Zuppa Tuscana (Rustic Italian Soup)


15EEEF22-B8D7-4479-A255-78F16653D8C9Apparently this is a soup at Olive Garden that people rave about – however, I’ve never had it there. I saw a similar recipe online and then tweaked it to make it my own. And. I. Love. It.

Now, this is not the most waist-friendly soup, what with the cream, potatoes and spicy sausage. But I figure the kale makes up for all of that and I’m willing to risk it! One step, you must not, I repeat, NOT skip is using the homemade garlic broth. It doesn’t taste the same if you just add garlic (clove or paste). So don’t skip it. Seriously. I’m not kidding here.

Continue reading

Sopa de Albondigas


image

This was inspired by by sister from another mister’s mother… yes, you heard me right. My best friend’s mother, Josie, used to have a pot of soup or beans or something on the stove all the time… which was made living next door quite delightful! I recently discovered a genuine Mexican market up the street from me (which I’ve missed since moving to Nashville from Los Angeles) and I went a little crazy shopping. Seriously – support local vendors any time you can. I mean, FIVE limes for $1.00 and they’re .85 each at Kroger! With the exception of the seasonings (which I already had) I got every ingredient listed below at my new favorite market. Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Continue reading

Miso Soup with Soba Noodles and Roasted Chicken


photo 3

If you’re like me soba noodle always sound a little intimidating. Do they require special handling? Are they high maintenance? The answer is yes… and no.  Super simple to cook – 3 to 4 minutes tops. And the only special handling is to remember that they continue soaking up liquid… so best to store leftovers dry.  Honestly, they are best freshly made but they cook so quickly it will just take minutes to prepare next time you need them! And since they’re lower in carbs and calories than regular pasta noodles… these buckwheat gems are worth it!

Continue reading

Summer Pea Soup with Green Curry and Toasted Mustards Seeds


Nothing says summer like a bowl of pea soup! Okay, maybe there’s a lot of things that “say” summer, like grilling, pool parties, vacations… yea, soup normally isn’t high on the list.

But this soup is so refreshing and can be served hot or cold! Low in calories and quick and easy. See – it’s perfect for summer!

This recipe is also vegetarian and vegan-friendly. But you may use chicken stock or garnish with crumbled bacon if you are phobic about eating a meat-free meal.

Ingredients (yields 3-4 servings)
1 12 oz bag frozen peas – thawed
1 small sweet onion – diced
1 Poblano pepper
1 med fennel bulb – diced
1 tablespoon garlic – minced
1-2 tablespoon green curry paste
1 tablespoon whole mustard seeds
1 tablespoon coconut oil (substitute extra virgin olive oil if you must)
1 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons of green onion (chives) – chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation
Have a bowl of ice water standing by. Bring medium saucepan of water to boil. Add peas and reduce heat. Cook for 3-4 minutes until softened but not over-cooked. While peas are cooking dice onion and mince garlic.

Ready to Cook?
Saute onion,  garlic and fennel in coconut oil until translucent. Remove peas from boiling water and put into ice water to stop the cooking process (this is called “blanching”). This helps the peas keep their bright green color. Remove peas from ice bath and place in food processor. Roast Poblano pepper on the grill or on top rack of oven until nicely charred. After it cools a bit, remove skin with the backside of your knife. Remove seeds and stem. Add  peas, onion, garlic, Poblano, coconut milk and curry paste to food processor or large blender (remember to remove spout cap if ingredients are hot to allow steam to escape or you will blow the lid off! I may speak from experience). Puree until smooth. Add additional coconut oil or milk, if too thick.

Toast mustard seeds in a dry saute pan until golden brown. This takes less than a minute so be careful not to burn.

Here is an optional step: Using a sieve, pour pea soup through (with a pan below) and work with a spoon until all has been strained. This will help eliminate any pea shells or chunks of onion or fennel that did not get processed thoroughly. If you like a little texture in your soup, just skip this step. But if you’re looking for silky smooth soup – go this extra mile (extra 15 min).

Heat soup on low to medium until warm… or serve cold! Sprinkle with toasted mustard seeds and chives.

The Perfect Bite
Of course the perfect bite of soup is a slurp… but make sure it includes some mustard seed and chive! Also, this is perfect with crostini drizzlde in olive oil.

The Perfect Pairing
This soup is very filling on its own. But it’s great as a side with grilled cheese sandwich or for you meat lovers, with grilled chicken. Try pairing it with an Austrian Grüner Veltliner. It’s a light, fresh, lively and delicate wine that will compliment this soup whether served warm or cold.

The Perfect Health
When your mom told you to eat your peas, she knew what she was talking about. Peas flaunt twice the protein of most vegetables, so they’re the ideal substitute for fattier protein fare, providing an excellent strategy for controlling your fat intake. Read more about the heath wonders of peas here.

Sausage, White Bean and Kale Soup


This recipe is adapted from something I saw in Cooking Light Magazine (March 2011).  Winter is STILL alive and well in Nashville, but I’m growing tired of heavy cold-weather soups. So I was searching for something light and healthy but substantial enough for a main course. With 4-5 modifications (though still keeping the health benefits in tact) I came up with a very satisfying meal. Enjoy!

Ingredients
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup sweet onion – chopped
1/2 cup fennel bulb – julienned
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 links sweet Italian turkey sausage
2 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken stock
1 cup homemade garlic vegetable broth (hopefully you’ve made a batch before and froze some!)
1 (15oz) can Cannellini Beans or Great Northern Beans – rinsed and drained
2 1/2 cups kale leaves – torn (you can substitute escarole or swiss chard if you prefer)
3 tablespoons shaved Parmesan cheese

Preparation
Start by getting your Mise en Place together. This is crucial because once the meat is browned, everything moves quickly. Dice your onion (you’ll probably use 1/2 of a medium onion). Julienne your fennel. Be sure to peel off the outer layer which can be pretty tough and bitter. Mince garlic fine if not using pre-minced from a jar. After rinsing your kale, fold leaves lengthwise so that the spine shows. Pull away from spine and tear leaves into one inch pieces. Discard spines. Rinse and drain your canned beans. Okay – everything in place?

Ready to Cook?
Start by browning the sausage. Peel casings off sausage links and break into one inch pieces while stirring and browning. If you have an enamel cast iron pot, you can do this all in one vessel. But if not, use a frying pan or a pan that browns meat well. Turkey sausage doesn’t render a lot of fat so you may need to give it a splash of olive oil while browning. Once meat is browned and almost thoroughly cooked, add olive oil, onion, garlic and fennel and saute until tender, probably 5-7 minutes on medium heat.

Once the veggies are tender, add the chicken and garlic vegetables broths. [By the way, you can make this with just chicken broth, but I promise you – it won’t taste as amazing.] Add the beans, cover and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. About 5 minutes. Then add the kale and simmer for another 5 minutes, or until the kale wilts.

Sprinkle the Parmesan shavings on top right before serving. Tip: I pre-shaved extra Parm and have it ready for leftover soup!

The Perfect Bite
Now this is one of my favorite “perfect bite” moments… when you can load your spoon with a little bit of everything. Seriously, scoop up a chunky piece of sausage, a couple of white beans, some leafy kale and some garlicky broth. And be sure to get some Parmesan on there! It’s like they were created to go together. You will hear poetry in your head.

The Perfect Pairing
Pairing wines with soup recipes can be tricky. If you breakdown your soup ingredients and view them as you would a pasta sauce or something of similar status then your task will be less intimidating. If your soup is a tomato base then you’d want a wine with a little less acidity and lighter on the tannin content. If your soup (or stew or chili) is heavy on beans or meat then you could also get away with a wine that has a bit more body and strength. Which is why I chose a 2007 Malbec from Pannotia Vineyards for this soup. With a hint of clove and cinnamon and full tannins, it will play nicely off the sweetness Italian sausage and hold up against the slightly bitter kale.

The Perfect Health
Thanks to Cooking Light Magazine who provided all the health specs for this soup.
Calories:230 Fat: 4.6g Protein: 179g Carbs: 15.5g Fiber: 4.7g Chol: 49mg Iron:1.3mg Sodium: 624mg Calc: 87mg

Garlic Broth


Garlic-Bulb

Whole Garlic Bulb

I have finally posted this recipe separately because I have used it in so many of my dishes. Now I can just link to it and hopefully make it easier on you.

You can make as much or as little of this broth as you like… I prefer to make the largest batch I can manage so I can freeze small containers worth and have this ready to add to any soup, any time. This recipe is based off of 2.5 quarts. (More recipes to come using this tasty broth!)

2.5 qts of chicken or vegetable stock preferably from scratch but try to use organic if purchasing cans or boxes of broth (it’s roughly six 14oz cans).
4-5 tablespoons (heaping) coarsely diced garlic (roughly 2 whole bulbs)
2 bay leaves
3 tbsp olive oil
3 pinches dried sage
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 pinch salt

Add all ingredients to the stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat… cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain through cheesecloth or mesh sieve. Use immediately for soup or freeze in individual portions. TIP: freezing broth in ice cube trays allows you to use small portions at a time. If you freeze in containers leave a 1/4″ room at top for expansion.

Red Potato Leek Soup


This was my first attempt at Potato Leek Soup and I must say I’m rather pleased. It is comfort food at its best and on a cold December day… this did not disappoint.

Many Potato Leek soup recipes tend to be bland and I wanted to find a way to make this soup rich and flavorful (no, I did not put curry in it this time) without radically changing the delicious and earthy flavor profile. All it took were a couple of ingredients and voila! It was exactly what I was looking for… once again, I used my garlic broth and the final touch was adding just a pinch of smoked paprika… and perfection!

First, you want to determine what stock you’re going to use as a base. I prefer my homemade garlic broth (see Did You Know? at the bottom to learn the difference between stock and broth) over chicken stock or plain vegetable stock. Chicken stock will definitely add more flavor but then your soup is no longer vegetarian-friendly. Below is my recipe for the garlic broth. Start there and have this handy before beginning the soup.

Start Here: *Vegetable Garlic Broth
you can make as much or as little as you like… I prefer to make the largest batch I can manage so I can freeze small containers worth and have this ready to add to any soup, any time. This recipe is based off of 2.5 quarts.(More recipes to come using this tasty broth!)

2.5 qts vegetable stock preferably from scratch but try to use organic if purchasing cans or boxes of broth (it’s roughly six 14oz cans).
4-5 tablespoons (heaping) coarsely diced garlic (roughly 2 bulbs)
2 bay leaves
3 tbsp olive oil
3 pinches dried sage
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 pinch salt

Ingredients
2-3 medium leeks (about 1.5 lb)
2-2.5 lbs red potatoes (leave skins on)
1/2 of a medium sweet onion, diced.
2 bay leaves
20 peppercorns
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tablespoons butter
5 strips bacon or pancetta, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
5 cups garlic broth
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of white pepper
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika divided
1/2 – 3/4 cup Crème Fraîche or heavy cream (this step is optional if you want to reduce the fat. It’s just not as tasty! The cream also lightens to hue of the soup.)

Soup Preparation
Cut two 6×6 inch squares of cheesecloth and layer together. In the center, place the bay leaves, peppercorns and thyme. Trim 2 of the green portions of the leek leaves, cut in half and place in center of cheesecloth, as well. Tie into a package-shaped bundle with kitchen twine and set aside.

Using a knife, halve the white part of the leeks lengthwise and rinse well under cold running water to rid the leek of any sand and dirt. TIP: I fill a large bowl with water and soak them for a few minutes, to really get the grit out of the thin layers. Then pat dry. Slice thinly crosswise and set aside. Wash and dice potatoes into 1/4 inch cubes and set aside.

Ready To Cook?
In a large soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter and add the bacon and the sweet onion. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is very soft and has rendered most of its fat and the onion is soft. Add the chopped leeks and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the reserved cheesecloth bundle, garlic broth, potatoes, salt and white pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are falling apart and the soup is very flavorful. It will be a brownish/auburn color at this point, due to the skins of the red potatoes.

Remove the cheesecloth bundle of spices and, working in batches, puree the soup in a food processor or blender. If using a blender, be sure to remove the center locking cap from the lid to allow steam to escape from the hole or you will blow the lid off your blender and you may get scalded with soup. Not that I’ve ever done that. If you own an immersion blender, puree the soup directly in the pot. Stir in the Crème Fraîche or heavy cream and 3/4 tsp of smoked paprika and stir until blended. Add salt or pepper, if necessary. Serve immediately, with a pinch of smoked paprika and tiny sprig of fresh thyme to garnish the top of each bowl of soup.

The Perfect Bite
Be sure to swirl the paprika garnish into your bowl for added flavor. A crusty toasted slice of baguette is perfect for scooping up the thick potatoey goodness.

The Perfect Pairing
Try Yalumba’s Viognier. Slightly sweet, citrus-y and nicely balanced. This fruity full-flavored varietal shows more complexity with food.

Did You Know?
Many people are confused by the soup terms of broth, stock and bouillon. They are all very similar but with slight differences. Stock has no salt added, Broth has salt added for preserving and for serving as soup on its own, or clarifying for a consommé.

For instance… my Garlic Broth starts as a vegetable stock, which does not taste good on its own. But when infused with garlic and the additional spices… it becomes a broth… and can be consumed as a soup or used as a base for a more complex soup. Confused? Read more here.

Sage Sausage & Garlic Lentil Soup


It’s Fall!!! Well, almost… the official autumnal equinox is in T-2 days! It’s one of the loveliest times of the year… soup time!

One of my favorite soups to make each season is this Sage Sausage and Garlic Lentil Soup. It’s hearty like stew and plenty enough for an entrée. Especially when I make it with sausage and served with a toasted baguette.

The secret ingredient to making any soup, I believe, is in the stock you use. Starting with a flavorful and fresh base will not only enhance the taste of all your ingredients… it will lengthen the life of your soup… whether you’re having it for leftovers the next day or freezing it for a later time.

I recommend… for just about any soup… my *vegetable garlic broth. Not only is it a healthy anti-oxidant added to your soups… but it’s delicious all by itself. I like to sip a cup of it when I’m not feeling well. You won’t have the best breath… but you’ll feel a lot better! Also, so many people make the mistake of using chicken stock in vegetable soups… including tomato, potato and butternut squash soups. This not only changes the health benefits of your soups, but keeps our vegetarian friends from enjoying a purely vegetarian dish. If you’ve ever had soup at my house and wondered what that “oh my gosh!” taste was – it’s the garlic broth. There… my secret is out!

Start Here: *Vegetable Garlic Broth
you can make as much or as little as you like… I prefer to make the largest batch I can manage so I can freeze small containers worth and have this ready to add to any soup, any time. This recipe is based off of 2.5 quarts. (More recipes to come using this tasty broth!)

2.5 qts vegetable stock preferably from scratch but try to use organic if purchasing cans or boxes of broth (it’s roughly six 14oz cans).
4-5 tablespoons (heaping) coursely diced garlic (roughly 2 bulbs)
2 bay leaves
3 tbsp olive oil
3 pinches dried sage
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 pinch salt

Add all ingredients to the stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat… cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain through cheesecloth. Use immediately for soup or freeze in individual portions. TIP: freezing broth in ice cube trays allows you to use small portions at a time.

Nutritional info per serving:
110 calories
6 g total fat (1 g sat)11 g carbohydrates
5 g protein
0 g fiber
150 mg sodium

Now… onto the Lentil Soup!

Ingredients
4 cups dried lentils
1 med fennel bulbs, diced (substitute celery or leeks if not in season, 1.5 cups)
1 lb sage sausage (*feel free to eliminate this if you want a vegetarian dish)
1 med sweet onion, diced
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 extra virgin olive oil
1 quart garlic broth
1/2 quart water

Preparation
Dice onion, and fennel. Remove fern and stalks from fennel (this can be done a head of time and can be used for the vegetable stock). Wash lentils and remove any pebbles or rocks. Leave springs of Rosemary whole.

Ready to Cook?
Brown sausage in olive oil in bottom of large stock pot, 5-7 minutes. Add onion & fennel, cooking for an additional 3-5 minutes until tender. Add white wine and cook until mixture is almost dry. Add garlic broth and water, lentils and rosemary sprigs, bring to a boil; then reduce to a low simmer and cover. Should simmer for 45-60 minutes. Be sure to stir occasionally as lentils will stick to bottom of pot. Remove from heat and let rest. Test to make sure lentils are tender. If soup thickens too much, add broth until you achieve desired consistency. Should be thick like stew but not solid, broth should be evident.

Serve with shaved Parmesan or Manchengo cheese on top.

The Perfect Bite
Be sure your first mouthful includes a chunky piece of sage sausage! This is also great served with toasted French baguettes or and warm flour tortilla. Scoop some up on the bread and enjoy!

The Perfect Pairing
Lentil soup is an “Old World” kind of dish… digging deep into a hearty bowl of these earthy legumes makes me feel like I should be sitting at a rustic and gnarly wooden farm table, seated outside under an old equally gnarly oak that over looks the expanse of a ripe vineyard. So this calls for a pairing like Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel. Its smooth yet peppery tones perfectly compliment the spicy sausage and garlicky lentils. Enjoy!

Did You Know?
Whole books have been written about garlic, an herb affectionately called “the stinking rose” in light of its numerous therapeutic benefits. Did you know that garlic is a member of the Lily Family? Just like Allium Lilies (which I’m growing in pots in my front yard), garlic is rich in a variety of powerful sulfur-containing compounds. While these compounds are responsible for garlic’s characteristically pungent odor, they are also the source of many of its health-promoting effects. All of which help promote a healthy heart and act as a anti-inflammatory agent. Read here for more benefits of garlic!