Posts tagged soup

ham, potato, and leek soup

We really like ham around our house.  Unfortunately, with only two full-time occupants, buying even a small ham can result in a lot leftover.  I bought this natural-looking (read: not round) chunk of ham specifically to fry up and serve with cream biscuits on Christmas morning.  Naturally that left us with a fairly sizable piece left and, while I’m not opposed to continuing to slice-and-fry, I was hoping for something a bit more imaginative.

With two bags of russet potatoes intended for latkes that never got made (because I am too lazy, apparently) and four leeks languishing in the fridge, I thought a thick, creamy soup would be perfectly appropriate for a cold winter night.

This soup recipe is incredibly easy, and it comes together in just about a half hour, with most of that time being inactive prep.  My one tip would be to go extra-easy on the salt, since ham tends to be fairly salty and it can overpower the delicate flavors of leek and potato if you’re not careful.

ham, potato, and leek soup (3-6 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 4 leeks
  • 2 russet potatoes
  • 1 qt. low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3/4 lb. ham, diced
  • 1/4 – 1/2 c. cream, optional

Directions:

  1. Melt butter in a soup pot over medium heat.  Slice the roots and dark green tops off leeks.  Slice lengthwise, then cross-wise, giving you half-moon pieces about 1/2″ thick.  Place leeks in a bowl, then run cold water over them until they are floating.  Swish them around with your fingertips, separating the leek pieces so that the water can wash away any bits of dirt or sand.
  2. When the butter has melted, lift leeks out of the bowl with a spider, give it a quick shake to get rid of most of the water, and add leeks to the soup pot.  Cook about 5 minutes or so, until getting soft.
  3. Rinse the potatoes and peel, if desired.  Chop into roughly 1/2″ pieces and add to the pot, along with the chicken broth.
  4. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil.  Turn down to medium-high and simmer 15-25 minutes, or until potatoes are cooked through.
  5. Turn off the heat.  With a hand blender, blend until the soup is perfectly smooth, or still has some lumps of potato – to your preferred texture.  Add ham and as much cream as you like.  Heat through.

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creamy tomato soup

I never get tired of fresh, in-season tomatoes, and finding things to do with them.  Raw, broiled, cooked into sauce, yum.  One of my favorite tomato dishes of all time is a nice, creamy, tomato bisque.  It’s hard to resisting it if it is the daily special at a restaurant.  But I can also be cautious, because bad tomato soup is possible, and it’s…well, it’s bad.  It turns you off of tomato soup for the foreseeable future.  Best to avoid bad soups.  This soup is not a bad soup – obviously, I suppose, otherwise it wouldn’t be making an appearance here.  It is, however, a simple soup.  About 45 minutes, start to finish, and you’ll get a velvety smooth soup that you can drink, or dip your grilled cheese sandwich in.

Creamy Tomato Soup (6 servings)

You can use anything for the fat that starts this soup.  I used the drippings from pancetta, but you can also use bacon fat, butter, or olive oil.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 c. fat of your choice
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 c. chicken broth
  • 1/4 – 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat your chosen fat in a large pot – tall if you plan to use an immersion blender as I did – over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic and cook for two minutes, or until fragrant.  Add tomatoes and cook until they have lost their shape, about ten minutes.
  2. Add chicken broth and cook a further 15 minutes to let the flavors develop.  Remove from heat and blend with an immersion blender until smooth, or in a blender.
  3. Strain through a fine mesh sieve or chinois into a pot.  Stir in heavy cream, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Split Pea Soup

Split Pea Soup

Variations: a) use all water and boil a ham bone along with the soup; b) use all vegetable stock and make it vegan; c) use all chicken stock and forget the ham, but ham and peas do make such a delicious combination.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 c. split peas
  • 2 c. ham stock (water in which ham has been boiled)
  • 2 c. water
  • 2 c. chicken broth

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat.  Add onions, carrots, and garlic, and saute several minutes, or until beginning to soften.
  2. Add split peas and stir for a moment to coat in oil and toast slightly.  Add ham stock, water, and chicken broth.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 2 hours, or until peas are soft and flavors have mingled.

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Souper Soup + Crumbly Fruit

As I previously mentioned, the vegetal arch-enemy in this house is kale.  The dark, curly, purple-green-black, leafy thing is one of a very few vegetables that we agreed would never grace our dinner table (along with lima beans and brussels sprouts, 99.9% of the time).  We both find it unredeemably bitter.  Enter our CSA membership, and last week’s veggie box, in which we found a small, pretty-looking bunch of our least favorite vegetable (not to mention the two bunches we got this week!)

A friend of mine suggested a kale and chorizo stew as a favorite way of hers to eat this vegetable, and I opted to give that idea a try.  Now, developing recipes on my own is not something I am particularly inclined to do, usually because it comes out funny.  People spend hours developing recipes and testing variations (have you ever read an issue of Cook’s Illustrated?), and I just didn’t see the point of improvising.

That being said, I have been teaching myself to cook in a more formal sense for six years now, and I consider myself more an intermediate than amateur cook, so occasionally I do branch out and just throw some stuff together.  I have found that stirfries, soups, and even casseroles are the most forgiving, and so whenever I feel the urge to experiment (or, more likely, the laziness to avoid looking up a recipe), I make do with my own knowledge.  This is one such example.

White Bean Stew with Chorizo and Kale (4 servings – about 2-cup servings)

In retrospect, I suppose that this stew really didn’t need chorizo, ham, and white beans, but on the other hand, it is a pretty filling and very healthy soup.  It would be even healthier, of course, to take out the sausage, but I think it adds a very important flavor component.  You could do a lot to change this recipe and still keep its basic character – you really want one protein, one leafy green, some aromatics (leek, carrot, onion, celery), and something starchy (beans, lentils, quinoa, couscous, potatoes would all be great in this soup).

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 – 1/2 lb. chorizo or other sausage
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, any flavor
  • 1/2 c. – 1 1/2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 smallish bunch kale, chopped
  • 1/4 lb. cooked ham, diced
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch, optional

Directions:

  1. Crumble chorizo into a soup pot and cook over medium heat until the fat is rendered.  Since my chorizo was extremely fatty, I removed it with a slotted spoon to some paper towels, blotted it with more paper towels, and washed out my soup pot.
  2. Place drained chorizo back into pot and cook a few minutes over medium heat, then push to the edges of the pot.  Drizzle a little olive oil into the pan, and add the onion, garlic, and celery.  Cook, stirring often, about five minutes, or until getting soft and translucent.
  3. Add tomatoes, and use the spoon to scrape up any browned bits into the tomato juices.  Add as much chicken broth as you like, but at least enough to wilt the kale into.  Simmer a few minutes, and then taste for salt.  Add kale to pot, and stir until wilted, 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add white beans and ham to pot, and cook until warmed through, another few minutes.
  5. If you like your broth to have more of a stew consistency rather than a brothy soup, add 1-2 tbsp. cold water to the cornstarch in a small dish.  Stir until cornstarch is dissolved, and then drizzle into soup.  Cooking for a few minutes should thicken the broth into a gravy-like consistency.  If you like it thicker, repeat with more cornstarch.  If you like it thinner, add a little chicken broth until it reaches your desired consistency.

Also on the menu tonight was quite probably my very best fruit crumble ever.  I have been besieged by the very common problem of having too soupy a texture, when too little thickener was added to compensate for the juices leaked by cooking fruit.  In addition, my crumbly topping often had poor flavor.  This was, in my best estimation, as close to perfect as it gets.  It was very slightly gritty, perhaps because there was a little too much cornstarch, but given the lovely thick texture of the fruit sauce, I would rather too much than too little.

You can really use any fruit or combination of fruit that you like for a fruit crumble, and additional flavorings are sometimes very nice added to the fruit mixture or the topping – vanilla is a classic, also cinnamon, ginger, or almond extract – actually all of those three are very good with peaches and apples, particularly.  As Deb notes, when using different fruits, you may need to adjust the sugar level for sweeter or more sour fruits, and you may need to adjust the amount of thickener, for fruits that release more or less juice during the cooking process.

I should mention at this point that, the last time I went shopping at Whole Foods, I was lamenting the lack of rhubarb.  Rhubarb is a very seasonal fruit, its season as I have observed it being rather similar to daffodils – that is, from late January to late March.  This year, I was actually looking forward to seeing it, but hadn’t, and I was afraid that I would miss it.  Lo and behold, just as I was whining a little that I hadn’t been able to find it, there it was, sitting in a basket, already trimmed and pretty.

We also got some sweet strawberries in our CSA box this week, and so, knowing that strawberries and rhubarb make possibly the most delicious fruit combination ever, went with these to make our crumble.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble (2 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pint strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 1/2 – 3/4 c. diced rhubarb, about 7-8 stalks
  • juice of 1 orange
  • 1/3 c. + 3 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 2/3 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 4 tbsp. butter, melted

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil.
  2. Combine strawberries, rhubarb, 1/3 c. sugar, cornstarch, and half of the orange juice.  Pour into a baking dish – I used a Corning dish, about 7″x7″, so the fruit is in about a single layer.
  3. In the same bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, remaining 3 tbsp. sugar, and remaining orange juice.
  4. Sprinkle topping over fruit, breaking up pieces with your fingers.  Place on the baking sheet, and then into the oven.  Bake for about 30-40 minutes, or until topping is golden brown, and fruit filling is starting to bubble.

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Beef and Beer Stew

Beef stewed in beer.  Good for cold, rainy, windy days and nights.  Slow cooks into browned, beefy goodness over a couple of hours.  The result?  Not perfect, I admit it.  It was a little bitter, I think because I used all beer rather than half beer, half chicken broth.  That being said, I was amazed at how beefy the stew liquid tasted given that there wasn’t any broth in it.

This was also a first experiment at using a smaller amount of beef and a larger amount of vegetables in a stew recipe.  You can use any combination of root vegetables that you like – we used 1 medium rutabaga, 2 small carrots, and 4 medium turnips.  We think it might have been better with larger pieces of carrots, and potato instead of either the rutabaga and turnip.  Potato has a milder flavor and softer texture.

Beer and Beef Stew (3-4 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb. chuck roast, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 tbsp. butter or olive oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 tbsp. flour
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 8 oz. beef broth
  • 8 oz. beer (I used an organic lager)
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 c. diced root vegetables

Directions:

  1. Heat 1 tbsp. butter or oil over medium-high heat in a large pot.  Pat beef dry, and season with salt and pepper.  Brown the meat, stirring infrequently.  Transfer to a separate bowl.
  2. Add the other tablespoon butter or oil and reduce the heat to medium.  Slice the onion thinly, and add to the pot, stirring until softened and browned.  Add flour and tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Add beef broth to deglaze the pot, stirring up the browned bits on the bottom.
  4. Add beer, seasonings, and reserved beef.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to low.  Cover and cook for 1 hour.
  5. Add root vegetables to the pot, and add a little water or broth if you feel the level of liquid is too low.  Cover, and cook for another hour, or until vegetables are soft and meat is tender.  Check on the liquid level occasionally and add water or broth as needed.
  6. When stew is done cooking, if the broth is too thin, dissolve 1 tsp. cornstarch in 2 tsp. cold water, and then stir into stew to thicken slightly.  Repeat if necessary.  Adjust for seasoning.

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Italian Wedding Soup

This is something I’ve actually wanted to make for a long time, but somehow never got around to it.  Last night I had a friend over to dinner and wanted to use my brand-new 5 1/2-qt. Flame Le Creuset dutch oven, and my chard – Italian Wedding Soup it was.

As you can see from this picture, by the time I came back after eating dinner, the Israeli couscous I used had managed to soak up the remainder of the broth, making the leftovers more like a moist pasta dish.  Of course, as the recipient of such for lunch today, my stomach confirms that it is just as delicious this way.

Italian Wedding Soup combines tasty, light meatballs with leafy greens and tiny pasta.  Perfect for a quick dinner and, of course, for entertaining.

Italian Wedding Soup (4-6 servings for a main dish)

Note: This recipe made several dozen meatballs 1 inch in diameter, and I only used about three-quarters of them for the soup.  Of course you may make them in any size and use as many of them as you like!

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. your favorite mixture of ground meats – I used 1/2 lb. ground turkey, 1/4 lb. ground beef, and 1/4 lb. ground pork
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, minced – we love garlic, so we used 4 cloves
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c. bread crumbs, or enough to hold the mixture together
  • 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 qt. chicken broth
  • 1 bunch fresh chard, washed, leaves torn by hand
  • 1/2 lb. Israeli couscous or other small pasta (note: this makes for a pretty pasta-full soup, so if you’d prefer more broth, use less pasta)

Directions:

  1. Combine first seven ingredients gently in a bowl – try not to overwork the meat, as this can makes the meatballs tough.
  2. Form mixture into meatballs and set aside.
  3. Wilt chard in a large pot, then set chard aside and rinse out the pot.
  4. Bring chicken broth to a boil over medium heat.
  5. Stir in the Israeli couscous or small pasta.
  6. Gently drop meatballs into the broth, and lower the heat until the broth is simmering.  Cook meatballs until done, about 15 minutes.
  7. Add chard and stir gently to distribute evenly.

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