Showing posts with label soup. Show all posts
Showing posts with label soup. Show all posts

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Broccoli & fregula soup



Believe it or not, this otherwise vegetable-based concoction started out with a bag of marrow bones.

Between the produce aisle and the checkout, well, there they were. Apparently, I could not help but to toss the bones into the basket dangling from my hand.



There the bones are, three as you can see, browning along with a diced onion, a couple celery stalks and four or five garlic cloves (in olive oil, of course).



A hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind finds its way into many soups that I make, and I enthusiastically recommend using one here.

As for quantity, we usually make enough soup to last us a few days, and so a gallon of water ought to do the trick. Just add the water and a decent bit of salt, then let things simmer for a good 45 minutes to allow the broth to develop flavor.



Once the broth is nice and tasty remove the marrow bones and set them aside. Then add three chopped broccoli crowns and three diced carrots. This will bring down the temperature a bit so wait until it comes back to a boil.



Once it's back to a boil add at least a cup of toasted fregula and let it cook for around 10 minutes, at which point the soup is done.



Except that I'm not a guy who is about to allow perfectly good bone marrow to go to waste. Scoop it all out and add the marrow to the pot; you won't be sorry.



Oh, and don't forget to grate some cheese on top of the soup before serving.

This step, to my way of thinking, is non-negotiable.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Escarole, sausage & bean soup



Okay, so this isn't the lowest-cal soup that's come out of the kitchen this winter.

What, are you on a diet or something?

Escarole, sausage and beans are on this earth to give us pleasure. And everybody knows that they do this best when they are together.

That's a fact, by the way. If you don't believe me, just look it up.

So if you're still in winter soup-making mode give this one a try. In Maine we'll be in soup-making mode until around mid-June, so there's still plenty of time to let me know how things turn out.



Finely dice two carrots, two celery stalks, one onion, five or six garlic cloves and a little hot pepper and saute in olive oil until softened but not browned.



Then stir in a pound of sweet Italian sausage meat.



After just a few minutes the sausage meat should be cooked enough.



At this point add 12 cups of water, one pound of thoroughly rinsed dried beans (I used a small white varietal but most any bean will do) and a piece of cheese rind (Parmigiano-Reggiano of course!). Cover the pot and allow to simmer at medium-high heat.



Cooking beans is an inexact science and so at this stage you're kind of on your own. I did not presoak these beans (if I had they would have cooked faster), so at the one-hour mark I tested them to find they were around 45 minutes away from being done.



After another 15 minutes or so I added a full head of cleaned and chopped escarole, as well as salt and pepper to taste, then returned the cover to the pot and let things simmer for another half hour.



The total cooking time of your soup may vary but this one simmered for a little under two hours.



At which point you can have at it right away or let the soup sit in the fridge overnight and eat it the following day.

Since this batch will feed 4-6 people My Associate and I chose to do both.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Italian wedding soup



Every New Year's Eve the same group of friends gather together at my home for an epic food and drinkfest that begins sometime around 6 pm and lasts all the way past midnight. It's a tradition that began more than a quarter century ago, when My Associate and I were still living in New York. We've moved a few times since then, as far away as Maine some years ago, and not a single year has this annual gathering been shelved.

This last time saw a new twist; a theme, actually. For reasons having nothing to do with me (I swear!) it was decided by the other members of our group that each of the many courses needed to feature a "ball" of some type. Scott and Giovani arrived carrying an orange-colored Le Creuset pan filled with fried codfish balls to get the festivities started, while My Associate was putting the finishing touches on the veal meatballs that would follow much later in the evening. Tom and Beth had only moments earlier removed a second batch of fluffy yellow cream puff shells from the oven, as they had been charged with providing the all-important dessert course hours later.

You get the idea.

All things round-shaped the whole night through.

My contribution to Ballfest '17-18 was Italian Wedding Soup. I found this a fitting way to end the dreadfully divisive year we've all endured, as few traditional foods are as comforting and life-affirming as this one is.
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The first thing you'll need is 12 or so cups of chicken stock. A lot of people will tell you that a good packaged or canned stock is just fine but I'm not one of those people. Homemade stock is the only way to go and so that's what you're looking at here. (In case you're interested this stock went like so: I sautéed an onion, a carrot, some celery and a little garlic in olive oil with a couple anchovy filets, then added six large bone-in chicken thighs. After the thighs browned a little I added around 16 cups of water, salt, a few peppercorns, and a good sized chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind and then slow-simmered the stock for around four hours. Once at room temperature I strained out all the ingredients, leaving a tasty clear broth.)



To make the meatballs mix 1/2 pound of ground beef (around 80% lean) with 1/2 pound of ground pork. On a flat work surface form a ring with the meat and then fill the center with wet bread that's been torn into small pieces.



On top of the bread add around 1/2 cup or more of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, an egg and some chopped parsley, then very gently mix everything together with your hands. It's important not to be aggressive with your mixing, as that will make the meatballs tough.



This is how things should look after mixing. As you can see, it's still possible to see pieces of bread. That's a good thing. You don't want a mix that looks perfectly ground and mixed together.



Always test the meat mixture for flavor and texture before rolling the entire batch into balls. In this case pop one meatball into the slow-simmering broth and cook for maybe five minutes. After tasting this meatball I added a little more cheese to the mix and also around 1/4 cup of whole milk to moisten things a bit more. This made for a good tasting — and very moist — meatball in the end.



I wound up with nearly 35 little meatballs, around an inch or so in diameter. (Again, you can see how lightly mixed the meat is; see the pieces of bread in some spots?)
.


After you've formed all the meatballs add 1/2 cup of orzo to the broth and raise the heat to a rolling boil.



Then add an entire head of escarole that's been chopped into small pieces. (If you can't find escarole another green will do.)



After seven minutes or so lower the heat to a simmer and gently add all the meatballs. (It's very important that you not cook the meatballs at high heat, as this will toughen them.)



While the meatballs are simmering mix two eggs and around 1/2 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano in a bowl.



After the meatballs have simmered for around five minutes slowly stir the egg and cheese into the soup (again, at a slow simmer, not a rolling boil).



The egg and cheese will cook immediately, so turn off the heat right after they have been fully incorporated, like so. That's all there is to it; the soup is ready to serve right away.



Except that topping off each bowl of soup with a little extra grated cheese is totally the way to go and so I strongly urge you to do so.

Happy New Year everybody!

I hope.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Chickpea & cabbage soup


I'll say this about vegetarians: Their soups are a snap. I began prepping this chickpea and cabbage deal at around 6:15 pm the other evening. By 7:15, I was on the sofa catching up on my "Boardwalk Empire" (poor Eddie), a warm soup bowl in one hand and a chilled glass of Roero Arneis in the other.

This soup is so easy to make that even my veg-only left coast pal Ricklie could probably pull it off. If only she had a stove. Which she doesn't. (I know. How does a human live without one! No, really, how?)


Just saute a large onion, five garlic cloves and however much hot pepper you can stand. I think a good kick of heat really enhances this particular soup, and so I used a good-sized fresh chili. It would not have been ruined by the addition of another.


Okay, I also threw in a few anchovy fillets, but most of you would rather be boiled in hot oil than eat an anchovy and so, well, don't. (The little fishes do not square with vegetarians either, and so please feel free to leave them out.)


After the onions are softened, add a chopped up medium-size head of cabbage, along with a good dose of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover the pot so that the cabbage can soften a bit before moving ahead.


After about 10 minutes uncover and add a half cup of white wine or dry vermouth, then turn up the heat so that the wine can burn off.


Add one quart of stock. I used chicken (uh-oh!), but vegetable stock would be fine. Also add a 19-oz. can of chickpeas (drained but not rinsed), then set the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil.


After about 30 minutes you should be all set to go.


Except for one VERY important final step: You have just got to grate some Pecorino-Romano cheese onto this soup. Believe me, the sharpness of the cheese really pulls it all together.

A little crusty bread to sop things up isn't such a terrible thing either. But you knew that.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Italian egg drop soup


Okay, so it's actually stracciatella. I went with the "egg drop" headline figuring that it might draw some more people in. What do you want from me?

Other than making your own chicken broth, which I highly recommend, there really is nothing to preparing this soup. In fact, with the holidays coming up this weekend, it would make a lovely beginning to the family meal.

Stracciatella (yes, chocolate chip ice cream goes by the same name in Italy) definitely ranks high on the comfort-food scale. I mean, c'mon. It's eggs, broth and cheese. What's more soothing than that?

I've always made this soup by instinct, not by recipe. But. Since I am suggesting that you serve it to your loved ones this holiday weekend I decided to play it safe and let somebody else stand in on the recipe front.

You're welcome.

And have a good holiday.

RECIPE
Stracciatella
Roman Egg-Drop Soup
Adapted from Cooking the Roman Way, by David Downey

8 cups homemade chicken broth (you can use store bought but only do this if you're in a real hurry)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Kosher or coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of nutmeg

Bring the broth to a slow boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer.

Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl. Add the cheeses and stir in the parsley. (I know people who also add a little breadcrumb at this stage.)

Whisk the boiling broth so it swirls clockwise. Pour in the egg mixture and whisk vigorously until the eggs tear into tiny shreds, about one minute. Add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste and also the nutmeg.

Ladle into soup bowls and serve immediately. (I'll often sprinkle some more cheese into the bowls, and always broken pieces of stale bread if I have it around.)

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The family stew


I'd like you all to meet two of my favorite people in the whole world. The handsome one (on the right) is my aunt Laura. The not-so-pretty one with the glasses? That's my cousin John, her son.

Laura (aka "Queen of Doughnuts") can make me laugh without ever speaking, and when she does speak her words are what "proper" people often refer to as "colorful." She is also one of my go-to consigliere in matters of traditional family recipes, and so Laura and I have talked a lot on the phone through the years, often while working in our kitchens.

I love my aunt a whole lot.

John makes me laugh too. His language (like mine, I'll admit) is a lot like his mother's. So are his kitchen skills. My cousin and I have always been close. As younger men we engaged in dangerous activities together, doing (let's face it, John) idiotic things that could have gotten us hurt or shuttled to a place upstate where they don't know from an aglio e olio. Even though we have grown older and more mellow, my cousin and I continue to seek each other out. This makes me happy.

Because I love him a whole lot too.

I haven't actually seen my aunt or my cousin since early in the summer, and yet they have been with me in my kitchen a lot these past couple of weeks. The "googootz" in my garden (best you click here for an explanation) have been plentiful this season; I have been cooking with them a lot. Nobody digs the 'gootz more that these two do. I can't lay eyes on one of the odd-looking Sicilian squash without thinking of Laura and John. Just isn't possible. Believe me, I've been at this a long time.

If it weren't for them, in fact, our family's oldest stew might long ago have been forgotten. They're the only two people I know who will not allow a single summer to pass without preparing at least a couple pots full of giambottaGiambotta is an Italian vegetable stew but when using googootz (all right, the squash's actual name is cucuzza) my family has always added chicken. I don't know why that is. Neither do any of them. I've asked.

Anyhow, I posted the recipe for my giambotta some time ago now, but since these two relations of mine have been so much on my mind of late, I decided to allow them to share theirs. Googootz are not very easy to find (here's a link to the cucuzza plantation in Louisiana where most of those you'll find in the U.S. come from). If you can't get your hands on a googootz, I suppose a couple large zucchini will work just fine. They just won't be nearly as much fun.


Here's a taste of the stew, by the way.


And here are my handsome relatives again, just about to cook up a new batch.

I wish that I were with them. But am guessing that maybe I am.

Laura & John's Giambotta
Recipe

1 chicken breast quartered
1 medium onion (vidalia) sliced
3-4 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
4-5 carrots, sliced in good-sized chunks
2 celery stalks & their leaves, sliced
1-2 potatoes, chunked
1-2 googootz (squash)
Water or chicken broth to cover
Salt, pepper, oregano, basil, hot pepper flakes to taste
A diced fresh tomato or two if you like

Cut squash into 4"-6" lengths, then peel, seed and cut into chunks
Brown chicken in olive oil, then add onions and cook until tender
Add squash, carrots, celery, potatoes, garlic
Cover with water or broth (add more during cooking, if needed), bring to boil, then lower to a simmer and add salt, pepper, herbs
Cook partially covered for 30-40 minutes
Check water level during cooking (it should be not quite a soup, more like a stew in consistency)

A word from John: This recipe is good for 2 hungry eaters. But giambotta is even better the next day, and so I always up the ingredients and make extra.

A word from Laura: Shut up and eat already, would you please!

Monday, November 21, 2011

How to roast a chestnut


Saturday food shopping took a decidedly holiday-like turn when I noticed that two of the local food stores that I frequent (Rosemont Market and Micucci Grocery) had gotten in fresh Italian chestnuts.

I was in the middle of making a soup with these chestnuts (note to locals: Micucci's are a lot cheaper) when my friend Joe called. He had wanted to discuss matters relating to his business, except that as soon as he discovered what I was doing, all he wanted to talk about were chestnuts.

"I can't get a good chestnut panettone anymore," my friend moaned in a truly sorrowful way. "For awhile I had an outfit in Italy ship them to me, but I can't get them to do it anymore. I just gotta find another source."

As I know how much my friend loves his chestnuts, both in a panettone and warm out of the shell, this hurt my heart deeply. I do not like to see my friends suffering.

After several more minutes of chestnut talk he asked whether I would be blogging about the soup that I was preparing, but sounded less than enthusiastic when I said that I would.

"Nobody knows how to roast a chestnut anymore," Joe groaned. "All they know is opening a jar or a vacuum pack.

"If it were my blog," he went on, "I would just do that: How to roast a chestnut."

It is helpful to have friends who are smarter than yourself, don't you think?


The first step in roasting chestnuts is a little dangerous, so be careful and work slowly. Using a sharp knife, cut an "X" into one side of the nut.


After all the chestnuts have been scored soak them in water for about an hour. If you're in a hurry, 30 minutes will do, but they should be soaked at least that long. At an appropriate time in the process you'll need to preheat your oven to 400 degrees F and have a roasting pan on hand to accommodate both the chestnuts and some water.


These chestnuts roasted for 20 minutes. There are two things I'd like to bring to your attention. First, you can tell that the chestnuts are done because of the way the skin has curled up where the "X" was cut. If that doesn't happen then they need to cook longer. Second, there is still ample water in the pan. Some people use no water, others use so little that it evaporates entirely. I find using a good quarter inch of water works well.


Here's the soup that I wound up making, by the way. And a recipe from La Cucina Italiana should you be inspired to do so yourself.

I don't expect Joe to make it. He's too busy trying to track down his panettone. Poor guy.

Enjoy the Holidays.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bean and broccoli soup


A vegetarian I am not. Never have been.

However, recently I caught a mess of crap from a pair of non-meat eaters of my acquaintance. (They called me a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal; can you believe that?) And so, in the interest of harmonious relations with the herbivore crowd, allow me to offer one of the best meat-eschewing soups that I know. 

(If you are wondering what possible use could such a recipe have at this time of year, then consider this: Last week it was cold enough and wet enough up here that, as the soup simmered on the stovetop at the waterfront cabin where I was visiting, I strolled down to a nearby ship's chandlery and bought myself a new fleece cap.)

I just gotta fly south one of these days.


So, you got your onions, your garlic, celery, pepper, like that, all sauteing in olive oil, then some dry vermouth.


Toss in the broccoli and the beans, along with a good chunk(s) of rind from Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (I always have a bunch in the freezer).


Add water or vegetable stock and cook for about an hour.


And there you go.

No muss, no fuss. 

And no dragging of knuckles.

Bean and broccoli soup
Recipe

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 whole garlic cloves
1 small onion, sliced
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 hot pepper, chopped
1/4 cup dry vermouth
2 cups cannelini beans (fresh or dried)
1 head broccoli
Rind from Parmigiano-Reggiano
8 cups water or vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute the garlic, onion, celery and hot pepper in oil until softened, then add vermouth and cook until it evaporates.
Add the broccoli, beans, cheese rind and liquid, then a good dose of salt and some ground pepper.
Cook about an hour and serve.
 
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