my palate. I have also successfully used sour salt.

This soup of humble origins will warm your soul – guaranteed. And the intoxicating aroma will make your house smell like fall. Thoughts of cuddling on a couch or in front of a fire won’t be far behind.

If I am feeling especially ambitious, I will bake a pumpkin, apple or pecan pie for dessert. But a lovely fruit crumble, Brown Betty or baked apple with zabaglione also would raise this to another level as a special dinner. And don’t forget the bread!

Recipe

Yield: About 10 servings

Ingredients

1 medium head of green cabbage – about 2.5 pounds that has been quartered, cored and thinly sliced

4 to 5 medium carrots, peeled and cut into medium chunks or thick circles

2 Tablespoons neutral oil like canola or sunflower

About 2 pounds of short ribs of beef, chuck roast or beef shank, if using

1 large onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced

14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

1 large bay leaf or 2 smaller

About 10 whole cloves plus optional additional ground cloves

kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

1.5 teaspoons ground allspice

1 to 1.5 cups of raisins

3 Tablespoons of dark or light brown sugar

Juice of 1 to 3 juicy lemons or a mixture of apple cider vinegar and lemon juice

About 12 cups of stock/water/bouillon or some mixture thereof. (I used 4 cups of unsalted beef stock, 2 bouillon cubes and the remaining 8 cups were water.)

12 to 20 ginger snaps – 2-inch diameter, depending on how thick you like your soup

Directions

If you are using meat and are making this ahead: generously salt and pepper the meat and place in a glass or stainless container or a heavy duty plastic bag. Allow to sit in the fridge ideally overnight but for at least 4 hours. Remove from the fridge about 30 minutes to an hour before cooking. (Okay, so that is the ideal and I did do it this time, but plenty of times I have made this and simply took my meat out about 30 minutes before cooking, salted it and then cooked. You will have delicious soup either way, but the meat that is salted overnight remains moister and more tender when cooked.)

In a large stockpot, add the 2 Tablespoons of oil and heat to a shimmer. If using meat, add it now. Do not move the meat around, but allow it to sear and brown well on each side. The first side takes about 5 minutes. Then using tongs, turn the pieces of meat over. The subsequent sides will take about 2 to 3 minutes each. When the meat is crusty and well-browned, remove the meat to a plate or bowl. If there is a lot of excess fat in the pan, drain it off, leaving the brown bits and about 1 Tablespoon of the oil.

Now add in the onions and 1 teaspoon of salt. Allow the onions to soften and begin to lightly brown. This should take about 8 minutes.

You will now add the bay leaf, whole cloves and 1 teaspoon of ground allspice and tomato paste. Stir through the onions.

Add in the sliced cabbage and carrots and the canned tomatoes. It will look like a huge amount but the cabbage cooks down. As well as you can (tongs probably are easiest for this task), mix everything through with the spices, onions, tomatoes and tomato paste. You can add the stock to make it a bit easier to mix things. Layer in the meat if using and the remaining water with bouillon or additional stock.

Bring to a boil with the pot uncovered. Give a good stir, cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 2 hours or until the meat, if using, is starting to fall off of the bone.

Open the pot and give it a stir. Now add in your raisins and ginger snaps and mix through. Re-cover the pot and cook for another 15 minutes.

You are ready to add in the brown sugar and lemon juice to achieve that perfect sweet and sour balance. Start slowly. You can always add more but you cannot take it away once added. Taste and adjust your seasonings to your personal palate, adding more salt, pepper and allspice as required. Because I add raisins and ginger snaps, which do have some sugar, my brown sugar to lemon juice ratio is less than other recipes which tend to do 1 to 1. You decide for yourself how sweet or sour to make it.

Now enjoy!

This soup keeps well for several days and only gets richer with gentle reheating. It should also freeze well.

Winter Squash Lentil Soup

Winter Squash and Lentil Soup

This nutrient dense soup is packed with umami and has a gorgeous color for a delicious, satisfying vegan meal. I could just as easily have called it a stew – it is that thick and hearty! While I might be a bit sad to see the days getting shorter, I always look forward to wearing my fall clothes and eating the wonderful variety of winter squashes and root vegetables. And unlike summer squashes, having winter squashes is like having money in the bank. Kept in a cool, dry place, they will last for weeks or even months. They really were a saving grace during the worst of the pandemic when we tried to only shop once every few weeks.

It’s true that it can often be dreary outside at this time of year, but our food can still be filled with color and flavor. This Winter Squash Lentil Soup has everything going for it in a one-pot meal. Add some bread and maybe a nice glass of wine or some herbal tea and happily call it dinner. Though I would never eschew a nice green salad, it isn’t actually necessary. The kale, chard or spinach that is added at the end will give you more than enough greens and is a beautiful contrast to the bright orange of the squash, carrots and turmeric.

I came across a recipe that looked appealing when I was surfing for ways to use up some lovely squashes I had picked up at the farmers’ market.

Winter Squash Lentil Soup

Nowadays, of course, many large supermarkets also have a good variety of winter squashes available. And I make a delicious curried butternut squash soup every Thanksgiving. But I had never thought about adding lentils before. As I have mentioned in several posts, my husband and I are eating a largely vegetarian diet these days, although we have no plans to give up meat altogether. It does mean, though, that I try to be very conscious of adding in plant protein whenever I can.

The original recipe looked good to me but I wanted to make some changes – as is my wont. So below is the recipe as I made it and it’s wonderful. However, while I used Red Kuri Squash, just about any other orange-fleshed squash would work here. Butternut, carnival or pumpkin squashes all would be delicious. I also chose to go with a chana dal or yellow split pea rather than the green or brown lentils called for in the original. Part of the reason was to maintain that gorgeous color, but I also love that the chana dal maintains its bite even with a long cooking. I always use it 50/50 in my green split pea soup for that reason. If you don’t have them, pretty much any lentil will do.

Not only can you control or adapt the soup to what you have on hand, but you can also decide if you are going for a mellow curried flavor or one that is more spicy. And if you don’t like peanut butter, you can substitute cashew butter or even almond butter. Fall and winter not only bring out the beautiful squashes but also the heartier greens. Dino or lacinato kale, Swiss chard in all of its varieties, collards, mustard or turnip greens. I happen to love beet greens, but it is difficult to come across really nice ones where I live and many grocery stores actually throw them out before they are ever seen by customers.

This hearty soup comes together pretty quickly, making it a nice anytime soup. And while it is rare for me to buy pre-chopped squash, if you are really in a pinch for time, many grocery stores do offer that option. Winter Squash and Lentil Soup can be made ahead and refrigerated. Just gently warm it and add the greens before serving, allowing them to just wilt.

This is a soup to enjoy throughout the fall and winter. It will banish the drears away.

Recipe

Winter Squash and Lentil Soup

Yield: About 6 servings

Ingredients

Winter Squash Soup

1 Tablespoon oil (Canola, coconut or EVOO)

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

1 Tablespoon of freshly grated ginger

1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped – about 2 cups

1 large carrot, thinly sliced or diced

1 winter squash, about 2 pounds, peeled and cubed (about 6 cups)

1 Tablespoon yellow curry powder (hot or not or a mix)

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 15 ounce can of coconut milk – full fat, preferably

4 cups of vegetable broth

1 cup of chana dal or yellow split peas (green or brown lentils will work but the color won’t be as lovely), rinsed well and sorted. If your lentils are older, give them an overnight soak. Drain them before using.

3 Tablespoons natural peanut butter without any sugar – smooth or chunky

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

Freshly cracked black pepper to taste

2 good handfuls of baby spinach or kale

Optional Garnishes

Chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

Chopped roasted peanuts or cashews

Sing Bhujia Masala Peanuts

Chakri

Fresh lime

Directions

Add the oil of choice to a largish pot or Dutch oven. Heat to medium high and add the chopped onions and salt. Sauté for 3 to 5 minutes or until they begin to soften. Add the turmeric powder and curry powder and stir through for 30 seconds to bloom the spices.

Now add the squash, carrot, lentils, garlic and ginger and stir everything well, coating all of the veg with the spices.

Stir in the coconut milk, peanut butter and vegetable broth. Mix well and add in the cracked black pepper.

Bring the soup to a boil, then partially cover the pot, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes to an hour.

If you are making this ahead, allow the soup to cool a bit. Using an immersion blender, partially blend the soup. You want to still see some of the chunks of squash. This can also be done in a standing blender. In that case, only blend about 3 cups. Be VERY careful if the soup is hot. Cover the top of the blender with a kitchen towel and do not overfill the blender. Start on a low speed to prevent the hot liquid exploding out the top.

Just before you are ready to serve, make sure that the soup is hot and add in your greens of choice. Depending on the kind of greens you are using, they may take as little as 3 minutes to wilt (spinach) to more like 20 minutes (collards). I used a Dino kale (lacinato kale) and gave it about 8 minutes. Garnish and enjoy! Leftovers can be refrigerated and will last about a week.

Lasagna Soup

Lasagna Soup

Lasagna Soup is the cure for the autumn drears that I need NOW! Easy comfort food in a single pot. Fall can be the most beautiful season. The trees are sporting their colorful adornment before the leaves dance off until the spring. The days can be beautifully crisp and clear, making walks in forest preserves a delight. OR, it can be grey, dreary and damp like it has been this whole week, making getting out of bed a major achievement.

These are the days that make me hunker down, burying my head in a good book with a pot of delicious soup bubbling on the stove. This easy Lasagna Soup gives me everything I need to conquer the drears. And it can be vegan or beefy and cheesy or something in between, made with ground turkey. With just a few swaps (included below) this comforting soup can make anyone happy. I mean, who doesn’t love a good lasagna – in a fraction of the time?!

I love a good lasagna and my mother made one of the best. But even with the no-boil lasagna pasta now available, it’s still a bit of a production. This soup won’t replace lasagna when I have the time and inclination to make it, but it definitely gives me a lot of that satisfaction in a much easier, quicker format.

When deciding to make this soup, I checked out a bunch of different recipes. It’s one of those things that wasn’t there a week ago and now is EVERYWHERE. Since most of the ingredients are pantry staples, it’s the kind of thing that can be made without a run to the grocery store. And thanks to the pandemic, don’t most of us have great pantries and a few things like ground beef, turkey or vegan crumbles in our freezers?

So if you are ready to rise above the autumn drears or simply just want a bowl of warming comfort, give this a try.

Recipe

Lasagna Soup

Servings: 4 to 6

Ingredients

Lasagna Soup

1 Tablespoon of EVOO

1 large yellow onion, peeled and medium diced

2 to 4 garlic cloves (I use 4), peeled and minced

4 cups of broth (Vegan, chicken or beef)

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

24-ish ounces of marinara sauce OR 24 to 28 ounces of diced tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted)

1.5 teaspoons each: dried oregano, basil, onion powder

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste

1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper or to taste

1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar)

13 ounces (390 g) soy veggie crumbles or vegan ground “meat” or 1 pound of ground beef or turkey

About 3 cups of roughly diced fresh mushrooms (button, baby bellas or cremini (They lend umami and great mouthfeel, especially if you are going with the vegan version.)

8 to 10 ounces of dried lasagna or Gigli pasta

About 2 big handfuls of fresh spinach (Optional but recommended) or thawed frozen spinach with extra liquid squeezed out

Lasagna Soup

Optional Garnishes

If you are not making this vegan, you can add a dollop of ricotta cheese or parmigiana before serving.

Ribbons or torn fresh basil leaves or chopped flat-leaf parsley

A few chili flakes if you want this spicier

Directions

Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium high heat. Add the onion and sauté until just becoming golden, about 7 minutes. If the onion seems to be sticking you can add a splash of water or red wine to deglaze.

Once the onion is golden, add the garlic, tomato paste and spices and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more. (If using, you could also add the chili flakes here instead of as a garnish.)

Next add the ground meat or meat substitute along with the mushrooms, if using and cook for about 5 minutes or until much of the mushroom moisture evaporates. The mushrooms add a “meatiness” of their own. My mushrooms were very fresh and actually had almost no additional moisture, so I cooked them down enough to just begin to soften.

Lasagna Soup

Add the marinara sauce or canned tomatoes, vinegar and the broth. Bring everything to a boil and then add the noodles. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until the noodles are al dente. Stir in the spinach until wilted, if using. Remove from the heat, garnish and enjoy! A great crusty garlic bread or focaccia and some nice red wine wouldn’t go amiss.

NOTES:

This recipe will produce a wonderful cross between a thick soup and a saucy pasta. If you have left-overs, you likely will need to add some liquid when you go to reheat it. We are not vegan so I did serve the soup with some real cheese. However, I have been googling and there are a number of pretty simple recipes for all kinds of vegan cheeses should you wish to go that route and they are not readily available in your local stores. Some are made with cashews and others with soy milk. Some day, simply out of curiosity, I may try one or two.

Moroccan Chickpea Soup (Harira)

Moroccan Chickpea Soup (Harira)


Moroccan Chickpea Soup (Harira) is hearty and fragrant – a soul-satisfying one-dish meal. There are many versions of this soup – some with meat and others like this one, which is vegan. In some families it is traditional to serve this as the “break-the-fast” meal following Yom Kippur. But it could and should be enjoyed throughout the fall and winter. This is a make-ahead meal that only improves with a bit of age.

To show how vastly different our family traditions can be, my family’s break-the-fast meal was always bagels, lox and smoked fish. We came from New York via Russia Poland. But the truth is that I actually don’t like lox and smoked fish in the Midwest just doesn’t cut it for me. So, as I have with much of our diet during the rest of the year, I have adopted a more Middle Eastern/Mediterranean/South Asian food culture. And a heavily plant-based diet.

I came across a version of this soup on the Jewish Food Society website. It’s a wonderful site that has made it its mission to collect stories and recipes of the myriad Jewish communities across the globe. These are recipes that have been passed down through the generations, but which might have so easily been lost. Because so many of these families were forced from their homes under terrible conditions, it was easy for these unwritten treasures to have fallen by the wayside. While I have found that the recipes on the site are not always easy to follow, especially if you are a novice cook, the family histories alone make the website worth a visit.

While we Jews lived among the local communities, we also remained outside of them, keeping to our own traditions. Local cuisine was adapted to meet the laws of kashrut. Harira, Moroccan Chickpea Soup is a perfect example. Moroccan Muslims would eat harira to break the fast on Ramadan. Whereas many Jews ate it to break the fast on Yom Kippur.

The original recipe for this harira uses fine egg noodles and since I am not a vegan, I did as well. However, there is no reason why an angel hair pasta or spaghettini couldn’t be used instead. That is the only change required to make this wonderful soup vegan.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Moroccan-Chickpea-Soup-Harira6-1024x768.jpg
Moroccan Chickpea Soup (Harira)

If you choose to cook your own soaked chickpeas as I have done, you need to start the process the night before. If you prefer to use canned chickpeas, you can still make a delicious and hearty soup. I happen to enjoy cooking my own beans and use the liquid from the cooking process to replace most of the water called for in the recipe. It adds an extra level of nourishment and flavor and helps to further thicken the soup. Unless you are using organic canned beans, however, I would not recommend using the liquid. You could use water, as called for, adding a vegetable bouillon cube or you could use a vegetable stock.

After I had decided to make the recipe I found from the Jewish Food Society, I came across another version from My Jewish Learning, The Nosher. So I ended up doing what I usually do and took the elements that I liked best from both and then tweaked it!

My sister-in-law is from Morocco and I asked what her family’s tradition was for breaking the fast. She told me that their tradition was to eat an egg-drop soup before the fast and cake to break the fast, followed by a full meal. So whatever tradition your family follows – or if you are starting a tradition of your own, I definitely encourage you to fit this wonderful and incredibly soul-satisfying soup in there somehow.

For a version of harira with lamb: Harira – Moroccan Chickpea and Lamb Soup

Recipe

Yield: 6 servings

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Moroccan-Chickpea-Soup-Harira1-914x1024.jpg
Moroccan Chickpea Soup (Harira)

Ingredients

1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained OR one 15 oz. can of drained chickpeas

4 Tablespoons olive or a neutral oil like Canola

3 medium carrots (or 2 large), peeled and cut into small dice or rounds

2 stalks of celery, diced

1 large onion, diced

4 large garlic cloves, minced

1 Tablespoon Harissa paste, or to taste (I used 2 Tablespoons of a milder Harissa and added a few crushed red chili flakes)

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup brown lentils OR 1/2 cup red lentils and 1/2 cup brown or green lentils, rinsed

4 large or 6 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped (If making this in the winter, use canned tomatoes, about 28 oz. can)

3 cups fine egg noodles OR angel hair pasta broken into thirds (About 4 to 5 oz. depending on the kind of noodle that you use)

8 cups of vegetable stock, OR water with a couple of bouillon cubes OR the cooking liquid from the chickpeas plus additional water

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

A large handful of cilantro and/or parsley, stems and leaves roughly chopped

Directions

If you are cooking your own soaked chickpeas, place the drained chickpeas in a pot with 1 teaspoon of salt and 4.5 cups of water. Bring to a boil and skim off any white foam. Cover and cook for 50 minutes at a simmer.

In a large pot, add 4 Tablespoons olive or Canola oil. Add the chopped onion, carrot and celery and cook for about 6 minutes on medium high heat or until softened. I like to add 1 teaspoon of salt here. I will probably add more later since it is a big pot of soup. However, if you are using broth or bouillon and depending on your Harissa, you might not need much more salt. You can always add it but you cannot easily remove it!

Once the veggies are softened, add the garlic and cook for 1 to 2 more minutes.

Now add the Harissa, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and black pepper and stir through to coat everything well. Cook for 1 minute and then add the tomato paste to the bottom of the pot. Stir and cook for another 2 minutes.

If you are using your own chickpeas you can add them to the pot. I find that when I cook chickpeas myself, they retain their shape and bite even when cooked longer. If you are using canned chickpeas, you will add them in later. Your lentils are also added now. Give everything a good stir to coat with the spices and tomato paste.

Next add the tomatoes, broth, water or liquid from the chickpeas, the chopped stems of the parsley and/or cilantro. Don’t worry if there are some leaves in there as well. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Partially cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally for 1 hour. This can be done ahead.

When you are ready to eat, return the heat to a boil and add the noodles and canned chickpeas, if using. Simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and check your seasonings. The soup should be very thick, almost stew like. If you want it thinner then add more liquid. Add the juice of 1/2 of a lemon. Garnish with the chopped parsley/cilantro leaves.

Enjoy!



Beet and Tomato Gazpacho

Beet and Tomato Gazpacho

Enjoy Beet and Tomato Gazpacho – a feast for your eyes and your palate. August is the time to make tomato-based gazpacho. Gardens and farmers markets are resplendent with this juicy, ripe, flavorful fruit. While there is no “ONE” gazpacho, I have simply had too many that tasted more like a Bloody Mary than a true gazpacho. And this delightful cold soup should never be eaten out of season. Isn’t part of the joy in these foods that they are only available for a limited time?

Every summer my mother would make a delicious gazpacho. And I also enjoy some of the less traditional gazpachos without a tomato base, like this green gazpacho. One year our family took a trip to Spain and I recall with fondness the gazpacho that we ate in a former bull-fighting ring. It was garnished with prawns and the texture of the soup was velvety smooth and so refreshing on a very hot day. Every region in Spain has their version. You might wish to try this Andalusian Gazpacho.

The recipe is from the wonderful Martha Rose Shulman. She was inspired by the Spanish Michelin-starred chef, Dani Garcia. The color alone of this gazpacho makes it worth making. The beets that I roasted stained everything this glorious color!

Beet and Tomato Gazpacho

Where some gazpachos that I have had can be very spicy or sharp, this one is not. But don’t mistake smooth for dull or boring. Far from it! No single ingredient overpowers or catches in the back of your throat. But each element blends and compliments the other perfectly. For maximum flavor, make this Beet and Tomato Gazpacho the day before and allow it to thoroughly chill, adjusting the salt before serving. Chilled dishes tend to require more salt than you might otherwise use. There may be a bit of separation after the gazpacho sits in the fridge. Just give it a good stir and you are good to go.

This is not a difficult soup to make, but it does need a good blender to achieve the correct texture. The good news is that you do not have to peel the tomatoes – something that I hate doing. And while you probably could make this with prepared beets that are available at your grocery store, this is the time to roast your own beets. Roasting is very easy and if the beet greens and stems are in good shape, you can use them to make selka, a delightful and healthy Moroccan salad.

Serve this as a first course for dinner or as a light lunch with a crusty bread and a nice glass of wine.

Recipe

Beet and Tomato Gazpacho

Yield: About 6 servings

Ingredients

Two 1/4-inch thick slices red or white onion

1 large roasted beet

1 Persian cucumber or half of a seedless English cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks

2 pounds of ripe tomatoes (about 6 medium), cored and cut into chunks

2 stalks of celery or fennel, coarsely chopped

2 large cloves of garlic, halved and the green germ removed from the center (This removes any bitterness)

2 Tablespoons sherry vinegar

3 Tablespoons EVOO

Salt to taste (Start with 1.5 teaspoons)

1/2 to 1 cup of ice water, as needed for texture and consistency

For Garnish

1/2 cup diced cucumber

Slivers or ribbons of fresh mint leaves

Directions

Place the onions in a bowl and cover with cold tap water. Add a few drops of vinegar (Distilled or cider is fine – don’t waste the more expensive sherry vinegar here. By doin this, you are just softening any harshness that the onion may have.) Allow this to sit while you prep everything else. Then drain and rinse and cut into about 4 pieces.

Place all of the vegetables in a large bowl and mix to distribute them throughout. Working in two or three batches, blend all of the ingredients except for the garnishes in a blender until smooth. Add the water as needed to achieve the consistency and texture you want. It should be a silky puree. Then put all of the soup in a container and chill for at least 4 hours. However, it is better if allowed to chill overnight. Garnish and serve.

Creamy Mushroom Soup

Creamy Mushroom Soup

This Creamy Mushroom Soup is simple, satisfying and sophisticated. Delicious! I came across this recipe just in time. I made it when the temperatures were in the negative numbers (that’s below zero Fahrenheit, guys) we needed soup – hot, soothing, yummy soup.

However, now that we have had a bit of a warm-up and some hopeful signs of Spring, I still want this soup. And this Creamy Mushroom Soup will be delightful in the fall, winter and spring. I tend to move into cold soups in the summer, but this one is light enough that I might just give it a try.

Creamy Mushroom Soup came together quickly and luckily I had all of the ingredients on hand. It can be prepared ahead if you like, but is ready in less than an hour. I served it with a wonderful rustic bread that I had made, a lovely, bright salad and some ripe cheese. A glass of a delicious red wine was the perfect complement. After this, we only had room for some wonderful Clementines which seem to be at their best right now. Citrus fruits are winter’s sunshine. Juicy, bright with just the right amount of tang.

Mixed Salad

While not vegan, this recipe is vegetarian unless you choose to use chicken stock for the liquid. If you did want to make it vegan, I could see adding some cooked, pureed cauliflower, full-fat coconut milk or silken tofu to replace the cream. It wouldn’t be exactly the same but should be pretty close to the right mouthfeel, texture and taste. If you try it, let me know how it works out.

Onion Nigella Caraway Rustic Bread

Now my husband and I ate this as our main course, but it is simple enough to make and elegant enough to be served as a first course as well.

There are many different kinds of mushrooms – both fresh and dried – available these days. The dried porcini have a meaty texture when rehydrated and a robust flavor. And I used 1 pound of baby bella mushrooms, but cremini or even mixed mushrooms should all work. Each different kind will change the flavor somewhat, but they all should make for an interesting soup. The addition of a good glug of sherry at the end is a suggestion, but one that I strongly encourage. It just elevates the flavors.

I didn’t do this, but….. if you really want to tart things up, you could add a dollop of crème fraiche with a few chopped chives sprinkled on top just before serving. However you decide to serve this delicious soup, do make it soon. Any leftovers can be refrigerated and gently reheated.

Recipe

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Creamy Mushroom Soup

Ingredients

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

1.5 cups boiling water

2 shallots or 1 medium yellow onion

2 cloves of garlic

4 Tablespoons of butter (or buttery vegan spread)

1 pound cremini or baby bella mushrooms, sliced

1.5 teaspoons kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

3 Tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour

4 cups low sodium or unsalted vegetable or chicken broth

2 Tablespoons soy sauce or tamari

2 teaspoons dried thyme

2 bay leaves (fresh or dried)

1/2 cup heavy (double) cream

A good glug of dry sherry (Optional, but highly recommended)

Directions

  1. Place 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms in a medium heatproof bowl and cover with 1 1/2 cups boiling water. Soak until mostly softened, at least 15 minutes, but longer is fine. Meanwhile, finely dice the shallots or onion and mince 2 garlic cloves.
  2. Melt 4 tablespoons unsalted butter in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed 3 quart or larger pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and 1 pound sliced fresh mushrooms. Season with 1.5 teaspoons kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms are softened and have released their juices, 10 to 12 minutes.
  3. Line a fine-mesh strainer with 2 layers of cheesecloth. Pour the soaked mushrooms through the strainer into a measuring cup or bowl. Reserve the liquid and coarsely chop the mushrooms (leave behind any grit trapped in the cheesecloth).
  4. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour into the pot and stir to coat the vegetables. Cook until lightly browned, stirring regularly, about 2 minutes. Pour in 4 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth and scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon.
  5. Stir in the reserved soaking liquid from the mushrooms, the chopped porcini mushrooms, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 teaspoons dried thyme, and 2 bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer partially covered until the flavor is developed and the soup is slightly thickened, about 30 minutes.
  6. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Transfer about 2 cups of the soup to a blender or food processor and purée until smooth. Stir the purée back into the pot. Remove from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup heavy cream.

Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup

Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup

Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup with fennel and chard is just what the doctor ordered. We actually had snow today! Fall can be the most beautiful time of year with all of its autumn reds and golds and crisp chill. However, it can also be damp and dreary as it is today. What’s my cure? Soup, of course.

This Creamy Chicken Gnocchi soup ticks all of my boxes for the perfect weeknight dinner. All it needs is some delicious crusty bread like the wonderful olive bread that I bought at Publican Meat Market and maybe a glass of wine. While I enjoy baking bread almost as much as I do eating it, my apartment oven just doesn’t reach the kinds of temperatures to make truly crusty sourdough, pizza or other kinds of artisanal breads. So while other women may dream of jewels and clothes, I dream of a bread oven.

I came across this recipe on the kitchn.com website and knew immediately that I wanted to make it but with a few modifications. Why is this soup so great? It’s just the ticket when you want something homemade and delicious but with minimal time and effort. Because unless you choose to complicate it by first making your own broth and gnocchi, and shredding carrots yourself, everything is easily available in convenience packages in your supermarket. You could even buy a rotisserie chicken, although as it happens, I had roasted a chicken for dinner on Friday, so had the leftovers I needed.

I chose to use Rainbow Chard and fennel bulb in place of the original celery and baby spinach. The chard and fennel give a little sumpin’ sumpin’ to the soup that the milder celery and spinach won’t. And despite the seemingly generous amount of half & half cream, the soup is not at all heavy or overly rich. Just satisfying and delicious with a slight peppery bite nestled in the creamy broth.

Homemade doesn’t have to mean hours spent slaving over a stove. But you do have to buy quality ingredients. Find a brand of chicken stock that you like (and I always try to buy unsalted stock) and make sure to keep it on hand. A good stock is the basis of many a wonderful meal. And while I do make my own stock on occasion, I simply don’t have the freezer space to have it available whenever I need it. I’m using a fresh gnocchi, but there are also shelf-stable gnocchi or tortellini that you can keep on hand.

Once you have the ingredients together, the soup can be made in well under an hour. Any leftovers will keep in the fridge for several days and only requires a gentle reheating. So go ahead and make this Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup this week and beat the autumn drears.

Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup

For other delicious chicken soups:

Thai Coconut Chicken Soup with Rice

Yemenite Chicken Soup

Aromatic Chicken and Vegetable Soup (Koli)

Kalguksu (or Korean chicken noodle soup)

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Recipe

Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 cup sliced fennel OR 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 4 to 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups chicken broth (32 ounces), preferably unsalted or low sodium
  • 2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 pound refrigerated potato gnocchi (not frozen) Alternatively, you could use tortellini.
  • 4 cups of torn Swiss OR Rainbow Chard OR 5-ounces baby spinach or escarole
  • 1 1/2 cups half-and-half

Directions

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed 4 quart pot (or larger) over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, carrot, fennel, garlic, salt and pepper and sauté, stirring occasionally until softened – about 5 to 8 minutes.

Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup

Stir in the broth, shredded chicken and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and continue cooking for 10 minutes.

Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup

Up to this point, the soup can be made ahead, if you wish. Once you are ready to serve, make sure that the soup is simmering. Add the gnocchi and chard and cook until the chard is just wilted and the gnocchi cooked through – about 3 minutes. Now add the cream and quickly mix it through, immediately turning off the heat. The original instructions had you add the cream with the gnocchi, which I did, but it breaks the cream as you can see from the photos. The taste is fine, but it doesn’t look as nice and smooth.

Okay, now serve. Yep, it’s that easy. You’re welcome!

Red Lentil Soup With North African Spices

Red Lentil Soup with North African Spices

Red Lentil Soup redolent with North African spices – made ahead or on the table in under an hour. This easy and delicious soup has complex flavors but comes together quickly from pantry staples. Serve a cup as a starter or a big bowl with salad and your bread of choice for a complete but light and satisfying meal.

As anyone who reads my blog knows, I love lentils in all of their wonderful forms. Not only are these little nutrition powerhouses good for you but they are versatile and taste great. Red lentils come both whole and split. Either can be used in this soup but I mixed the two for exactly the texture I wanted – and because I always have both on hand. Generally split lentils (also called Masoor dal) are used in Indian cuisine. Now despite the name, when cooked, the lentils turn yellowish unless dyes have been added.

Because countries have different laws and food safety regulations, it’s best to buy certified organic lentils. There have been concerns about the presence of toxic chemicals found in high concentrations in lentils not certified 100% organic by the USDA. This has particularly been a problem in India. Since these superfoods can make up a large percentage of certain diets, it’s best to be safe. Thankfully, with very little effort, it is easy to obtain organic legumes of every variety.

I came across this recipe for Red Lentil Soup with North African Spices in my local newspaper. However, it originates with America’s Test Kitchen. While the original version is not vegan-friendly, it is easy enough to swap out the chicken stock for vegetable stock and the butter for either EVOO or buttery vegan spread without sacrificing any flavor or texture.

Most recipes I find seem to have too much salt and too small quantities of seasonings. Whenever possible, I use unsalted stock and up the ante on my spices. And when it comes to lemon – well, you can’t have too much. And not to get on my hobby horse, but I strongly encourage you to grind your own spices whenever you can. It takes seconds with an inexpensive coffee or spice grinder and the difference in flavor is enormous.

Below is my version of this delectable soup, but play around with it to get exactly the taste and texture you want. If made ahead, the soup will thicken some as it sits. If it is a bit thicker than you want, simply add some additional stock after you puree it and before reheating.

Because lentils break down so easily and quickly, you don’t have to puree the soup if you don’t wish. I have an immersion blender (a gift from Matthew and Frances) and so it is just a matter of seconds for me to get a smooth – ish consistency. You can control the texture and I always like a bit in my finished product.

So get your lentils on today! For some other delicious lentil dishes:

Greek Red Lentil Soup

Red Lentils with Ginger

Roasted Acorn and Delicata Squash, Lentils, Merguez and Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

Lentils du Puy and Potato Salad with Tarragon

Indian Spiced Lentil Burgers

Vegetable Fritters with Mango Chutney

Who knew that being frugal could taste this good?

Recipe

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

Red Lentil Soup with North African Spices

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter or EVOO

1 large onion, peeled and chopped

1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste

1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1 teaspoon ground coriander

3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

rounded 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cayenne or Aleppo pepper (my preference)

1 generous Tablespoon tomato paste (I LOVE the stuff in a tube – no waste!)

1 large or two smaller cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

4 cups stock (chicken or vegetable, preferably unsalted)

2 cups water

1.75 cups red lentils, picked over and rinsed

Zest of one largish or juicy lemon

Juice of one lemon

2 teaspoons dried mint, crumbled

1 rounded teaspoon paprika

Chopped cilantro or parsley (optional)

Directions

Melt the butter or EVOO over medium heat in a 4 quart or larger stockpot. Add the onion and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stirring occasionally, cook until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes.

Add the spices and pepper and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Stir in the tomato paste and garlic and cook for 2 minute. Add the lentils, stock and water and stir through. Bring to a simmer, partially cover the pot and cook for about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you cook it longer, the soup will just get thicker and creamier.

Add the lemon juice and zest. Turn off the heat and puree with an immersion blender.

In a small skillet, melt the remaining butter or EVOO. Remove from the heat and stir through the mint and paprika.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and top with some spiced butter (EVOO) and sprinkle with cilantro or parsley, if desired.

The soup can be made in advance. It will thicken some as it sits, but you can just add a little additional stock to get the desired consistency. Reheat gently.

Creamy Roasted Mushroom Cauliflower Soup

This earth-toned Creamy Roasted Mushroom Cauliflower Soup tastes rich and decadent without the guilt! The flavor is earthy and full of umami. The texture is silky smooth and dissolves on your tongue.

I was coming to the end of my two weeks worth of produce and was trying to come up with something for dinner. I still had a cauliflower and 3 largish Portobello mushrooms to use up. Not yet sure what I was going to make, I decided to roast them and thought I would figure it out later.

The roasted veggies smelled soooooo good that I thought why not combine them into a creamy soup. The result was even better than I had imagined and it would be irresponsible not to share it with you. While I did use chicken stock and a little butter, this could easily be made vegan. Just swap them out for a quality vegetable stock and either buttery vegan sticks or a bit more EVOO.

This Creamy Roasted Mushroom Cauliflower Soup makes a wonderful first course or a dinner when accompanied by a salad and some good bread. This is good enough for a special dinner, but easy enough to make on a weeknight, especially if you roast the veggies the day before.

The speckled earth-tones of this Creamy Roasted Mushroom Cauliflower Soup is my idea of beauty. However, if it isn’t yours, just close your eyes, take a spoonful and be prepared to be moved. It’s THAT good.

For other delicious creamy vegan soups try:

Watercress, Spinach & Chickpea Soup

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

Recipe

Yield: 3 to 4 servings, as a dinner

Ingredients

1 head of cauliflower (about 2 pounds) cut into small florets

3 large Portobello mushroom caps, whole or cut into thick strips

1 medium red onion, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock, preferably unsalted

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter or vegan buttery substitute

Kosher or sea salt and flavored pepper like Mrs. Dash

EVOO plus more for drizzling (use garlic, basil or lemon flavored if you have it)

Optional Garnish Ideas

Toasted walnuts

Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, chives or oregano

Croutons

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. and raise the rack to the second from the top. You want the vegetables to be 6 to 8 inches from the top of the oven.

Liberally drizzle a baking sheet with EVOO (Just regular good quality EVOO). Toss the cauliflower and mushrooms in the oil. Liberally sprinkle with salt and the flavored pepper. Make sure that the veggies are in a single layer on the pan. Roast for about 30 minutes and then turn the veggies over and continue roasting for 10 more minutes. These can be made a day ahead and refrigerated if you like.

In a 5 quart pot, warm 1 Tablespoon of EVOO over medium high heat. Add the onion and 1 teaspoon of salt or to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 3 to 4 minutes or until the onion is softened. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds more.

Once the veggies are roasted, add them to the onions in the pot along with the stock and butter. Bring to a boil, partially cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes.

Allow the mixture to cool down to simply warm. While you can use an immersion blender (And I do love them!) you will get a smoother texture if you use a standing blender. Place the mixture in the blender and blend on low until smooth. Do not try to do this with very hot soup or you will have a mess on your hands!

Garnish and serve. Prepare to be delighted!

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

Roasted Cauliflower Soup is the perfect Meatless Monday dish that is good any time. I didn’t even know that I wanted it until I needed to save a head that I had bought.

My Pandemic food delivery arrived two days ago and it is meant to last me for 2+ weeks. I’m still getting used to thinking about food shopping in those terms. It is particularly challenging when it comes to fresh produce. Cauliflower is so versatile that I knew I wanted to have some even if I hadn’t decided yet how I would make it. The cauliflower that came was a gorgeous, large head. (My food shopper must have been an out-of-work restaurant worker because he really made great choices, especially when it came to produce. I am so grateful to him and all of the workers who are taking risks to keep us safe during this pandemic. Please be generous with them when you can.)

Unfortunately I didn’t have room left in my fridge for it once I put everything else away, so I placed it on my windowsill and hoped for the best. This morning I noticed that it was starting to get those icky black spots and knew that I had to do something fast. Roasting it seemed the best quick option, but then what?

I have cooked cauliflower in many ways and some options can be found below, but I wanted to use this opportunity to try something different. It had to be fairly easy to make and could use ingredients that many of us have on hand or are easily accessible. My vegetarian cookbooks were my first resource, but nothing appealed to me so I turned to the source-of all- knowledge. This recipe by COOKIE + kate caught my eye and after making it, there is no looking back. Delicious, creamy and utterly satisfying! Roasted Cauliflower Soup is the perfect Meatless Monday dish that is good any time. Use it as a first course or as a light meal with some good crusty bread and a salad if you want (and have the ingredients!)

PS: My husband REALLY LOVED this soup.

For more great cauliflower recipes:

Cauliflower Fried “Rice” with Tofu

Valerie’s Roasted Cauliflower Steaks

Valerie’s Roasted Cauliflower Steaks

Lamb Meatballs with Cauliflower

Cauliflower and Peas (Ghobi Aur Matar)

Spiced Lamb with Cauliflower Tabbouleh

Rich Bean, Mushroom and Cauliflower Stew

Recipe

Yield: 4 servings (more if using as a first course)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), cut into bite-size florets
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • kosher or sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped (You can use a yellow onion if that is all you have)
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 4 cups (32 ounces) vegetable broth (Chicken broth works if keeping it vegetarian/vegan isn’t an issue)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (Can substitute non-dairy buttery sticks to keep it vegan)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or more if needed (Optional)
  • Scant 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • For garnish: 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, chives and/or green onions or roasted pumpkin seeds and a drizzle of EVOO (And if you don’t have any of these, sprinkle with a little paprika)

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. If desired, line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper for easy cleanup.

On the baking sheet, toss the cauliflower with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil until lightly and evenly coated in oil. Arrange the cauliflower in a single layer and sprinkle lightly with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Bake until the cauliflower is tender and caramelized on the edges, 25 to 35 minutes, tossing halfway. (I did not actually bother measuring the EVOO or the salt. I drizzled, sprinkled and tossed. Don’t get bogged down with measurements when cooking. This isn’t baking.)

Once the cauliflower is almost done, in a Dutch oven or soup pot, warm the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and turning translucent, 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add the broth.

Reserve 4 of the prettiest roasted cauliflower florets for garnish. Then transfer the remaining cauliflower to the pot. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a simmer, then reduce the heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes, to give the flavors time to meld.

Once the soup is done cooking, remove the pot from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes. Then, carefully transfer the hot soup to a blender, working in batches if necessary. (Do not fill past the maximum fill line or the soup could overflow!) OR Use an immersion blender right in the pot! My choice is always for less work and less clean-up!

Add the butter and blend until smooth. Add the lemon juice, if using, and nutmeg and blend again. Add additional black pepper and salt, to taste (I added another 3/4 teaspoon, because my broth was unsalted.) Don’t go crazy, but you do need to properly salt the soup to bring out the flavors. You can also use a little more lemon juice, if it needs more zing. I ended up using the juice of a half lemon. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think it would have been delicious without any lemon so don’t stress if you don’t have it. Stir well.

Top individual bowls of soup with 1 roasted cauliflower floret and a sprinkle of roasted pumpkin seeds, chopped parsley, green onion and/or chives. Drizzle with a bit of EVOO. This soup keeps well in the refrigerator, covered, for about four days, or for several months in the freezer.