Archive for: soup
Soup is a very satisfying meal to have on a chilly night and it is always good to have a simple soup recipe on hand when you want something that is both satisfying and easy to make. Pumpkin soup is something that I will often fall back on. Canned pumpkin is an easy starting point (although fresh, boiled and pureed pumpkin is also excellent if you have a little time to make it) when you want something ready fast. Pumpkin by itself is fairly plain, however, so I like to bump up the flavor with some spice and some bacon in this Spiced Pumpkin Soup with Crispy Pancetta.
The soup starts out with the pancetta, which is cooked in a large saucepan until it is crisp and caramelized. Some of the fat will have been rendered off of the pancetta and I scoop out the pancetta, but leave the hot fat. I add my pumpkin and spices right to the fat and give them a little stir to capture some of that pork flavor, then add some stock to thin the soup. I always let the soup simmer for at least 30 minutes to help the flavors meld before I serve it. Typically, I serve this with a little yogurt or cream and don’t add any dairy to the soup, but a half cup or so of cream can really give it some extra creaminess if you like cream soups.
Most grocery store butcher and deli areas stock pancetta, and you can get it already diced up or in slices and dice it up yourself. If you don’t have pancetta, you can easily use regular bacon and great great results. I like it both ways, but bacon will add an extra smokiness that works very well with these spices. I call for plenty of pancetta in the recipe because I like to have a lot to top off my soup, but you can use less or more, based on what you have on hand or how many people you are serving.
An immersion blender is a handheld kitchen appliance that allows you to blend or puree foods in the container that you are preparing them in. For instance, you can puree a soup directly in the pot you’re cooking it it, rather than transferring it in small batches to a food processor or blender to puree. You can use an immersion blender to blend a one-person smoothie or milkshake directly into your cup, as well as to make smooth sauces, well-emulsified dressings and purees. An immersion blender looks like a long, thick stick. The top portion serves as the handle and the controls for the device. The base of the mixer is an attachment with a small blade at the end. This piece either snaps on or screws on (depending on what brand/model of blender you have) and this is the piece that goes into your soup, etc. to do the hard work of pureeing. It is removable to make cleaning up an easy task, and most immersion blender attachments are dishwasher safe. To use it, simply insert the blade end into whatever you’re pureeing and turn the blender on (some have multiple speeds, other models only have one). By simply stirring the blender around, you’ll have a very smooth puree in very little time.
In addition to the blade blender attachment, immersion blenders – also known as stick blenders – can come with other accessories, such as whisk attachments and chopping attachments. A whisk works in largely the same way as a handheld mixer, though it is not as strong as a handheld mixer and is much better suited to whisking eggs, whipped cream or dishes on the stove (such as custards or puddings) than for mixing up a cookie dough batter. The chopping attachment, which includes a small container, makes quick work of chopping small amounts of vegetables for salsas and is definitely a favorite tool for many immersion blender users.
On a chilly fall day, the idea of spending a good amount of time in the kitchen preparing a roast or a slow-cooking batch of stew sounds like a wonderful one. The reality is that we don’t always have the time to devote to a project like that – especially when that chilly fall day comes on a weekday when there is a long to-do list to contend with. The solution is a quick cooking soup that is hearty enough to be very satisfying, but takes very little time to prepare, served up with a fresh loaf of homemade bread (and yes, as a baker I find that I do have time to bake some bread even when I don’t have time for the cooking) or a freshly baked loaf from your favorite bakery.
This particular soup is one of my very favorite quick fix soups. The recipe comes from Jacques Pepin, and ever since I saw him make it on an episode of his cooking show, More Fast Food My Way, I have been making it on a regular basis: Leek and Mushroom Soup. Leeks and mushrooms are both chopped up and used for the base of the soup, along with chicken stock, giving it a nice texture and giving it a surprisingly full flavor for such a simple recipe. The Leek and Mushroom Soup is a lot like leek and potato soup, because Pepin uses instant potatoes (which are really just dehydrated potatoes, nothing unusual) to thicken the soup instead of loading it up with cream. The potato trick may sound strange – especially if you don’t typically use instant potatoes at home! – but it really works, and the soup turns out to be satisfyingly creamy, with a great potato and leek flavor, while still being very healthy.
I serve this with chopped green onions or chives and sometimes add a bit of sour cream or yogurt to the bowl for some extra richness. Jacques says that he will sometimes stir a bit of cream or milk into the soup for a thinner consistency if he wants something a bit lighter. Crusty bread is my first choice as a match for this soup, but buttery dinner rolls or even biscuits still complete the meal admirably.
When I think of gazpacho, I think of a sort of cold tomato soup that features lots of fresh tomatoes and other vegetables. I don’t think about one specific soup because there are many types of gazpacho out there, from sweet to spicy, from chunky to smooth. Salmorejo is one type of gazpacho that is well known in the Andalucia region of Spain, specifically in and around Cordoba. Salmorejo stands apart from other gazpacho-types because it is very creamy, a texture that comes from a larger amount of olive oil than you might find in other gazpachos and from bread that is blended into the soup. The bread might sound like an odd ingredient, but as you process the soup in a food processor, you’ll see that it thickens the soup and also helps smooth it out.
I tried some salmorejo in Spain and couldn’t wait to try it out with some fresh tomatoes at home. This version of the soup is very easy to make and tastes delicious, with a lovely tangy, fruitiness coming from the fresh tomatoes and olive oil. I simply popped all of my ingredients into the bowl of my food processor and blended the heck out of them, stopping a few times to adjust the seasoning with some salt and pepper. I streamed in the olive oil last to make sure that the soup was as smooth as possible before adding it. Since I wanted this soup to be especially creamy, I strained it before chilling it to remove any tomato seeds or bits of tomato skin. This step can be skipped, but it really will give you the silky smooth texture that the soup is known for.
As always, with recipes that get a lot of their flavor from olive oil, choose a good quality olive oil. I used an extra virgin oil that had a really nice fruitiness to it. A good way to see if it will work well in the soup is to drizzle a little bit of oil on a piece of tomato and see if your oil is a good match (it probably is!). Don’t use an oil other than olive oil, or use an olive oil that you don’t like the flavor of when making this soup. And, of course, it should go without saying that you should choose high quality tomatoes for this recipe, too.
Serve the soup with pieces of ham or pancetta and chopped up hard boiled egg if you’re looking for some authentic garnish. Otherwise, some crisp, buttery croutons will be a nice finishing touch.
Chicken and dumplings is classic American comfort food. It’s one of those dishes that you just want to curl up with on a cold winter night since it’s hearty, flavorful and can be very easy to make. If you’ve never had it, chicken and dumplings is a lot like chicken soup (very heavy on the chicken) with steamed biscuits floating in it. The chicken and broth portion of the dish already has a comforting, homey flavor to it and adding steamed biscuit dough makes the dish filling and lends a nice buttery flavor to everything.
This version of chicken and dumplings – and you should know that there are as many ways to make this dish as there are ways to make a chocolate chip cookie – is a quick one-dish meal that you can make in less than an hour from start to finish. I start with a whole rotisserie chicken and shred the meat. I make a chicken soup base using onions, carrots, celery, garlic and chicken stock (storebought, but homemade is good if you have it) and add the shredded chicken into it. I make homemade biscuit dough, drop it in small chunks into the boiling soup, then put the lid on the pot and cook everything until the biscuits are soft and tender.
I think that the homemade biscuit dough is the key to this dish. The finished dumplings are so buttery and flavorful, and they even have a bit of a flaky texture to them that you’re not going to get from a can of biscuit dough dropped into the soup. It’s worth noting that you’re not going to get the same kind of rich, buttery flavor from canned dough, either, since most are made with shortening. The dumplings will be done when they are cooked through and fluffy, no raw dough in the center; you will probably have to cut one open to double check and can cook the whole dish a few minutes longer if you need to. It reheats well, but is best fresh!